ASU Regents’ Professor Norman Dubie wins Griffin Poetry Prize

By

Beth Giudicessi

Norman Dubie, Arizona State University Regents’ Professor of English, was awarded the 2016 international Griffin Poetry Prize for his collection "The Quotations of Bone," an exploration of viciousness and humanity. It is his 29th collection of poems.

“This is huge news — for Norman, the Department of English, ASU and the creative writing program,” said Cynthia Hogue, Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry and professor of English at ASU. “This international poetry prize is just shy in distinction of the Nobel Prize internationally, or the Pulitzer Prize nationally. 'The Quotations of Bone' is one of Dubie's most powerful and visionary works in the last two decades.”

Dubie, who was described by the New York Times as “one of our premier poets,” established the ASU Department of English’s master of fine arts program in creative writing — which U.S. News & World Report has ranked in the top 20 in the nation — in 1975. He has taught at the university since then, during which time his writing appeared in virtually every major outlet of poetry, including the American Poetry Review, the New Yorker and the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.

He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, among others. In 2003, Dubie’s “The Mercy Seat: Collected and New Poems 1967-2001” won the PEN USA prize for Best Book of Poetry.

“When I spoke with Norman, he was typically nonchalant about this prospect,” said Department of English Chair Mark Lussier. “Here’s to those with the perception to recognize the impact and importance of the gentle, quiet giant of our department.”

“Norman Dubie is one of ASU's most prominent and important faculty members in the humanities,” said George Justice, dean of humanities in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “This latest award in his storied career demonstrates the impact and lasting value of his work. We are proud to have him on the faculty.”

The lucrative Griffin Poetry Prize is administered by the Griffin Trust, which was founded in 2000 by publisher Scott Griffin with authors and Griffin trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson and David Young. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the role of poetry in the public’s imagination and cultural life.

Each year, the trust awards two literary prizes of $65,000 Canadian (about $50,000 U.S.) — one to a living poet who is a resident of Canada and one to a living poet from any country. Additionally, shortlisted poets who read at the annual Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Readings in Toronto are awarded $10,000 Canadian each (about $7,700 U.S.). This year’s Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize was awarded to Liz Howard for her “Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent.” The other 2016 shortlisted authors are Joy Harjo, Don Paterson, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Ulrikka S. Gernes and Soraya Peerbaye.

In their citation, Griffin Poetry Prize judges Alice Oswald, Tracy K. Smith and Adam Sol wrote, “The poems in Dubie’s newest collection are deeply oneiric, governed by vigorous leaping energy that brings the intimate into contact with history, and blurs the distinction between what is real because it once happened, and what is real because of the empathic manner in which it has been felt.”

Submissions to this year’s prize included 633 books of poetry from 43 countries, including 25 translations.