International short list
Australian Jennifer Maiden's invigorating and hyperactive collection is intensely political and addictively chatty. It melds anxiety and clarity into a satisfying whole.
Eleanor Roosevelt woke up in Paris. Hillary
Clinton wore an autumn jacket, bright
beads, and addressed the Press about
the new Libyan No Fly Zone. Hillary's
campaign faux pearls – as big an
innocent as Jackie Kennedy's – were gone
– from Hillary and Eleanor 9: The Pearl Roundabout
Night of the Republic
The austere, elegant poems in Alan Shapiro's book are largely about spaces and things – coffee cups, strip clubs, park benches – but they resonate with deep humanity.
The intercom is sleeping,
flashing only the read light of a dream
of no one entering
to check on no one waiting
while in the darker room
inside the mirror opposite
a red light of another dream
is flashing back.
–from Hospital Examination Room
Brenda Shaughnessy's book is a terrifying, heartbreaking and mordantly funny volume culminating in the long title poem, a visionary major work about loss and possibility that is bound to endure.
I suppose I could blame God. That's what cowards
do, the lazy. Like people who pretend to be
so abysmally unskilled at cooking
that someone else feeds them throughout life.
Those people are always the pickiest eaters,
have you noticed?
–from Our Andromeda
Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems
This is the ideal introduction to Ghassan Zaqtan, one of the major poets of the Arab world. The poems are quotidian yet fantastical, and ultimately irreducible.
when you go to pick the quince
don't wake the orchard's watchman from his sleep
He's been dead for a long time now, as you know,
the bones of little girls make his pillow,
his mattress is out of his dead wives' bracelets
and in his purse is his fugitive wife's head
–from Song of the Orchard's Watchman
Canadian short list
What's the Score?
The latest collection from David McFadden, a veteran of the Canadian poetry scene and a previous Griffin nominee, is a breezy and bruising extension of his late-career work.
Communication leads to living together.
Alternate energy leads to happiness.
A scrubdown each day keeps everything cosy.
I'm trying to get away from the Internet.
I always knew the tried and true won't do.
It's a lovely world but it's a rotten planet.
– From Clothes Peg
Sailing to Babylon
James Pollock's sombre first book contains much beauty and seriousness. It is at its best in a poem that draws on a film about and interviews given by the great Glenn Gould.
Stockholm to Salzburg, and Berlin to Rome,
and so far I've had six good hotel rooms,
five comfortable beds–and at most three
adequate pianos. But today's
instrument was so hopelessly unwieldy
I decided it was best to just ignore it.
–from Glenn Gould on the Telephone
In an affable collection in part inspired by personal ads, Ian Williams riffs on the loneliness and longing that course through so many contemporary lives.
You. At the Tire and Lube Express. You said lube
and I – did you notice? – revved. Your name tag
was missing so I read your hair, curled like a string of e's,
your forearms drizzled with soft hairs like a boy's
first moustache. Apart from that, you were built
like a walrus.
–from Missed Connections: Walmart Automotive Dept – w4m – (Lunenburg MA)