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Read some poetry from the Griffin Prize nominees

Jennifer Maiden’s Liquid Nitrogen is on the short list for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

International short list

Liquid Nitrogen

Australian Jennifer Maiden's invigorating and hyperactive collection is intensely political and addictively chatty. It melds anxiety and clarity into a satisfying whole.

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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

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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

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while in the darker room

inside the mirror opposite

a red light of another dream

is flashing back.

–from Hospital Examination Room

Our Andromeda

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.

Dear daughter

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)

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