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David Cohen prize for literature March 18, 2009

Posted by hyperboreapoetry in Noticias, Premios.
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El poeta irlandés Seamus Heaney ha ganado el premio Cohen de Literatura.

Seamus Heaney
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Seamus Heaney wins £40,000 David Cohen prize for literature

Alison Flood

Irish poet Seamus Heaney was recognised for the “sheer scale” of his literary achievements with the £40,000 David Cohen prize this evening.
His fellow poet and chair of the award’s judges, poet laureate Andrew Motion, honoured Heaney for a body of poetry that over the past 40 years has “crystallised the story of our times, in language which has bravely and memorably continued to extend its imaginative reach”, and for his critical writing, his translations and his lecturing, which “have invigorated the whole wider world of poetry”.
The prize, one of the most prestigious honours for living British writers, has been won in the past by Heaney’s fellow Nobel laureates VS Naipaul and Harold Pinter. It is awarded biennially for a lifetime’s excellence in literature. The prize is unusual in that the winner receives a further £12,500 to be donated either to a literature organisation that supports young writers, or to an individual writer under the age of 35. Heaney chose to give the £12,500 to an annual poetry speaking competition open to all post-primary students in Ireland, Poetry Aloud.
On receiving his prize this evening at a ceremony at the British Library, Heaney said the award was “highly honorific”. “First of all there’s the list of the previous winners, a roll call of the best; there’s the fact that you don’t enter for it but are chosen from the wide field of your contemporaries; and then there’s the verification of that reference to ‘lifetime achievement'”, he said, calling it “a lovely reward when offered by a panel of such distinguished writers and readers”.
Motion admitted that Heaney’s reputation as Nobel laureate, bestselling poet and “venerated public figure” meant that “judging panels might be expected to feel some trepidation about bestowing another prize on him”. But the David Cohen prize judges, who also included novelist Rose Tremain, poet and critic Robert Crawford, Guardian journalist Maya Jaggi and Malawian poet Jack Mapanje, felt that the “self-renewing force of his writing, and the sheer scale of his achievement”, made the award of the prize “an absolutely right and proper act of recognition”.
Heaney, born in County Derry in Northern Ireland in 1939, launched his poetry career with Death of a Naturalist in 1966. His work includes a mix of poetry, criticism and translations – including 1999’s Beowulf – and in 1995 he won the Nobel prize for literature. He was praised by the Nobel academy “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”. His 11th collection, District and Circle, won the TS Eliot prize in 2006, and he is also the recipient of the Somerset Maugham prize, the EM Forster award and the Whitbread book of the year (twice).
“Setting his name alongside previous winners does honour to the Cohen Prize, even as it honours him,” Motion said. The prize, which is privately funded, has been won in the past by Muriel Spark, William Trevor, Doris Lessing, Beryl Bainbridge, Thom Gunn, Michael Holroyd and Derek Mahon, as well as Naipaul and Pinter.
The additional £12,500 is from the Arts Council England for the Clarissa Luard award, which was set up to honour Clarissa Luard, a firm supporter of young writers who worked in the Arts Council’s literature department, and died in 1999.
Arts Council literature director Antonia Byatt said she was delighted at the judges’ choice of Heaney, and at his own selection of Poetry Aloud. “He’s had long involvement himself with teaching young people poetry,” she said. “It’s very close to his heart. For us it’s fantastic – a lot of the organisations we fund spend a lot of time working with young people, introducing them to poetry, getting them involved in writing and reading it, so it’s wonderful for him to choose something aimed at getting young people to learn about and enjoy poetry.”

Fuente: The Guardian.
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Algunos poemas de Heaney

Death of a Naturalist

All the year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampots full of the jellied
Specks to range on the window-sills at home,
On shalves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hadges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like snails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

The Skunk

Up, black, striped and damasked like the chasuble
At a funeral mass, the skunk’s tail
Paraded the skunk. Night after night
I expected her like a visitor.

The refrigerator whinnied into silence.
My desk light softened beyond the verandah.
Small oranges loomed in the orange tree.
I began to be tense as a voyeur.

After eleven years I was composing
Love-letters again, broaching the word ‘wife’
Like a stored cask, as if its slender vowel
Had mutated into the night earth and air

Of California. The beautiful, useless
Tang of eucalyptus spelt your absence.
The aftermath of a mouthful of wine
Was like inhaling you off a cold pillow.

And there she was, the intent and glamorous,
Ordinary, mysterious skunk,
Mythologized, demythologized,
Snuffing the boards five feet beyond me.

It all came back to me last night, stirred
By the sootfall of your things at bedtime,
Your head-down, tail-up hunt in a bottom drawer
For the black plunge-line nightdress.

Strange Fruit

Here is the girl’s head like an exhumed gourd.
Oval-faced, prune-skinned, prune-stones for teeth.

They unswaddled the wet fern of her hair
And made an exhibition of its coil,
Let the air at her leathery beauty.
Pash of tallow, perishable treasure:
Her broken nose is dark as a turf clod,
Her eyeholes blank as pools in the old workings.
Diodorus Siculus confessed
His gradual ease with the likes of this:
Murdered, forgotten, nameless, terrible
Beheaded girl, outstaring axe
And beatification, outstaring
What had begun to feel like reverence.

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