I’ve been getting email newsletters from the Poetry Book Society with details of the shortlist for this year’s T S Eliot Prize – the most recent one focuses on David Harsent. I’ve also received a flyer and recommendation form from the Poetry Society about the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.
Checking around I see there are a number of other prizes for poetry collections and pamphlets, in addition to numerous ones, large and tiny, for single poems.
This is an excellent thing. Poets are unlikely to be rewarded with huge book sales, and without the newsworthy prizes probably wouldn’t attract much media attention. Yet poetry is a major art form and its best practitioners need some recognition.
Most poets, of course, don’t win prizes or sell many books, yet they keep on writing and publishing. I do it myself, but I can’t really say why. It’s sort of a hobby, but also more serious than that.
The current crop of prizewinners did the same, some for many years, before receiving anything more than publication and some praise. Perhaps a little of that praise could be spared for the creators of the prizes. They encourage the struggling, reward success and enhance the reputation of the art.