A day for a poet, but you may not know it
Today is National Poetry Day, a chance to reflect on an art that seldom makes headlines, but regularly enriches the private moments of countless readers. The writers below won the prestigious Forward prizes, awarded annually to mark the event. To celebrate their honourable calling, The Independent commissioned its own resident poet, Martin Newell, to write in praise of the art itself
Thursday 06 October 2005
DAVID HARSENT FOR 'LEGION'
The £10,000 prize was awarded to the 63-year-old Devon-born and London-based poet for his ninth collection of works. Harsent has also written two librettos, including The Woman and the Hare, which was nominated for a Grammy. He is also the author of the Stella Mooney crime fiction series, writing as David Lawrence. The judges described Legion as "a dazzling and intensely moving sequence that looks without prurience at the countless horrors of war we choose to forget".
FELIX DENNIS PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST COLLECTION
HELEN FARISH FOR 'INTIMATES'
This is the first major poetry prize, worth £5,000, for Farish, who was born in Cumbria in 1962 and returned there last year to be poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere. She teaches at Sheffield Hallam University and divides her time between living there and Oxford. Tim Dee, chairman of judges, said Intimates was "a quiet book, but it draws on domesticity, families, love and death with such compassion and honesty, it feels utterly true".
FORWARD PRIZE FOR BEST SINGLE POEM
PAUL FARLEY FOR 'LIVERPOOL DISAPPEARS FOR A BILLIONTH OF A SECOND'
Farley, 40, a Chelsea School of Art graduate and now a lecturer at Lancaster University, has been picking up prizes since 1998, when his debut won the prize for best first collection. This year, his prize is worth £1,000. Tim Dee, chairman of judges, said: "[This] has a title that sounds like an indy song, but the cleverness and originality of its idea is wholly Paul Farley's own. This is a poem whose subject - the flickering sense of cracks in time - ricochets in any reader's mind."
'In praise of poetry' by Martin Newell
Poetry is no less than this:
An unexpected workplace kiss
The brandy in the spirit cage
A salve upon our wounded age
That lustful swell, the secret damp
The yellow of the attic lamp
The drifting, smoky, hazel haze
Of wooded hills on autumn days
Between the thoughts of summer lost
And anvil of the winter frost
The horse returning to the door
Of empty stables after war
Riderless, uncertain now
Past the harrow and its plough
Plodding up the pitted track
Battered saddle on his back.
Poetry: Rentboy of the arts
Loitering with the other tarts
Knowing far more than it should
Much too much for its own good
Bitching, blurting, doing deals
Selling out for drinks and meals
Jumping on the latest trends
Disappointing loyal friends
Eye on clock and thumb on scales
Marrying for cash and sales
You wouldn't trust him in your car
And definitely not, a bar.
The poet though, is alchemist
A snake-oil salesman, pharmacist
A mojo merchant trawling town
The painter put his dust-sheet down
In case your old horizons run
Before he touches up the sun
Recalling feelings you may not
Evoking those that you forgot
Giving voice to words unsaid
The godless freefall in your head
The things you never knew, yet miss.
Poetry is no less than this.
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