Sassoon’s Unpublished Poem/Griffin Prize Winner – Poetry News Roundup June 11th

Today in our poetry news roundup, we take a look an unpublished poem by Siegfried Sassoon that has recently been found. We also have this year’s winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Lost Poem by Siegfried Sassoon Discovered

A university researcher who was trawling though a pile of letters from a theatre director has discovered a heartfelt handwritten poem from the war poet Siegfried Sassoon.

This newly discovered poem is just 8 lines in length, but it is full of tender emotion for the young man who was the lover of the poet. What makes the poem so poignant is that the poem was written in 1920 – this was a time when the open declaration of homosexual love was not allowed.

The poem, which has been previously unknown, was published over the weekend in the Observer newspaper.

A PhD student at the University of Warwick had been researching Glen Byam Shaw when he came across the poem. At the time it was written, the poet would have been 39 years old and Shaw just 20. The pair had just had their first dinner together.

Julian Richards, the man who discovered the poem, was looking through hundreds of letters in the library at Cambridge University when he found the handwritten letter dated 24th October 1925. Intrigued by his discovery, he set out to see if there was mention of the poem anywhere else, but wasn’t able to find any. The unpublished status of the poem has now been confirmed by a leading expert on Sassoon’s work.

Jean Moorcroft Wilson, author of a biography about Sassoon, says that what is especially important about the poem is that it was penned at a time when the poet believed that writing had forsaken him. The 1920s was a particularly difficult period for him, following on from the war.

The poem is an exciting discovery. There are so many archives of papers all over the country which have yet to be explored in great depths, and there may be more such treasures hidden elsewhere.

Griffin Poetry Prize Winner 2019

Toronto based poet Eve Joseph has been announced as this year’s Canadian winner of the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize. She was awarded with the prize for her collection of poetry “Quarrels” on Thursday last week.

At the same time, an international prize, also worth $65,000, was also awarded to Don Mee Choi for his translation of the Korean poetry in “Autobiography of Death” written by Kim Hyesoon.

60 per cent of the prize will go to the translator, who is based in Seattle, and the remaining 40 per cent will be paid to Hyesoon, who is based in South Korea. The Griffin Poetry Prize is advertised as the largest prize in the world for a single first edition of a collection of poetry that has either been written in or has been translated into English.

Joseph, who spent her younger years in Vancouver, is also a winner of the B.C. Book Prize which she received in 2015 for “In the Slender Margin”, her memoir which looked at her 20 years of hospice work.

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