Tag Archives: poetry

Congratulations to the Poets Who Made the 2014 Griffin Trust Poetry Prize Shortlist


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The Griffin Trust was founded in April 2000 by Chairman Scott Griffin, along with Trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson, and David Young.

The annual Griffin Poetry Prize awards two literary prizes of $65,000 each and an additional $10,000 to each shortlisted poet who reads at the annual Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Readings in Toronto. A Canadian prize is given to a living poet resident in Canada; an international prize is given to a living poet from any country in the world.

– From The Griffin Trust Official Page

In perfect timing to coincide with April as National Poetry Month, the Griffin Trust announced the 2014 Griffin Trust Poetry Prize seven finalists on the shortlist today:


International Shortlist

Pilgrim’s Flower • Rachael Boast

pilgrim's flower


Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire • Brenda Hillman
Wesleyan University Press

seasonal works with letters on fire

Silverchest • Carl Phillips
Farrar, Straus Giroux


Colonies • Mira Rosenthal, translated from the Polish
written by Tomasz Rozycki

Zephyr Press


Canadian Shortlist

Red Doc> • Anne Carson
Jonathan Cape and McClelland & Stewart

red doc

Ocean • Sue Goyette
Gaspereau Press


Correspondences • Anne Michaels
McClelland & Stewart



Are you a poetry reader and/or writer?

What do you love most about poetry?

What do find the most challenging about reading/writing poetry?

Who is your favourite poet?

What book of poetry would you have liked to see make it on the shortlist?

Of the seven finalists above, which book do you predict will win the Griffin Trust Poetry Prize?


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Poetry Review: “You Heard the Man You Love” by M. Atwood

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Poetry Review:

“You Heard the Man You Love” by M. Atwood


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

the door


Category:  Poetry

Author: Margaret Atwood

Format: Hardcover, 122 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 978-0-7710-0880-1

Pub Date: September 11, 2011



You heard the man you love

talking to himself in the next room.

He didn’t know you were listening.

You put your ear against the wall

but you couldn’t catch the words,

only a kind of rumbling.

Was he angry? Was he swearing?

Or was it some kind of commentary

like a long obscure footnote on a page of poetry?

Or was he trying to find something he’d lost,

such as the car keys?

Then suddenly he began to sing.

You were startled

because this was a new thing,

but you didn’t open the door, you didn’t go in,

and he kept on singing, in his deep voice, off-key,

a purple-green monotone, dense and heathery.

He wasn’t singing for you, or about you.

He had some other source of joy,

nothing to do with you at all –

he was an unknown man, singing in his own room, alone.

Why did you feel so hurt then, and so curious,

and also happy,

and also set free?

From The Door: Poems by Margaret Atwood, published by McClelland & Stewart, 2007, p. 113.


For me, poetry is a deep image that resonates an equally deep truth. It’s a lyrical or beautiful expression in any stylistic form that attempts to capture what is withheld or unknown—and then becomes known in a startling moment. It’s a dialogue of absence and otherness, a sort of secret map that is intrinsically powerful in its ability to connect us through language, image, and understanding. For me, poetry is a subtle epiphany that resonates in a real and true way to its reader.


The particular poem, “You Heard the Man You Love” by Margaret Atwood, simply and accurately captured the mysterious essence of simultaneous knowing and unknowing, separation and connectedness. It perfectly depicted my own longing, understanding, and acceptance of knowing and not knowing what is withheld from me in the man who I love, my husband of 11 years. And how the beauty of that mystery and discovery as well as the acceptance of it, can be inclusive of hurt, curiosity, joy, and emancipation.


The poem is simple in its language and imagery, and yet profound at the same time. Much like the uniqueness, beauty, and gift found in the unknown and separation and connectedness in relationships, especially of those whom we love.


Zara’s Rating
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez, for the purpose of review and criticism of literary works with all rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the author is an infringement of copyright law.


The poem “You Heard the Man You Love” is reprinted on The Bibliotaphe’s Closet and because of its criticism and review purposes, is considered fair dealing in Canada under the Copyright Act.


What is poetry to you?

What is your favourite poem?

Who is your favourite poet?

What is your favourite poem by Margaret Atwood?


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Congratulations, Pulitzer Prize 2013 Winners!

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Congratulations, Pulitzer Prize 2013 Winners!


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

While a number of categories are represented for Pulitzer Prizes such as:

  • Public Service in Journalism
  • Breaking News Reporting
  • Explanatory Reporting
  • Local Reporting
  • National Reporting
  • International Reporting
  • Feature Writing
  • Commentary
  • Criticism
  • Editorial Writing
  • Breaking News Photography
  • General Nonfiction
  • History
  • Drama
  • Music

I will be featuring the Pulitzer winners in the following categories:


“For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life,…” the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is:

Awarded to “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson (Random House), an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.

– From The Pulitzer Prize 2013 Jury

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An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother-a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang-and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.

Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”

Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers.

– From the publisher


Biography or Autobiography

“For a distinguished and appropriately documented biography or autobiography by an American author,…” the Pulitzer Prize winner for Biography or Autobiography is:

 Awarded to “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo,” by Tom Reiss (Crown), a compelling story of a forgotten swashbuckling hero of mixed race whose bold  exploits were captured by his son, Alexander Dumas, in famous 19th century novels.

