Derek Walcott Poetry Prize/Pandemic Poetry Rush – Poetry News Roundup May 19th

Today on My Poetic Side we look at the Derek Walcott poetry prize and the rush to publish books of poetry and novels based on the current pandemic.

2020 Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry

The Derek Walcott Festival, in collaboration with the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and Arrowsmith Press, has published the shortlist for the inaugural Derek Walcott Prize. The prize is offered for a completed book of poetry published in 2019 and written by a non-US citizen poet who is still living. The winner will be announced in July.

The winning poet will receive USD 1000, and their work will be the subject of a reading at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, it will also be published in the Arrowsmith Press limited-edition broadside. The winner will also be able to choose a weeklong residency at either of Walcott’s homes in Port-of-Spain or on St Lucia.

The poet, Sir Derek Alton Walcott, was born in St Lucia. He was a professor for over 26 years, teaching poetry and playwrighting. In 1992, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. His 1990 Omeros, an epic poem in the style of Homer is widely considered to be his major achievement. During his lengthy career, he received numerous awards including the Queen’s Medal for Poetry and a T.S.Eliot Prize.

In 2019, The Derek Walcott Festival featured a number of the poets original watercolours, storyboards and oil paintings.

The shortlist features a range of poets from all over the world. However, there is one particular poet on the list who may be worth watching. Roger Robinson, a UK poet with a Trinidadian background has already won not one but two other significant poetry prizes this year for his shortlisted book “A Portable Paradise”. In January he was named as the winner of this years T.S. Eliot prize and last month he walked away with the Ondaatje Prize from the Royal Society of Literature. The question a lot of people will now be asking is can he make it three in a row?

Publishers Snap up Books

From “Plague Poetry” to Case studies, publishers are snapping up all kind of books related to the coronavirus.

Authors, poets and would-be writers are racing to produce their own account of the pandemic in a variety of different forms. Some of the books are already out or will be published very shortly including Pandemic by Slavoj Zizek and Wuhan Diary by Fang Fang.

Alice Quinn sent out an email to around 125 poets based all over America at the end of March. She wanted to see if any of them had been writing poems about the pandemic. Quinn was inundated with responses and now 85 poems have been selected to compose an e-book. These include poems from established poets like Billy Collins and lesser-known poets as well.

This is just one of the many books that are being put together. Carol Ann Duffy, the former UK poet laureate, has been putting together a similar collection in the UK.

These books form part of the latest phenomenon of quickly assembled books that are popping up all over the world as publishers look to publish works that are incredibly current. Publishing books like this, however, does come with its own pitfalls. After all, the pandemic is far from over and there are still a huge number of questions out there that are unanswered.

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