There is, in fact, an intricate web of support across the Anglosphere established to provide poets with recognition and money, none as prominent in Canada as the Griffin Poetry Prize, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary on June 4. The Griffin now annually awards $200,000 in total—more than the Scotiabank Giller does—to its nominees and two eventual winners, one Canadian and one international. That financial support was a genesis of the prize, naturally—and certainly a key reason for poets rallying around it—but Scott Griffin, the businessman, philanthropist and poetry lover who provides the funding, told Maclean’s his primary aim was to rescue poetry from its public neglect. “It’s fair to say poetry has slipped from the mainstream of our cultural lives and it seemed important to restore its place.”
That points to an aspect of poetry’s economic marginalization that’s rarely remarked upon. No, poets cannot live by poetry alone, but the need for financial support is predicated on the reality that they are undeterred by this fact. Griffin calls poetry “the mirror of our souls, the prime representative of the beauty of language,” and no matter how often their art and craft is declared dead, poets will not stop creating it.