Thursday, June 13, 2013

Globe and Mail article attacks the Griffin Prize

Jared Bland, of The Globe and Mail, has decided to attack the idea of the Griffin Prize in his June 13 article, The Griffin Prize: A Canadian category has no rhyme or reason. The Griffin Prize, for the unitiated, is a rather useful recompense for Canadian poets struggling to both write and maintain a living, as well as to celebrate our writers as they deserve to be celebrated. This is a risible editorial in a time when Canada should be proudly supporting its artists when it can at. At the very least, Canada should be recognizing them.
The Griffin Prize recognizes the best single volume of work published by a Canadian and the best single volume of work (in English) from around the world.
The annual award is $65,000, a figure that Bland implies is an outrageous amount. Bland employs fragmentary sentences. To describe. How poets get $65,000. Each. And, yes. He does come off. Sounding very much. Like William Shatner. In prose.
In his article, Bland suggests that the former competition should be expanded to include poets from around the world, the goal being to class up the competition and force Canadian scribes to compete on the worldwide stage. This argument is misguided and misses the idea of the Griffin. Bland does not seem to grasp the concept that the Griffin is designed not only to foster the reading and appreciation of poetry among the general public, but to support Canadian poets who have had a long history of being underpaid. Bland is also unkind to such poets in his article, not even deigning to name the finalists. As well, he derides the unnamed finalists' works for being “characterized by a kind of inoffensive geniality”.
As for workaday authors in Canada, being a writer has never been an easy row to hoe. These current times are no exception. Many of Canada's most notable authors, established and obscure, both poets and prose writers, have endured hellishly long draughts of poverty and trying to survive while living under the poverty line.

At a time when a Canadian professional hockey player can start at a rooky salary of $575,000 (before bonuses, at least in the 2011-2012 season), I consider it reprehensible that anyone would want to take away a prize that gives $65,000 - the equivalent of a starting-to-mid-level salary in the Canadian public service -  to a new Canadian poet each year.


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