Nobel Winner Receives Griffin Lifetime Honour

Irish poet Seamus Heaney, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, was presented with The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry’s 2012 Lifetime Recognition Award at last night’s Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist readings event.

Poet and Griffin trustee Robin Robertson presented the award to Heaney, calling him “our greatest living poet” and said the 73-year-old was “still alive and ticking like an electric fence,” a reference to one of Heaney’s own poems. 

The sold-out crowd at Koerner Hall in Toronto greeted the announcement of Heaney’s name with a standing ovation.

In his acceptance speech, Heaney began by referencing poet Patrick Kavananagh and said that “a man who dabbles in verses” is even luckier “if he can say he dabbled in verses and received the Griffin Lifetime Achievement Award.”

He ended by quoting William Butler Yeats’ line,  “say my glory was I had such friends.”

Heaney is the author of several poetry collections, including Field Work, Sweeney Astray Electric Light, and District and Circle and Human Chain, which was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize last year.

The lifetime achievement prize was established in 2006 to honour the work and achievements of internationally recognized poets. It is not presented annually and has no prize money attached to it. Previous honourees have included Adrienne Rich of the United States (2010), Tomas Tranströmer of Sweden (2007) and Hans Magnus Enzensberger of Germany (2009).

The Griffin Trust was founded in April 2000 by businessman Scott Griffin and trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson and David Young. Carolyn Forché, joined the trustees in 2004.