Kaie Kellough was returning home from a walk around Montreal when his phone lit up with a tweet congratulating him on being the Canadian winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize.
Perhaps it wasn’t the most ceremonious way to find out he’d received the $65,000 honour for “Magnetic Equator,” but Kellough says there were upsides to Tuesday’s virtual awards announcement.
“To be nominated for a prize like this, it becomes very personal,” Kellough said by phone.
“When you’re on display at the same time, that sort of adds to the anxiety, so it’s actually kind of nice. It takes the edge off.”
The Griffin typically fetes two winners — one Canadian, another international — at a swanky Toronto soiree attended by a who’s who of Canada’s cultural scene. But this year’s gala and readings were cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Instead, the 2020 honourees were revealed in an online video Tuesday morning.
The international prize went to Sarah Riggs’ translation of “Time,” written in French by Beirut-born Etel Adnan. The translator gets 60 per cent of the $65,000 cash prize, and the poet receives a 40 per cent share.
Published by McClelland & Stewart, “Magnetic Equator” maps the shifting migrations across North and South America with visually innovative poems that traverse the page.
In their citation, jurors said Kellough’s work “negotiates survival and revolt as it moves with the surety and complexity of improvisation and collaboration.”
The book was also shortlisted for the 2019 Quebec Writers’ Federation A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry.
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 author, poet and sound artist has performed and been published across the globe.