Thursday 24 November 2016

The 2016 Saltire Prize

Another literary prize - Scottish, this time.

The Saltire Society's Poetry Book of the Year Award for 2016 has a shortlist described by the organisers as "hotly contested'. It features Kathleen Jamie and Don Paterson, two of the 1994 ‘New Generation’ Poets for, respectively, The Bonniest Comparie (Picador) and 40 Sonnets (Faber & Faber). They are both 'names' although I'm always wary of that 'generation' thing. It has a lot to do with marketing, of course, and seems a mixed blessing, something a writer either grows out of or fails to live up to. A new generation arrives, surely, every few years? By which I mean that I (born in 1959) would see myself as belonging to a younger generation than Martin Amis, who is only ten years older than me. He came of age in the 1960s, I did so in the 70s. Different times. I need to work this up into a theory.

But back to the Saltire. Also shortlisted are John Glenday for The Golden Mean (Picador), Peter Mackay for Gu Leòr / Galore (Acair Ltd), Vicki Husband for This Far Back Everything Shimmers (Vagabond) and J O Morgan for Interference Pattern (Jonathan Cape). Regular readers of Salvete will know that I am a great admirer of Morgan's poetry. I last blogged about him here and I also reviewed his last two collections, In Casting Off and Interference Pattern, for the TLS earlier this year.

Morgan combines technical virtuosity with a complex sensibility; not one that chooses to express itself emotionally and confessionally but intelligently and allusively. He's the opposite of a tub-thumper and (as I said in my TLS review) appears to share the view advanced by T. S. Elot, now unfashionable, that poetry is an escape from the personality, not an expression of it.  His poetry deserves and rewards close reading, and re-reading.

It's especially appropriate, then, that he has also been shortlisted for this year's T. S. Eliot prize, which has prompted his publishers Cape to reprint Interference Pattern, his fifth book. I never recommend Amazon - you can buy a copy (and support an independent bookseller) by using

The Saltire shindig takes place this evening in Edinburgh. More on this tomorrow.

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