Posted on Monday, June 6th, 2016

A University of Guelph graduate is the winner of this year’s prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize for Canadian poets, and is also the youngest winner in the competition’s history.

Liz Howard, a creative writing master of fine arts (MFA) graduate, was awarded the $65,000 prize for her first book, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent. She accepted the award at a ceremony June 2 in Toronto. She also received $10,000 for taking part in the Griffin Prize readings the day before.

Liz Howard

Liz Howard

Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent is also the first debut collection to win the prize.

Two of the three poets on the Canadian shortlist are U of G creative writing graduates — alumna Soraya Peerbaye was also nominated for her collection, Tell: poems for a girlhood.

Previous winners include MFA faculty member Dionne Brand. Howard’s book began as her MFA thesis under Brand’s supervision and was published last spring.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for Liz and we are extremely proud of her,” said Prof. Catherine Bush, coordinator of the MFA program.

“We would also like to congratulate Soraya for being nominated, and Dionne Brand for her leadership and mentorship of Liz.”

The Griffin Prize began in 2000, and provides a prize each year to both a Canadian and an international author.

Howard’s poems are personal, and chronicle a childhood of poverty in a fading northern Ontario lumber town and a struggle toward knowledge.

“I sort of feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience,” said Howard, 31, to The Globe and Mail after her win was announced.

“It may seem really strange but I feel as though I actually died some time ago and [I’m] living in an afterlife.”

Howard said the prize money would allow her to continue her passion of writing poetry.

“All I want to do is write. All I want to do is do this one thing. And this is such a confirmation.”

The University of Guelph resides on the land of the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon, a covenant between Indigenous nations to live peaceably on the territories of the Great Lakes region. We recognize that today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our collective responsibility to the land where we learn, live and work.