Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Not an alcoholic haze, just the usual clarity - as far as anyone can judge their own clarity. I didn't win. So where are the wounds? some will wonder. The stigmata?
No stigmata as far as I am aware. A little catechism:
Would you prefer to have won? - Naturally. This was not a competition for sainthood.
Did you expect to win? - No. Nor did I the first time, or indeed ever.
Did you think you had a chance of winning? - Yes, at least 10/1
Did you think you had a good chance of winning? - Quite possibly. At least after the readings on Sunday night, while knowing full well that the readings are very secondary (if they count at all) in the judging process. It's books not readings that win this prize.
Now let's ask something more difficult. Do you think you deserved to win? - I have never had a firm idea of deserving. Furthermore, I even think that to have any firm ideas about your own deserving is a canker on your soul, deserving of contempt. Who knows how many of those cankers I already have. Don't want an extra one. As the greatest among us said, 'Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?'
Are you not in the least disappointed? - Damn fool question. Of course, I am, as is only befitting. But look - examine the wounds of the committee of the self. Call that a wound? I am a very fortunate man who has 'scaped a whipping most of his life (and has a deeply ingrained notion of what whippings exist and have always existed). Indeed, I have actually won this very prize. I have been nominated for it a second time. If ten or twenty years ago anyone should have suggested any such thing I would have been astonished. I have no right to wounds of any sort. I prefer to wear my heart light, thank you.
And the result? - Delighted for Philip, one of poetry's good men. Was he better than the rest in my opinion, you will want to know? I don't know, is the answer - all I do know is that Philip is very good, as are the others on that list. I do know I have always thought myself, primarily, fortunate to have won in 2005, and am very glad that the luck I enjoyed in winning should have passed to Philip. I think it is a good redress for some years of very unfair neglect for him. That sounds like a form of deserving to me. It's the best any of us is likely to get.
Can we end the catechism here?
I loved the readings on Sunday night - for myself as well as for the others. I am deeply aware of the omissions from the list but I did think the noise made by all the poems together at the QEH that evening was memorable and grand and intense and deeply hopeful for all that poetry can do and might do.
So, God bless us all everyone. Now go about your business in peace, but delight in argument too, because argument too is a delight.