Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Return of Poetry to the COSTA

BRITISH POET Christopher Reid’s A Scattering (Areté, 2009) beat Irish novelist Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn for the 2009 Costa Book of the Year award on Tuesday, January 26, 2010.

The esteemed professor at Hull University won for a collection of poetry about and inspired by the decline and death of his wife, actress Lucinda Gane, in October 2005. Judge Josephine Hart says, “We feel that what Christopher Reid did was to take a personal tragedy and make its emotions universal. It is bizarrely life-enhancing, because it speaks of the triumph of love before and after death. … The fact that it is personal does not in any way detract from its power ... as long as it is kept under artistic control.” A Scattering consists of four poetic sequences, the first written during his wife’s final stage of the illness and the other three at intervals after her death.

The last time a collection of poetry won both the Whitbread Poetry and Book of the Year Awards was in 1999 when Irish poet Seamus Heaney won them for Beowulf (Faber & Faber, 1999). Reid is only the fourth poet to win the Costa Book of the Year Award after Douglas Dunn, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. Heaney won twice for The Spirit Level (Faber & Faber, 1996) and Beowulf. Ted Hughes also won twice for Tales from Ovid in 1997 and Birthday Letters in 1998 while Douglas Dunn won the inaugural prize for Elegies in 1985.


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