Most Valuable Poetry Book Sold / PEN Pinter Prize Winner – Poetry News Roundup July 1st

We begin the week with a look at the rarest and now most valuable poetry book to have sold at auction. We also have an article about this year’s PEN Pinter Prize winner.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience Sells for £3.4million

A rare copy of William Blakes poetry book “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” has been sold at auction for a staggering £3.4m ($4.3m). This makes it one of the most valuable poetry books ever.

The copy, which is from 1974, was illustrated and printed by the poet and his wife, and is one of just six copies that were printed during the poet’s lifetime. They had remained the property of a private owner.

Some of Blake’s most celebrated poems are included in the book, including “The Little Boy Lost,” and “The Chimney Sweeper” and “Jerusalem.”  Another of his poems was published as part of the preface to Milton: A Poem in Two Books. There are a total od 54 watercolour and pen-etched plates in the book and it was originally the property of Charles August Tulk, a friend and Patron of Blake. The copy was lent by Tulk to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who ranked the poems that is contained.

When it went up for sale at Sotheby’s New York, the book, which had previously been the property of a private collector, started a bidding war. It was eventually purchased by an unnamed buyer who paid considerably more than the £1.4m estimate that Sotheby’s had placed on the item. The last copy to sell at auction was sold 35 years ago. This is one of the rarest and most valuable books of poetry to ever come up for auction.

Blake, who was also a painter and printmaker used innovative techniques for the illustration of his poetry and his wife, Catherine, was involved in colouring each of the plates to create individual copies

PEN Pinter Prize Won by Arundhati Roy

The outspoken activist and Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy has been announced as this year’s PEN Pinter Prize winner. Over the years she has written about human rights in her country as well as capitalism and war on a global scale.

The award which is given for those writers who are of  “outstanding literary merit” and who take an “unflinching” look when it comes to the world around them. It is given in memory of Harold Pinter, the play writer.

The announcement was made a couple of weeks after the unusual announcement by officials in India that they had approved action against Roy for comments made 14 years ago to be taken under the country’s anti-terror laws.

Roy, who is 62, is currently facing possible prosecution by the government of Narendra Modi for remarks that were made about Kashmir in 2010 – the area is something of a controversial topic in India. Her writing and speeches have often made her a target for right-wing groups.

Roy will be awarded with her prize in a ceremony that will be co-hosted by the British Library on 10th October. She joins a long line of previous winners, including Malorie Blackman, Michael Rosen, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood and the former UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

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