Falling Awake, already a much acclaimed collection, was cheered by 1,000-strong crowd at readings connected with the Canadian award
Alice Oswald has won one of the world’s richest poetry prizes with her latest collection, Falling Awake.
This dreamlike vision of the West Country carried off the 2017 International Griffin poetry prize, worth C$65,000 (£37,725). The same sum was also presented to the Vancouver poet Jordan Abel, who took home the Canadian prize with his long poem about cultural appropriation and racism, Injun.
Oswald said she was delighted to be part of the “atmosphere of real warmth and carnival” surrounding the award from the Griffin trust, whose work in schools she “deeply admired”.
“I’ve spent the last week exploring Canada and being looked after by its people and amazed by its forests – the international aspect of this prize is what matters to me,” she said. “Most of my favourite poets (both dead and alive) have never won prizes. However, in the spirit of carnival, it’s important for all people to wear a crown and ride on a float for a day – as long as they don’t turn up for work in it.”
Prize judge George Szirtes said that after reading through 617 submissions it was “not too hard a choice” to select Oswald’s collection.
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by Stéphane Mallarmé (translated by Henry Weinfield)
“From golden showers of the ancient skies,
On the first day, and the eternal snow of stars,
You once unfastened giant calyxes
For the young earth still innocent of scars:
Young gladioli with the necks of swans,
Laurels divine, of exiled souls the dream,
Vermilion as the modesty of dawns
Trod by the footsteps of the seraphim;
The hyacinth, the myrtle gleaming bright,
And, like the flesh of woman, the cruel rose,
Hérodiade blooming in the garden light,
She that from wild and radiant blood arose!
And made the sobbing whiteness of the lily
That skims a sea of sighs, and as it wends
Through the blue incense of horizons, palely
Toward the weeping moon in dreams ascends!
Hosanna on the lute and in the censers,
Lady, and of our purgatorial groves!
Through heavenly evenings let the echoes answer,
Sparkling haloes, glances of rapturous love!
Mother, who in your strong and righteous bosom,
Formed calyxes balancing the future flask,
Capacious flowers with the deadly balsam
For the weary poet withering on the husk.”
The Face of the Buddha, by William Empson, edited by Rupert ArrowsmithWilliam Empson (1906–1984) was not, as he is frequently said to have been, an “important critic,” but only because there is no such thing. By the same token, neither was he a unicorn, a square circle, or a decent impulse in the heart of Donald Trump. What he was, however, was a thinker with an incisively original mind and a fine, lucid, and always lively prose style, and the exquisitely inconclusive analysis of great works of literature, at which he so excelled, provided him with endless occasions for displaying both. He was also a talented mathematician and a remarkable poet, though he largely abandoned mathematics after his undergraduate studies at Cambridge and stopped writing much poetry in his mid-thirties. He probably possessed most of the natural intellectual gifts of a good philosopher, if little of the temperament. His first and still most influential book, for instance, Seven Types of Ambiguity—which he wrote when he was twenty-one and published when he was twenty-four—exhibits a subtler and more penetrating understanding of language and its limits than does, say, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, published eight years before. (Not to worry: Over the next several decades, Wittgenstein would grope his way toward a level of sophistication comparable to Empson’s.)
By all rights, the publication of Seven Types should have secured Empson’s future. It nearly did, in fact. While still in manuscript, it was enough to confirm the brilliance he had exhibited as a student and to win him a fellow’s perch at his college, Magdalene, from which he could have looked forward to decades of long strolls along the Backs, long afternoons in the Pepys Library, long conversations in the upper combination room. . . . But all of it was, in fact, cut very short when a college porter discovered a package of condoms in his rooms. Today that would merely earn him plaudits for social conscientiousness, but Cambridge in 1929 was a very different world; the porter dutifully reported the abomination and Empson was expelled from his college and the university, his name literally expunged from its records. Any real employment, apart from some freelance cultural journalism, became all at once impossible for him in England.
None march in the Archduke’s War, or worse lost cause.
