Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Lost Weekend

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.


Poet in Residence said...

Hard luck. But well done on reaching the final. That's no small achievement.
Interesting to discover that Philip Gross, like you George, is an exile from Eastern Europe, Estonia in his case.
He now lives in a lovely place - Penarth in Wales. Almost a neighbour of Dylan Thomas. Perhaps inspired by the bard of Laugharne and the Boat House on the estuary.
I've sent my sincere congrats and linked to Philip's blog from mine.

Poet in Residence said...

*family from Estonia
The poet himself born in Cornwall.

Billy C said...

Those gracious and honest comments, George, are no less than I would have expected from you. I would have liked to see you win but it was not to be.

Life goes on, and I'm sure no one will make a better fist of it than you. It's what you are.

George S said...

I know Philip - have known him some years. In fact I wrote an introduction to a recent book of his.

It is almost inevitable that in thirty years of writing books I should have met, and sometimes worked with, a good number of poets. And then, through teaching, I have met a good number more.

There isn't, however - to anticipate a question no one has actually asked - one great underground club where we all hang out, but the more conspicuous ones among us are relatively frequently spotted. And,seeing how life throws us into much the same places over the years, we have had drinks, meals, and shared festivals and drinks. The only poet I had never met before last night was Alice Oswald, whose reading I thought breathtaking. Then she was off.

This familiarity is not a cabal or club because the very fact that we are running around doing these things means we are not the people doing the organising of the running around.

So I congratulate Philip again. I expect to bump into him rather more often now.

Diane said...

You are such a good man, George, quite apart from a stunning poet.

thijsw said...

Very many years ago I had to learn the Calvinist 'Heidelberg' catechism by heart. Yours is extremely different, utterly humane and well thought over. Sorry you did not win, and yes,let's go about our business in peace!

makemeadiva said...

Anyone one who can assess their chances of anything in fractional odds will always have a sound perspective on life.

Lucy said...

Bad luck, nobly conceded, bravo George!

Poet in Residence said...

My bardic bllodhound tells me that Bloodaxe, Picador and Faber get the bonios these days; so leastways you're in a winning kennel George ;>)

Wuff, wuff!

theleapingtiger said...

Just remember us ordinary folk who absolutely adore your poetry and get great joy and pleasure and comfort from reading it. You are a true winner in our hearts and always will be and don't forget it.