Sunday, April 03, 2011

Awaiting the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize – Mind Map 3 of 4

To attempt to reach out to an unknown poetic space, mapping it from inside fiction pages appears a daunting exercise, even if the context of this post - as was the case with the previous one -  is made of conjectures, whose  objective is a playful guessing game. At best.

But play we will, ne fût-ce pour vous en donner l'idée, as a French poet once said -  if only to get an idea. 

One of the judges for the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize is Colm Toíbín
Toíbín was born in Ireland in 1955 and his fiction and non fiction body of work has garnered major literary awards. 

Mothers and Sons is a collection of short stories, whose characters and events, each captive in their own tightrope universe, appear – on the surface – to share a fragile link through a relationship of a long standing literary tradition.

Brooklyn is a novel that traces the evolution of Eilis Lacey as she moves out from Ireland to Brooklyn and then returns to Ireland for a short while when her sister dies. I found an interesting article on Toíbín’s fiction --> here .

Toíbín’s prose is terse, economical when it comes to any element that does not corroborate the movement of the characters throughout the plot, with virtually no superfluous nature descriptions or musings that might constitute an entry point for a poetic interlude.

“But he knew that there was nothing else he could do except move forward in what was, with the exception of fox and wild-boar tracks, a flat, virgin whiteness, seeming innocent, almost beautiful, utterly harmless, its treacherous nature lying in layers under its blank surface."
From Mothers and Sons

"When they came to the bottom of the lane, and peered over the edge of the cliff, they saw that the sea below them was calm, almost smooth. The sand close to the water’s edge was a dark yellow. There was a line of sea birds flying low over the waves, noiselessly. There was a vague mist that masked the line between the horizon and the sky but otherwise the sky was a pure blue."
From Brooklyn

To me, Colm Toíbín’s prose, viewed through the lenses of these books, appears to be a territory mediated by soot and ash whose veil causes characters to turn out somewhat differently than one would expect them to.

Based on this perception, and as a continuation of my previous post, I’d like to amend the imaginary ‘composite portrait’ of this year’s winning book to:

Look for a book of poetry:
  •  in which ‘green’ is a key visual component
  • has the viewpoint of an ash, soot and snow covered universe
  •  stretches timid tendrils into experiments in the absurd. 
  • where the memory of teen years and young adulthood plays a role. 
  • is likely to make use of a terse, concise language with little flourish or forays into prosody

I’ll finalize this ‘composite sketch’ in my next post.


Conrad DiDiodato said...


your pre-Griffin Poetry Prize analyses are insightful & creative. You cover a wide range of authors and styles.

Perhaps Mr. Griffin ought to ask you to serve as judge next year. You are eminently qualified.

Irina said...

Hello Conrad:

I don't know about the so called 'analyses' but I am hopeful I possess some sense of humour which allows me to recognize this friendly comment for what it is: creative writing..:0)...

It would only make sense that I 'score' my composite sketch after the fact, which will likely show a lot of misses (x) and a 0.0zzzz grade point average...:o):o)...

Thank you.

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