Griffin Poetry Prize Readings – poetry as theatre

by Sam Mooney

It’s been years since I went to a poetry reading.  Tonight I went to the Griffin Poetry Prize Readings. Elaine, who came with me, had never been to one.  

I can’t even remember where I read about the Griffin Prize or about the readings by the poets shortlisted for the awards but I remember thinking that it really wouldn’t be that different than a playwright reading a play. A performance.

There are 7 poets short-listed for the Griffin Awards this year, 3 Canadian and 4 International.  It’s a serious prize, $50,000 to a Canadian poet and $50,000 to an international poet.  These are serious poets.  Not as in unfunny, but as in scholarly literary poets.  You won’t be seeing them at the corner bar on poetry night.  (I don’t think – maybe you will.) If you go to the Griffin site and click on the poets’ names you can read a bit about each of them and also read one of their poems.

The readings were at the MacMillan Theatre which has a capacity of about 800 people.  It was sold out.  I understand why.  It was a terrific evening.  Elaine and I both enjoyed it immensely.  It was like a play with no plot. Beautiful words, descriptive, evocative, flowing, some rhyming, some not.  And beautiful voices. 

I asked Elaine ‘the questions’ as we walked to a coffee shop.  We both thought the same things.  Overall we loved it.  We will definitely go to more poetry readings.  And get tickets for next years Griffin Prize readings early.

Would we call it theatre?  Yes. There was a stage, there were performers, it was entertaining, engaging.  We loved the words.  Some of the poems were stories but some were words and they were wonderful.

One of the questions we ask the person who comes with us to the theatre is “what did you like the least?” Not an easy question to answer.  There was one poets that neither of us liked.  No, I’m not going to say who it was.

Our favourites were Jeramy Dodds and Kevin Connolly, both Canadians.  Of the international poets our favourite was the Irish poet Derek Mahon.  The winners will be announced tomorrow night – June 3rd – at the ninth annual Griffin Poetry Prize Awards Evening.

Elaine and I are now planning to check out poetry nights in Toronto.