Sherry Gift for Laureate/Polari Prizes – Poetry News Roundup October 25th

Our final poetry news round-up of the week takes a look at the traditional gift of Sherry for the poet laureate. We also have the winners of this year’s Polari prizes.

Poet Signs Sherry Butt

Since the 17th century, it has been a tradition for the poet laureate in the UK to receive a butt of Sherry as a celebration of their appointment.

Simon Armitage, the 21st poet laureate travelled to Jerez in Spain last week in order to select and sign his barrel of Sherry. The barrel was given to him by Consejo Regulador de Los Vinos de Jerez y Manzanilla.

Armitage was delighted to receive the barrel and carry on the tradition that is upheld. He is hoping to put the Sherry into bottles and use it to raise money for the cause of poetry, use it as gifts and maybe even enjoy a glass or two himself. He is already planning the label that he wants on his bottles as well; a cuckoo which is the bird that is symbolic of the village where he grew up, Marsden. The village is also the inspiration behind many of his poems.

Armitage’s wife has already drawn a cuckoo for the labels and there are plans to put one of the poets own works on the back of the label.

The custom of giving a barrel, or butt, of Sherry to the poet laureate is a lengthy one stretching back to Ben Jonson in 1630. However, in 1970 it fell out of fashion when Henry James Pye chose to give up his butt of Sherry and instead receive £27 per annum.

The tradition was revived in 1984, an occasion which marked 600 years of Sherry trade between Spain and the UK. The poet Ted Hughes signed his barrel during a visit to Jerez and also commissioned his own labels.

Since then poet laureates have chosen to once again follow the tradition and receive the 72 bottles of Sherry that the barrel contains. For the most part, they have used these bottles to help raise money for charities with connections to poetry and poetry foundations.

The Polari Prize

The Polari prizes are awarded to LGBT writers or those writers who have written about topics relating to LGBT issues.

The first book prize, which has been running for 9 years, was awarded to an author of a dystopian novel that explored the subject of female-only fertilisation and lesbian pregnancy.

This year was the inaugural year for the Polari Prize which is awarded to established writers. Andrew McMillan won with his collection of intimate verse “Playtime”.

The collection is an exploration of masculinity, homosexuality and the move that takes place from innocence into adulthood.

The awards were presented by Bernadine Evaristo who was a joint winner of this year’s Booker Prize with Margaret Attwood. The award ceremony took place at the Southbank Centre in London earlier this week.

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