British poetry has blossomed recently with a whole host of awards and prizes. For those who like to grumble and sniff at these, just think how hard it is to get poetry into the public eye. No matter how true, it simply is not a story, by any editorial standard, to say BRITISH POETRY IS PERFECTLY ALRIGHT THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND WE ARE ALL EQUALLY MARVELLOUS. As journalists like to say – we don’t do advertising, we do news.
So instead – awards, prizes, spurious categories like the New Generation poets which are easy to mock but which, in fact, generate intelligent conversation around poetry in the media. POET WRITES BOOK AS USUAL is also not a headline. POET WINS LOTS OF MONEY AND GETS PICTURE TAKEN AND OTHER POETS ALL MOAN ABOUT HIM/HER, whilst still not riveting, is more likely to attract attention.
However, there is no prize for the people who really make poetry happen in the UK – the publishers, the event organisers, the evangelists and activists who keep plugging away, year after year, to keep poetry healthy and diverse and thriving.
So (click here to give a proper sense of occasion)…. I’d like to introduce the Always There Awards. They are only a whimsy on my part at the moment, but in the next few days I’ll be introducing the people who I think truly deserve a gong. These are names whom you probably know already – people who work at all hours of the day and night, with a deep love and a deep conviction, to give poets new opportunities and outlets, who want everyone to enjoy good poetry and who help poets and audiences to find each other.
They often do it for little or no pay, they sometimes get little or no thanks, but they are a genuine asset to the cultural life of our country. They gladden my heart, and they bring us great poetry in all kinds of shapes and forms. The Always There Award winners will not help their bank balance one jot, but I hope it will give them some sense of the respect in which we hold them. They’ll be listed in alphabetical order over the next few days – watch this space to see if you agree.