Last July 20th, at the headquarters of the Cervantes Institute of New York, an event full of emotion and literary recognition was held with the awarding of the first Joan Margarit Joan Margarit International Poetry Award to the outstanding American poet Sharon Olds. The award, promoted by the Instituto Cervantes, the publishing house La Cama Sol and the family of the late Catalan poet Joan Margarit, paid tribute to Margarit’s poetic legacy and celebrated the poet’s literary career.
The ceremony was attended by King Felipe VI, who, in an emotional speech, paid tribute to Nuccio Ordine, member of the jury and Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities, who passed away shortly before the deliberations. The monarch highlighted Ordine’s commitment to education and fundamental values for coexistence in today’s world. Don Felipe made a nod to the author by assuring that it was precisely thanks to the award that he discovered her work and that since then he has found in it “knowledge and life lessons”; that poetry that is “help, defense and comfort in the face of the outdoors,” said the King, paraphrasing Margarit in his acceptance speech for the Cervantes Prize in 2020.
The event was an opportunity to honor the memory and influence of Joan Margarit on contemporary poetry. His daughter, Mònica Margarit, was present and shared moving memories of her father, highlighting his passion for reciting poetry and his dedication to the Catalan and Spanish languages.
At the center of the ceremony was Sharon Olds, the recipient of the prestigious award. With great emotion, Sharon Olds received the award from the hands of King Felipe VI and expressed her gratitude, assuring that she received it “as a gift from heaven”. In his speech, Olds reflected on the power of the arts and how they can be a tool to save our Earth and ourselves.
The jury of the award highlighted Sharon Olds as a reference in American poetry, emphasizing her non-conformist and genuine writing. His commitment to truth and his ability to uncompromisingly capture the reality of life in his poetry were also highlighted, characteristics that are especially significant at a time when the culture of cancellation questions the authentic expression of the human being.
In her work, Olds has explored everyday aspects of family life and has also addressed world political events, which has helped cement her position as one of the most prominent voices in contemporary poetry.
The meeting between Joan Margarit and Sharon Olds was highlighted by her daughter, Mònica Margarit, who recalled that her father was struck by Olds’ poems at a poetry festival. The connection between the two poets deepened when Margarit, together with his grandson Eduard Lezcano, translated into Spanish “Stag’s Leap,” a collection of poems that explores intimate details of his divorce and won him the Pulitzer Prize. Translation was an enriching process for Margarit, who said that it was an important learning experience for his own poetic craft.
The presentation of the Joan Margarit International Award to Sharon Olds was more than an act of literary recognition, it was a meeting of two great poets who share sincerity and authenticity in their poetry. The event was a tribute to Joan Margarit and his poetic legacy, an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of contemporary poetry and a showcase of the power of words to unite cultures and people through art.