Watch professor Sarah Tolmie's reading for the Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist

Monday, June 10, 2019

By Elizabeth Rogers

English professor Sarah Tolmie's recent collection, The Art of Dying was shortlisted for the prestiguous Griffen Poetry Prize this year. The Griffin Poetry Prize is Canada’s most prestigious honour for works of poetry, and the world’s largest prize for a first edition collection of poetry written in English.

Each year, the Griffin Poetry Prize awards $65,000 to two poets, one from a Canadian shortlist and another from an international shortlist. An additional $10,000 is awarded to each shortlisted poet who reads at the annual Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Readings in Toronto. 

Described on the jacket as a “how-to book on the practices of dying,” Tolmie offers the reader a myriad of reflections on and brushes with death. Far from morbid, the collection of 89 poems are rich and readable with irreverent wit and blunt honesty. She reminds us of fundamental truths such as this, from poem 49: “Death is not exceptional / It is, in fact, the rule.” And she offers frank takes on modern-life ubiquities like the Internet — saying in one poem that the Internet is not really life or death, but Purgatory.

Sarah Tolmie reads at the Griffin Poetry Prize event

View all the Griffen Poetry Prize Shortlist Readings (Tolmie's reading starts at about 2 hours 6 minutes). 

 

The Griffin Prize judges said in their citation for Tolmie’s book: “A modern danse macabre in eighty-nine parts, Sarah Tolmie’s The Art of Dying conceals a multifaceted meditation on mortality beneath its deceptively simple lyric surface. An irreverent feminist in the tradition of Dorothy Parker and Stevie Smith, Tolmie leverages the subversive possibilities of doggerel to upend our assumptions about everything from abortion to the Anthropocene. Wickedly funny, this is a work of great intimacy, too, introducing us to a mother, concerned citizen, social media addict, bookworm, and bon vivant who wants nothing more than to remain ‘Here on the quiet earth that I still love, / Where the last humans are.’”

Listen to Sarah Tolmie speak about, and read from, The Art of Dying on CBC Radio’s q

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