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Kaie Kellough is seen in an undated handout image.

HO/The Canadian Press

Kaie Kellough is the Canadian winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize.

The Montreal-based writer was virtually awarded the $65,000 honour Tuesday for Magnetic Equator, published by McClelland & Stewart.

In their citation, jurors said the collection “negotiates survival and revolt as it moves with the surety and complexity of improvisation and collaboration.”

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The international prize, also worth $65,000, went to Time, written in French by Beirut-born Etel Adnan and translated by Sarah Riggs.

Griffin Prize nominees reflect on their work, the cancelled gala and poetry in a pandemic

Riggs will receive 60 per cent of the cash prize, and the remaining 40 per cent will go to Adnan.

Born in Vancouver and raised in Calgary, Kellough moved to Montreal in 1998. He maintains a strong connection to the Caribbean, with roots in Guyana.

The novelist, poet and sound artist has performed and been published across the globe.

His 2016 novel, Accordeon, was a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award.

Magnetic Equator marks his third poetry collection after Lettricity and Maple Leaf Rag.

He has also recorded two albums, Vox:Versus and Creole Continuum.

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The other Canadian contenders on the Griffin short list were Chantal Gibson’s How She Read and Doyali Islam’s heft.

In an interview ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, prize founder and chairman Scott Griffin said the Canadian finalists are a testament to how the country is on the “leading edge” of experimental poetry.

“They’ve pushed the envelope on this one,” he said. “They have used the fonts and the layout of the page as part of the poem, and each one has done that in a different way.”

The international runners-up were: How to Dress a Fish by Colorado-based Abigail Chabitnoy; Arias by New York-based Sharon Olds; Lima :: Limon by Natalie Scenters-Zapico, who grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Each finalist will take home $10,000.

Organizers say judges Paula Meehan of Ireland, Jamaican poet Kei Miller and Canada’s Hoa Nguyen each read 572 books of poetry from 14 countries to select the 2020 short list.

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The Griffin winners are typically feted at a swanky Toronto gala, but the literary bash was cancelled this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Griffin is billed as the world’s largest prize for a first-edition single collection of poetry written in or translated into English.

The Griffin Trust was founded in 2000 by Scott Griffin, along with trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson and David Young.

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