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Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Britain needs a major poetry prize for innovative writing like the Turner Prize

In architecture, and in plastic arts such as painting and design, Britain leads the world, in innovation - and high-profile, and controversial - prizes, often connected to handsome cash payouts. The Turner Prize is a leading example. Critics of these prizes tend to argue the gongs and nods go to the more experimental, cutting-edge, and contemporary practitioners - and not those who support more traditional, even outdated, modes. Not so in the British poetry world, where the key prizes - TS Eliot, Forward, and Costa spring to mind - are almost always given to good, traditional, mainstream poets. In otherwords, and perhaps paradoxically, it is the innovators who tend to be excluded. Now, I am sure these innovative writers likely don't ask their presses (Barque, say, or Reality Street) to submit their work, all the time - and there is a legitimate oppositional tendency among the experimentalists that would, I think, tend to recommend against the giving of such awards - however, as The Griffin in Canada evidences - it is possible to have a popular, rich prize that also recognises literary pioneering. What would such a prize be called? How about "The Bunting"? Time to start seeking sponsors.
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