The Griffin Poetry Prize Goes West in a Livestreamed Broadcast to Vancouver Poetry-Lovers
The Griffin Poetry Prize is the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in, or translated into English, from any country in the world. The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry aims to spark the public’s imagination and raise awareness of the crucial role poetry plays in our cultural life.
Sean Cranbury is a prize himself, and works tirelessly to spark the public's imagination and raise awareness of the crucial role poetry plays in our cultural life.
We think this makes "The Griffin" and "Cranbury" a really good fit for an event that is designed to draw readers together both locally and abroad, something we can get behind. (Have you seen our Read Local map?)
I asked Sean about Griffin Vancouver, an event that will bring the Toronto ceremony to viewers in Vancouver, and, in turn, broadcast Vancouver's own event out to the Internet-at-large. This ticketed event—no one will be turned away, however—will feature the only livestreamed broadcast of the prize ceremony from Toronto, as well as live readings from west coast Griffin-related poets, catered food, cocktails and many members of the writing, reading and publishing community.
Where: W2 Media Cafe, 111 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC.
When: Thursday, June 7, 2012. 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
I talked to Sean about the origins of this event and what future possibilities it could hold for the Griffin Poetry Prize and its presence among readers and poetry-lovers around the world.
Julie Wilson: This is the first time The Griffin Poetry Prize ceremony will be seen outside Toronto, in a livestream to Vancouver. Who approached whom, and what were the logistics in making this happen?
Sean Cranbury: I think the conversation started in the fall just after we did the first Giller Light Bash: Vancouver event at the W2 Media Cafe. The Vancouver organizing team looked at what we had done with the Giller and started to consider what other types of events we could do using the template. The Griffin was at the top of the list of events we were very interested in doing.
We connected with Vicki Ziegler at The Griffin Poetry Prize and made a proposal which she took forward to Scott Griffin. He was receptive to having a further discussion and we arranged a time to meet when I was in Toronto early in the year. The meeting went well and we all agreed that Griffin Vancouver was something worth doing.
These events have grown out of a kind of template that has been developed by the Real Vancouver Writers' Series since the winter Olympics. The goal is to bring a variety of writers together for affordable public events that are video recorded, livestreamed and archived. The Griffin Vancouver event is the perfect opportunity for us to take our events to another level and we're really honoured to be able to do this.
JW: Why was it important to you to curate a collection of Vancouver (or Vancouver-based) poets to appear at this event?
SC: We had originally wanted to include some local writers who had participated in The Griffin Prize in the past, but for a whole variety of reasons we couldn't get this done. Everyone is either traveling, touring a book, or attending the ceremonies in Toronto. This presented a really interesting challenge for us, but we had a plan. Step one was to secure the participation of Evelyn Lau, Vancouver's current Poet Laureate, and let everything flow from there. Once Evelyn agreed to participate, we outreached to Matt Rader from the Comox Valley, and others.
Pretty soon we had a really great roster of writers representing the west coast. We asked Zaccheus Jackson Nyce, a prominent figure in Vancouver's world-class spoken word community, to participate, too. We also have Gillian Jerome, Jen Currin and Marita Dachsel reading.
The event is happening at the W2 Media Cafe, which is located in Vancouver's legendary downtown eastside, and it's important to us that we represent for the voices and people of the neighborhood. I think that with this line-up we have done that. We are trying to showcase as many different coastal voices as we can. It's going to be a really interesting night.
JW: Who do you expect to be in the audience? It will be a decidedly different audience than the one in Toronto, which will be made up largely of industry peers, publisher representatives and the finalists themselves.
SC: That's to be expected. We'll have a small troupe of poetry enthusiasts coming over from Vancouver Island, and hopefully we'll get some people in from the outlying areas around the city, too. The audience will comprise many fans and readers and members of the writing communities here. We'll see people who have supported the Real Vancouver events over the years, as well as supporters of the W2 Media Cafe and the community of amazing cultural programmers who work with us there. It's going to be an audience of writers, readers, poetry lovers and friends.
There'll probably be a few surprises, too.
JW: You've been actively creating spaces for poets to play in (and present themselves to audiences in) for years. What's the connection for you?
SC: There are a few elements that make things like the Griffin Vancouver event possible. First, a passionate, fun and determined group of people who are willing to dedicate some time and energy to make it happen. We have that. My colleagues, Dina Del Bucchia, Liisa Hannus and Heidi Schiller are amazing. The W2 crew are so supportive and talented. They have backed us up every time we've come to the table with yet another crazy idea. And none of this happens without the writers and their willingness to embrace what we are doing.
And then there's the technology. We are very much interested in using technology: livestreaming, video/audio archiving, social media sharing, etc, all to promote and connect our writing communities to others anywhere in the world.
We are still in the early days of achieving what we want with our template, but the goal is to make real connections in Vancouver, nationally, internationally, using the Web as a platform.
If we can create something that really works, that allows writers anywhere to hear and experience the work of Vancouver writers, while sharing and/or responding to it, then I think we will begin to see some interesting developments.
It is absolutely important that we continue to make public space to support poetry in our communities. I believe that we can cultivate rich possibilities for poetry locally and beyond by using the Web and breaking down boundaries to access.
JW: Do you have plans to expand this concept nation-wide?
SC: I hope that the concept is contagious, that people will see what we are doing and start to organize and improve on it in their own communities. There are lots of simple, inexpensive technical options available to people that help create documents of local readings and share them across the Web. Smart phones, laptops, video cameras, super-8, etc. all have great potential for creating similar documents to what we are doing with The Griffin. It is possible that anyone anywhere in Canada, with the right team of people and some tools, can make stuff like this happen. Maybe I should present on this at Bookcamp this year!
I would really love to see similar recordings/livestreams develop in all communities. I look forward to the Iqaluit and St John's livestreams, plus digital broadcasts from Montreal, Yellowknife, Lethbridge, Wawa, Winnipeg and Moncton. For this year, people can follow our Vancouver stream at www.griffinvancouver.com.
The winners, announced at the Griffin Poetry Prize Awards evening on Thursday, June 7th, 2012 will each be awarded $65,000.
Night • David Harsent
Faber and Faber
The Chameleon Couch • Yusef Komunyakaa
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
November • Sean O’Brien
Methodist Hatchet • Ken Babstock
House of Anansi Press
Killdeer • Phil Hall
Forge • Jan Zwicky