On March 7, it was announced the creation of the “Joan Margarit International Poetry Prize”, promoted to raise international awareness of the work of the poet, winner of the Cervantes Prize and Queen Sofia Prize for Poetry.
The annual award was created with the aim of rewarding the work of foreign poets with a consolidated and internationally recognized career, responding to the interest that Joan Margarit always had in making known in his two languages, Catalan and Spanish, his favorite poets from other languages and countries (he translated Thomas Hardy, Rainer Maria Rilke and Elizabeth Bishop, among others).
The jury, which met in Madrid on May 17, was made up of Javier Santiso (founder of Editorial La Cama Sol), Luis García Montero (director of Cervantes Institute), Nuccio Ordine (Professor at the University of Calabria and newly awarded Princess of Asturias), Ana Santos (director of the National Library) and Mònica Margarit (daughter of the poet).
The winner of this first edition, the poet Sharon Olds
was born in 1942 in San Francisco and grew up in Berkeley, California. He studied at Stanford University and received his PhD from Columbia in 1972. He was thirty-seven years old when he published his first book of poems, Satan Says (1980). In 2022, Olds won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She is the author of twelve books of poetry, most recently Balladz (October 2022). Her collection of poems Arias (2019) was shortlisted for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize, and Stag’s Leap (2012), which included poems exploring details of her divorce, received the Pulitzer Prize in the United States and the T. S. Eliot Prize in England.
Olds is known for writing intensely personal and emotionally biting poetry, graphically depicting both family life and world political events. He was New York State poet from 1998 to 2000. Olds’s The Dead and the Living (1984), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, has sold more than 50,000 copies, making it one of the best-selling volumes of contemporary poetry. Olds is Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing, where she helped found workshop programs for residents of Coler Hospital and for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. He currently lives in New York.
Joan Margarit and Sharon Olds met on a couple of occasions at poetry festivals, and in 2018 the Spanish version of Stag’s Leap, which Margarit made with her grandson Eduard Lezcano, was published. In the foreword, Margarit states, “I have known Sharon Olds to be a great poet for a long time, when I first read Satan Says, but making these versions has meant, in addition to reading a good book of poems, an important level of learning for my own craft as a poet.”
The jury unanimously decided to award the prize to the poet from the United States “for being a reference in American poetry”, as well as for “her non-conformist and genuine writing”. In its verdict, the jury highlights “Olds’ commitment to truth and the ruthless presence of life in his poetry, something that takes on special relevance in times of cancellation culture and at a time when many think a machine can write the very poems that the tearing of the human produces.”
After learning of the ruling, Olds recalled the impression Margarit’s poetry had on her the first time she heard him, at the Aldeburgh Literary Festival (Great Britain) more than 15 years ago. “It is unusual that, upon meeting an artist’s work for the first time, I feel so impacted.” Olds added: “I am indebted to him for his radiance, his down-to-earth inspiration, and I am grateful to the Margarit family, the Instituto Cervantes and Editorial la Cama Sol for joining his name to mine, so fortunate”.
The award ceremony for Sharon Olds will take place at the Instituto Cervantes in New York next fall. La Cama Sol publishing house will publish the speech that the laureate will deliver on the occasion of receiving the award, and will disseminate it both in Spain and abroad, with translations into Spanish, English and French. It will be a limited edition, which will include poems and artwork, and will be given as a gift to the people involved in the celebration of the award.