Without promise of plunder, murder, gallantry.
Marriage is less remunerative than war –
Two waspheads lying on one pillowship,
Drowning, one toe just skating the sheet for bedrock.
The bright moonlight mackerels heaven in my garden,
Fair flesh of the turtle given shape by shell,
Eve shining like an illuminated rib,
Forsaking this garden for another bondage.
I so pray this pretty sky to stay:
My high blood, fireclouds, the first dew,
Elms black on the moon, our birdhouse on a pipe….
Was the Archduke, the music-patron, childless? Beethoven
Married the single muse, her ear of flint.
Listen to Rubinstein, Heifetz, Feuermann play Beethoven’s Piano Trio No 7 “Archduke.”
Thomas Dilworth’s biography, a lifetime’s work, finally does justice to this deeply spiritual, original artist and poet
When Stravinsky visited David Jones in his cold Harrow bedsit, he came away saying, ‘I have been in the presence of a holy man.’ Other admirers included T.S. Eliot (his publisher) and the Queen Mother (who wrote asking if she could buy some of his work). Harold Bloom, Kenneth Clark and W.H. Auden were all not merely admirers, but passionate in their admiration. Auden thought Jones’s long Eucharistic poem ‘The Anathemata’ the ‘finest long poem written in English this century’.
Yet Jones remained completely his own man, belonging to no ‘set’. He had very little money and has never, as far as one can tell, been part of the Eng. lit. mainstream. While ‘first world war poets’ on the BBC still seem to be Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, Jones’s In Parenthesis — the greatest war poem in the English language — remains a cult book read by the few.
A mid-month reminder that on Thursday, June 22, we will continue with our customary summer “free-for-all” with everyone bringing a favourite poem(s) or excerpt to read and discuss. For this year only this session has been moved from July to June. Please bring your own choice of a poem or poems and, preferably, post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.
Please see the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of selections to-date, which are rather few. We need more.
by Arthur Waley
The days of my youth left me long ago;
And now in their turn dwindle my years of prime.
With what thoughts of sadness and loneliness
I walk again in this cold, deserted place!
In the midst of the garden long I stand alone;
The sunshine, faint; the wind and dew chill
The autumn lettuce is tangled and turned to seed;
The fair trees are blighted and withered away.
All that is left are a few chrysanthemum-flowers
That have newly opened beneath the wattled fence.
I had brought wine and meant to fill my cup,
When the sight of these made me stay my hand.
I remember, when I was young,
How quickly my mood changed from sad to gay
If I saw wine, no matter at what season,
Before I drank it, my heart was already glad.
But now that age comes
A moment of joy is harder and harder to get
And always I fear that when I am quite old
The strongest liquor will leave me comfortless
Therefore I ask you, late chrysanthemum-flower,
At this sad season why do you bloom alone?
Though well I know that it was not for my sake,
Taught by you, for a while I will smooth my frown.
(Author of original: Po Chü-i A.D. 812)
[From the Seattle Public Library website] “A luminous collection of essays from one of our most original and influential poets. Five decades after her debut poetry collection, Firstborn, Louise Glück is a towering figure in American letters. Written with the same probing, analytic control that has long distinguished her poetry, American Originality is Glück’s second book of essays–her first, Proofs and Theories, won the 1993 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. Glück’s moving and disabusing lyricism is on full display in this decisive new collection. From its opening pages, American Originality forces readers to consider contemporary poetry and its demigods in radical, unconsoling, and ultimately very productive ways. Determined to wrest ample, often contradictory meaning from our current literary discourse, Glück comprehends and destabilizes notions of “narcissism” and “genius” that are unique to the American literary climate. This includes erudite analyses of the poets who have interested her throughout her own career, such as Rilke, Pinsky, Chiasson, and Dobyns, and introductions to the first books of poets like Dana Levin, Peter Streckfus, Spencer Reece, and Richard Siken. Forceful, revealing, challenging, and instructive, American Originality is a seminal critical achievement”–