From the Pulitzer Prize 2013 Jury

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Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo – a stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best-loved heroes of literature.

Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave — who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time.

Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle East – until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.

The Black Count is simultaneously a riveting adventure story, a lushly textured evocation of 18th-century France, and a window into the modern world’s first multi-racial society. But it is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son.

– From the publisher



“For a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author,…” the Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry is:

Awarded to “Stag’s Leap,” by Sharon Olds (Alfred A. Knopf), a book of unflinching poems on the author’s divorce that examine love, sorrow and the limits of self-knowledge.

– From the Pulitzer Prize 2013 Jury

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In this wise and intimate telling-which carries us through the seasons when her marriage was ending-Sharon Olds opens her heart to the reader, sharing the feeling of invisibility that comes when we are no longer standing in love’s sight; the surprising physical bond that still exists between a couple during parting; the loss of everything from her husband’s smile to the set of his hip. Olds is naked before us, curious and brave and even generous toward the man who was her mate for thirty years and who now loves another woman. As she writes in the remarkable “Stag’s Leap,” “When anyone escapes, my heart / leaps up.  Even when it’s I who am escaped from, / I am half on the side of the leaver.” Olds’s propulsive poetic line and the magic of her imagery are as lively as ever, and there is a new range to the music-sometimes headlong, sometimes contemplative and deep. Her unsparing approach to both pain and love makes this one of the finest, most powerful books of poetry Olds has yet given us.

– From the publisher


Feature Photography

“For a distinguished example of feature photography in black and white or color, which may consist of a photograph or photographs,…” the Pulitzer Prize winner for Feature Photography is:

Awarded to Javier Manzano, a free-lance photographer, for his extraordinary picture, distributed by Agence France-Presse, of two Syrian rebel soldiers tensely guarding their position as beams of light stream through bullet holes in a nearby metal wall.

– From the Pulitzer Prize 2013 Jury

To view Javier Manzano’s award-winning photo, please click here.


Have you had the privilege of reading any of the Pulitzer Prize winning books for 2013?

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners! The prestigious Pulitzer Prize has been honouring excellence in journalism and the arts since 1917 and is well-deserved.


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Book Review: The Cosmic Purr: Poems by Aaron Poochigan


Book Review:

The Cosmic Purr: Poems by Aaron Poochigan


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis


Category: Poetry

Author: Aaron Poochigian

Format: Trade Paperback, 68 pages

Publisher: Able Muse Press

ISBN: 978-0-9878705-2-0

Pub Date: February 29, 2012


The Cosmic Purr: Poems by Aaron Poochigian is a debut collection of poems that Poochigian fills with metrical verse and a portion that readily emotes a translation of the classics.

While Poochigian’s writing is extravagant with language and uses a few wonderful and stark lines of simile or imagery as in lines such as:

I had forgotten/snowflakes could float about like this, like cotton/from cottonwoods, like tufts of crystal pollen. – From “Grand Forks, MD,” p. 3.

He also has a knack for momentary poetry in an example as small and detailed as spilled win in the poem, You Klutz, with:

the cause, a splatter of Shiraz,/gathering back to impact on/her vintage cashmere sweater, vaulting/ –  p. 27.

While the whole of the poetry collection tends to be too wordy and flamboyant than more modern poetry alone, it’s this flamboyance that will either strike the reader as a hindrance between the audience and the intimacy of poetry or a talent for vocabulary or metrical verse as in the example of One Plus One: A Wedding Sermon:

soft ruffle versus worsted starch;/his sharpness, her florescence. How can they, each keeper of an obstinate ideal,/merge to a round cube, a squared circle? – p. 36.

Even so, the author’s poetry can at times feel non-sentimental, almost tart, and smug like the sting of a fresh bruise on the face of a gruff boxer. The undercurrent of his work has an innate pessimism from the voice of his characters’ poems. Especially poems with lines like:

Why shush her with another bottle,/swaddle her in my arms and hum?/Booze tastes best when the loss is bitter/and all love is a lasting battle. – From “Pulling the Wagon,” p. 28.


But I bet on the loss, boys, and I buried/my sweet talk back along the interstate/ – From “The Last Bachelors,” p. 29.

I’m uncertain if this is a good thing, but then again, is there such a thing as translucent, “happy poems?”

As for the classics and their translations, I’m not qualified to criticize those, which make up the last portion of The Cosmic Purr. Understanding the classics, let alone Poochigian’s poetics would first be a requirement. And it’s not necessarily that they’re poorly written. No. I’m just not qualified to interpret and analyze classical works as well as Aaron Poochigian himself, who earned his Ph.D. in that subject in 2006.

If anything, I sense from his poetry his classical Greek roots, his instinct for metric rhyme, and his fusion of modern context and language. The result is both a gritty and smooth language that become edible pieces on and off the tongue.


Zara’s Rating


A special thank you to Able Muse Press for providing me with a media copy of the book in exchange for an unpaid and honest review.