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Jane Munro, Scott Griffin, Michael Longley. (Tom Sandler)
Jane Munro, Scott Griffin, Michael Longley. (Tom Sandler)

Jane Munro's Blue Sonoma wins Griffin Poetry Prize Add to ...

Jane Munro, whose latest book was born out of her long-time partner’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, is the winner of this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize.

Ms. Munro, who lives in Vancouver, was honoured on Thursday for her sixth collection of poetry, Blue Sonoma, published by Brick Books – the first title published by the small poetry press in London, Ont., to capture the award since 2003.

“It’s very easy as a Canadian poet to feel invisible,” she said after her win. “And all of a sudden to be bursting out of that cocoon of invisibility, to be visible, means that the poems are going to be there to give whatever they can give to more people.”

The judges called the book a “hauntingly candid” exploration “of the hard truths of growing old” and praised Ms. Munro’s “earthy voice, colloquial wit, and acute descriptive powers.”

The author of five previous volumes of poetry, including Active Pass, Point No Point, and Daughters, Ms. Munro has also published a book, Whisk, with the poetry collective Yoko’s Dogs.

The other Canadian finalists were Shane Book for his second collection, Congotronic, and fellow Vancouver poet Russell Thornton for his sixth book, The Hundred Lives.

Each author received $10,000 for participating in the shortlist readings on Wednesday evening in Toronto, and Ms. Munro received an additional $65,000 for winning the prize. Previous recipients include Anne Carson, Ken Babstock, Dionne Brand, Karen Solie, and Ms. Munro‘s former teacher at the University of British Columbia, Robin Blaser.

The international prize went to celebrated Irish poet Michael Longley for his 10th collection, The Stairwell, published by Jonathan Cape, which the jury described as “a book by a major poet writing at the height of his powers.”

No stranger to major prizes, Mr. Longley, awarded a CBE in 2010, has won the Whitbread Poetry Award, the T.S. Eliot Prize, and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Longley spoke of how he has been writing since he was 15 years old.

“It’s my life. It’s my religion. It’s the way I make sense of the world,” he said.

The other finalists in the international category were the U.S. poet and Episcopal priest Spencer Reece for his second collection, The Road to Emmaus; Marek Kazmierski for his translation of the Polish poet Wioletta Greg’s collection Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance; and Eleanor Goodman for her translation of the Chinese poet Wang Xiaoni’s collection Something Crosses My Mind.

This year’s jury consisted of the Canadian poet and novelist Tim Bowling, U.S. writer Fanny Howe, and Polish translator and poet Piotr Sommer. In total, the judges considered 560 books of poetry from 42 countries around the world.

The Lifetime Recognition Award went to St. Lucian poet Derek Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature. Previous winners include Seamus Heaney, Adrienne Rich and Tomas Transtromer.

This year marked the 15th anniversary of the prize.

“I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for 15 years,” founder Scott Griffin said.

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