Tolu Oloruntoba and Douglas Kearney were awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize 2022.
The Griffin Poetry Prize is the world’s largest international prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in or translated into English. The Canada-based prize was founded by businessman and philanthropist Scott Griffin in 2000. The award has geographical categories with one for a Canadian poet and one international poet who writes in the English language. Some previous winners have been Anne Carson, Nikolai Popov, Kamau Brathwaite, and Canisia Lubrin.
The judges of the 2022 Griffin Poetry Prize were Adam Dickinson from Canada, Valzhyna Mort from Belarus and the U.S., and Claudia Rankine from Jamaica and the U.S. The panel read 639 books of poetry from 16 countries to make the shortlists. The Canadian edition had Liz Howard, Tolu Oloruntoba, and David Bradford while the international one had Catalan writer Gemma Gorga, translated from Catalan by Sharon Dolin, Ukrainian writer Natalka Bilotserkivets, translated from Ukrainian by Ali Kinsella and Dzvinia Orlowsky as well as U.S. poets Douglas Kearney and Ed Roberson.
The Canadian winner of the prize this year is Tolu Oloruntoba’s The Junta of Happenstance. Oloruntoba is a Nigerian Canadian writer and poet who practiced medicine for six years and has harboured a love for writing poetry since he was 16. Oloruntoba’s poems explore the struggles of diasporic peoples around the globe as they traverse both land and cultures. He wins the C$65,000 cash prize.
The Junta of Happenstance previously won the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry and was longlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and Raymond Souster Award.
The international winner for this year is Douglas Kearney for his collection Sho, which was a U.S. National Book Award Finalist 2021. Sho is a collection of poems that reflect Black vernacular traditions while examining histories, pop culture, myth, and folklore.