Sunday, 1 March 2015


This is going to be a busy week.  On Wednesday we'll be setting up the exhibition of poems and photographs for Out of Time, then on Friday I'll be reading the poems in the Studio theatre with Horatio's poems projected onto the wall behind me.  Friday will be the first day of Words by the Water, Keswick's annual literary festival.

I'm writing this on St David's Day and a few daffodils have made an appearance in honour of the patron saint of Wales.  I very much enjoyed hearing the first National Poet of Wales, Gwynedd Lewis, on BBC Radio 3's Private Passions at lunchtime today.  This is a lovely programme, an upmarket version of Desert Island Discs.  It's like listening to a private conversation between Michael Berkeley and his guests and the choice of music is always surprising.

Earlier this week the David Cohen Award was given to the poet Tony Harrison, whose intelligent, gritty and controversial work has always engaged with things that really matter.  He's 77 and planning a new book to come out when he's 80.  He admires Matisse who did some of his best work in his 80s: "I'm hoping to have a ninth decade like Matisse", he said.

The David Cohen doesn't have the razzamatazz of the Man Booker, the Whitbread or the Costa - perhaps because it doesn't have to advertise anything.  But, unlike the more well-known prizes, it's probably the literary award most worth receiving because it is given for a lifetime's achievement, not just for one book.  Two poets have won before - Derek Mahon and Seamus Heaney.

The winner is given the additional Clarissa Luard Award to donate to a literary charity.  Tony Harrison has donated his to the Wordsworth Trust at Grasmere.  Much appreciated, I imagine, after Arts Council England withdrew its funding for the Trust's contemporary poetry programme.  Ironically, the Clarissa Luard Award is funded by ... Arts Council England.

Can we hope for some Grasmere summer readings after all?

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