THE BRITISH LIBRARY

English and Drama blog

2 posts from August 2015

12 August 2015

The Michael Marks Awards 2015: now open for entries

        We are delighted to announce that this year’s Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets are now open for entries. There are three awards for Poetry Pamphlet, Publisher, and Illustration. Works published in the UK between July 2014 and June 2015 are eligible, and full details of how to apply are available from the Wordsworth Trust website.

        The Awards were started by the British Library with the Poetry Book Society, with the generous support of the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, in 2009. They are now entering their 7th year, with the Wordsworth Trust joining the British Library as lead partner in 2012, and the TLS joining as media sponsor.

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Laura Scott, winner of the Michael Marks Award 2014, for her pamphlet ‘What I saw’.

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Laura Scott: What I saw. Aylsham: The Rialto, 2013.

            The Awards were inspired by the Scotland-based Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, also supported by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, and founded by Tessa Ransford. They were established to celebrate the poetry pamphlet as a unique form of publication, having a fundamental importance in poetry. Traditionally the poetry pamphlet is often seen as the first step to publishing a collection of poetry by emerging writers, but it is also used by established poets who may have a piece of work that they want stand alone, or want to use the opportunity to collaborate with an artist or writer.

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Helen Mort

        Judges for the 2015 award include Helen Mort, Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at The University of Leeds, and former Poet-in-Residence at the Wordsworth Trust; Rory Waterman, poet, lecturer in the Department of English at Nottingham Trent University, and regular reviewer for the TLS; and Debbie Cox, Lead Curator of Contemporary British Publications at the British Library.

        There are two major Michael Marks Awards, one of a work of poetry in pamphlet form, and one for a publisher of poetry. Pamphlet publishers are the lifeblood of new poetry, often working on a voluntary basis and often with only their own resources. The Awards are unique in recognising
that commitment.

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Winner of the publishers’ award in 2014 was Welsh poetry pamphlet imprint Rack Press

 

        This year, for the first time, we offer a new Award for an illustrator of poetry pamphlets, celebrating the pamphlet as a beautiful object in its own right. The Illustration Award will be judged by Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery, London from 2008 – 2015.

        The shortlist for the Poetry and Publishers’ Awards will be announced by the end of October and the winners will be announced at a special dinner at the British Library on Tuesday 24th November.

Full details of the Awards are at www.wordsworth.org.uk/poetrypamphlets.

Closing date for submission of pamphlets is Friday 28th August 2015

 

 

 

 

 

05 August 2015

Lee Harwood: Sailing Westward

 

                                                                         Lee small 2010   Lee Harwood (1939-2015)

Chris Beckett writes:

        There is a haunting valedictory quality to Lee Harwood’s recent collection, The Orchid Boat (Enitharmon Press, 2014). And yet the poems, many of which recapitulate with a light (and last) touch themes and motifs familiar from Harwood’s considerable body of work, are far from sombre:

I don’t intend to sit here waiting in my coffin,
gathering dust until the final slammer,
adjusting my tiara.

I’ll stamp my foot
and, checking the rear-view mirror,
head for the frontier.

Sadly, the sense of journey’s end – or journey’s beginning – that characterises The Orchid Boat is now made all the more poignant by the news that Lee Harwood passed away last month, on Sunday 26 July.

So where’s the boat?
A sampan or a lugger?
or an elegant steam launch?
Is there room for me and that crew of sages? 

‘Sailing Westwards’, the poem that concludes The Orchid Boat, moves seamlessly in typical Harwood manner between landscapes imagined and landscapes remembered, from the mountains of China to the hills and mountains of Snowdonia that Harwood climbed with untiring enthusiasm and a perpetual sense of wonder. We have seen the ‘elegant steam launch’ in Harwood’s poems before; and the lifelong delight that he took in the orchids of the Sussex Downs finds new resonance in ‘Departures’, the poem that opens The Orchid Boat: ‘Without thinking / I step aboard the orchid boat, / the feel of silk / carrying me beyond all mirrors’.

       Lee Harwood established his reputation as a distinctive new voice in English poetry with The White Room, published by Fulcrum Press in 1968. Landscapes (1969) and The Sinking Colony (1970) quickly followed, and in 1971 his work appeared in Penguin Modern Poets 19, along with selections from Tom Raworth and the American poet John Ashbery. In 1975, Trigram Press published Harwood’s translations of the poems of Tristan Tzara, a seminal influence whose work Harwood discovered in the early 1960s. Thereafter, Harwood was published exclusively by the small presses, a state of affairs that reflected the divided and divisive territory of English poetry during the 1980s. In 2004, Shearsman Books published Harwood’s Collected Poems to considerable acclaim, prompting an upsurge of retrospective interest in his work. The Salt Companion to Lee Harwood, a collection of essays on his work, was published in 2007, and this was quickly followed by a series of illuminating interviews conducted by Kelvin Corcoran, Not the Full Story (2008). Recently, Harwood’s poems found an appreciative home in the London Review of Books, and his work was championed in sensitive reviews by August Kleinzahler and Mark Ford.

       It is a great pleasure to report that the extensive papers of Lee Harwood, which were acquired from the poet by the British Library in 2012, will be made available later this year. The preparation of the catalogue, which has benefited from the poet’s close involvement, is now in its final stages. It is a matter of great regret that Harwood did not live to see the release of his papers, although he took great satisfaction in seeing his papers join the national collection. The archive is a rich record of the life of a singular poet who belonged to no particular school, finding sympathetic friends across poetry’s territorial divisions, both at home and in America. Journals, diaries, notebooks, and much poetry in draft, are supplemented by a considerable number of letters received: there are 77 files of letters and 146 correspondents, from Ashbery (John) to Wylie (Andrew). A sense of the variety of Harwood’s correspondents, and the number of letters in the collection, can be quickly given by some examples: Paul Evans (122 letters), Harry Guest (354), August Kleinzahler (48), Douglas Oliver (48), F. T. Prince (22), Tom Raworth (58), and Anne Stevenson (in excess of 400). Harwood greatly valued the close reading of his work by other poets, and one of the instructive rewards of the letters is to read their detailed responses to his work.