Californian poet Sharon Olds wins the inaugural Joan Margarit International Poetry Prize | Culture

Californian poet Sharon Olds wins the inaugural Joan Margarit International Poetry Prize | Culture
Californian poet Sharon Olds wins the inaugural Joan Margarit International Poetry Prize | Culture

Californian poet Sharon Olds has won the Joan Margarit International Poetry Prize in its first edition. The jury unanimously decided to award the prize to the American “for being a benchmark in American poetry”, as well as for “her non-conformist and genuine writing”. In their verdict, the jury highlighted “Olds’s commitment to truth and the ruthless presence of life in his poetry, something that takes on special relevance in times of cancel culture and at a time when many believe that a machine can write the same poems that the tear of the human produces”.

The winner of this first edition was born in 1942 in San Francisco and grew up in Berkeley, California. She studied at Stanford University and received her Ph.D. from Columbia in 1972. She was thirty-seven years old when she published her first book of poems, Satan Says (Satan says, 1980) and is now the author of twelve books, the most recent balladz (2022). Olds is known for writing personal and emotionally trenchant poetry, graphically depicting both family life and world political events — she in 2012 released Stag’s Leap (the leap of the deer, in his translation), where he recounted details of his divorce. In addition, in her career she has managed to write one of the best-selling volumes of contemporary poetry: The Dead and the Living (1984) with 50,000 copies. Last year, Olds added the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize to a collection that already has won the Pulitzer Prize in the United States and the TS Eliot Prize in England.

Joan Margarit and Sharon Olds met on a couple of occasions at festivals. In 2018, the poet and his grandson Eduard Lezcano translated into Spanish from Stag’s Leap (the leap of the deer) where Margarit states: “I have known that Sharon Olds is a great poet for a long time, when I first read satan saysbut making these versions has meant, in addition to reading a good book of poems, an important level of learning for my own profession as a poet”.

Cover of ‘The Leap of the Deer’ by Sharon Olds, translated into Spanish by Joan Margarit and her grandson.

The award, which is newly created —it was announced on March 7th—, 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 to make known in his two languages, Catalan and Spanish, his favorite poets from other countries (he translated Thomas Hardy, Rainer Maria Rilke and Elizabeth Bishop, among others). In addition, its purpose is to make the work of the poet, winner of the Cervantes Prize and the Reina Sofía Poetry Prize, known internationally.

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 the Cervantes Institute), Nuccio Ordine (Professor at the University of Calabria and Princess of Asturias), Ana Santos (director of the National Library) and Mònica Margarit (daughter of the poet).


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