Thursday, 17 November 2011

Costa Living

This year's Costa Prize is remarkable for the poets who are spread across the genres - not least, Matthew Hollis for his excellent biography of Edward Thomas, the key poet of the English Line.  But then there's John Burnside, up for a novel, or Patrick McGuinness, for best first novel.  Pretty impressive stuff.  However, the four poetry collections raise eyebrows.  They are all by eminent British poets, to be sure - David Harsent, Sean O'Brien, Jackie Kay, and Carol Ann Duffy.  But the claim is that the awards go to the most "enjoyable" books of the year.  This doesn't compute.  Clare Pollard and Roddy Lumsden, to name just two world-class poets, had thrillingly readable books this year.  Indeed, Eyewear received dozens of imaginative, playful, fun, and delightful collections in 2011, including Wendy Cope's superb Family Values, that are more enjoyable than the four selected.  Daljit Nagra?  I fear that poets will never reach a wider audience among the general public when poetry judges continue to opt for over-worthy, safe, and sometimes leaden collections.  The daring of the younger British poets is simply not matched by the establishment perspective, or, in this case, judges who clearly do not have their fingers on the pulse of the moment.
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