Palestinian poet, translator win prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize

From left: Fady Joudah, Ghassan Zaqtan, philanthropist Scott Griffin and David W. McFadden

The Griffin Trust

Palestinian author Ghassan Zaqtan and his translator, Fady Joudah, were awarded the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize in the international category yesterday. The two were awarded $65,000 in prize money for Zaqtan’s book The Straw Bird it Follows Me, and Other Poems — his tenth collection of poems.

David W. McFadden was the Canadian winner for What’s the Score?

Zaqtan was nearly prevented from receiving the award; Canada initially refused him an visa to attend the prize ceremony.

It was not the first time that the West Bank-based poet has had difficulty traveling; his US tour was scheduled after the State Department failed to issue him a visa on time. Zaqtan told The Electronic Intifada contributor Lauren Pyott last December:

… this is a continuous difficulty which all Palestinians face, not just writers and poets. The process begins with having to obtain the visa from the [US] consulate in Jerusalem, a place that Palestinians are forbidden from entering without prior permission from the occupation authorities. This permission entails many other complications and it only lasts for a matter of hours, less than a day. So you have to wait for the permission, then go for an interview in Jerusalem, then return to the West Bank to wait for the approval. The process is exhausting and sickening and humiliating.

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The remarkable thing is that Canada's ultra-Zionist government relented.
Any details on that?

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As a Canadian I am embarrassed and disgusted by the actions of my government. Steven Harper owes the World an apology. He owes Canadians an apology. And he owes Fady Joudah, Ghassan Zaqtan and all the people of PALESTINE an apology. And I will apologize for Canada since it is very unlikely that Harper will ever apologize. I am truly sorry for what my government has done to Fady Joudah, Ghassan Zaqtan and the Palestinian people.

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Nothing yet but as the French say , even a broken clock is right twice a day. Maybe that Harper Cons saw that to go against Mr. Griffin would be a challenge to all of Canada's writers. After all , the Griffin Award is a major event and is an international event. Mr. Griffin is a powerful person on the Canadian cultural scene and Harper may have felt unsure of himself in taking on Griffin .

Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.