Thursday, 6 October 2011

Transtromer enNobeled

I was just starting to pull together a few thoughts on last night's announcement of the Forward Prize winners when Twitter started, er... twittering with speculation about who would win the Nobel Prize for Literature. I'd completely forgotten that the announcement was due.

There seemed to be a strong rumour that Bob Dylan might be in line for it. Now, I'm a big fan (I spent the drive to work this morning listening to Blood On The Tracks, funnily enough), but I can't help feeling this would have been a bad thing. It's not so much that I'd see it as a slap in the face to novelists and poets, as a bit of a half-hearted recognition of his Royal Bobness. After all, if he'd intended his songs to be read purely as poems, he wouldn't have bothered writing the music for them, then playing and arranging it, in the first place, would he?

Anyhow, turns out that Twitter was barking up the wrong tree entirely, as it's Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer who has scooped the prize (how appropriate, on National Poetry Day). I'm highly delighted about this, although what the evil Decepticons think about it is anyone's guess (oh come on! Everyone is making at least one Transformers joke about this).

My copy of his New and Collected Poems (the New Directions edition from 2006, translated by Robin Fulton), is extremely well-thumbed, being one of those books I find myself going back to on a very regular basis. So, hats off to the judges for recognising a consistently fine body of work.

Going back to the Forward Prizes, John Burnside took Best Collection for Black Cat Bone, Rachael Boast took Best First Collection for Sidereal, and RF Langley, who sadly died earlier this year, took Best Poem for To A Nightingale.

I was a bit underwhelmed by the shortlists at the time they came out, although without having read much of what was nominated. I have rectified that partly now, and I'm pretty glad that Burnside won. I do wonder if there's an element of 'lifetime achievement' in it, because I don't think this is anything like his best work, but still, I can't grumble.

I can't really comment on Rachael Boast's book, because I haven't read it yet - Ahren Warner's the only one on that list I have read thoroughly (and enjoyed, incidentally). In the Best Poem category, I like Langley's poems a lot, so it's good to see him win. I hope it doesn't sound too bitter to say that it would have been nice to see him get more recognition while he was alive.

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