A Nigerian-Canadian writer and poet, Tolu Oloruntoba, has won this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize for his collection, The Junta of Happenstance.
The Griffin Poetry Prize is a Canadian award that was founded by businessman and philanthropist, Scott Griffin, in 2000.
According to Nigerian Canadian Newspaper, the award has two categories, the indigenous category, and the international category for a poet of another nationality, who writes in English or his works are translated into English.
This year’s winners were chosen from 639 books that were submitted by authors from 16 countries. The shortlisted candidates were released on April 13.
The indigenous category list had Tolu Oloruntoba, Liz Howard, and David Bradford; while the international category list had Catalan Gemma Gorga translated to English by Sharon Dolin, Ukrainian Natalka Bilotserkivets, translated from Ukrainian by Ali Kinsella and Dzvinia Orlowsky, and Ed Roberson and Douglas Kearney from the US.
Tolu Oloruntoba emerged as the winner in the Canadian category.
The prize is Tolu’s latest addition to his collection of awards as his poem, “The Junta of Happenstance” won the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry and was longlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and Raymond Souster Award.
The Junta of Happenstance comprises poems about an exploration of medical and emotional diseases. It explores the immigrant experience, family dynamics, social injustice, economic anxiety, and the nature of suffering.
Though Tolu practised medicine for six years, he started poetry at the age of 16. His poems explore the struggles of diasporans around the globe as they navigate both land and cultures.