Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Literary Review Grand Poetry Prize

And so today brought with it oddly mild weather, presumably because the gods - or at least the Muses - were feeling beneficial towards Literary Review, which, today, held its 997th (or something like that) Grand Poetry Prize. This award, begun by Auberon Waugh, was intended to promote the writing of verse that 'rhymed, scanned and made sense'. Much harder to do than you would think... Fitzroy Square (I walked past Roger Fry's house as the leaves blew redly around my feet) was the locus for the lunch. Writers descended from all four corners of the earth - or, at least, London and its environs. There was V S Naipaul, grandly seated with his wife Nadira; there was Alexander Waugh playing the piano; there was biographer Jane Ridley in the best red velvet coat I have ever seen. Editor Nancy Sladek gave a toast to Auberon Waugh and the late Beryl Bainbridge (always a favourite guest at the lunch). The room filled with writers and assorted literary types; wine and champagne flowed. Our food arrived: I don't know what it is about potatoes recently (see earlier post about the Oriel Gaudy), but our main course came with some imperially purple ones. The three courses were interspersed with more wine - and light opera, including a song from a musical written by Alexander Waugh called Bon Voyage. The prize (sponsored, with generosity, by the Mail on Sunday) was given by Eileen Atkins, who elegantly read out the winning poem (about cities) by Iain Colley, who accepted it saying: 'I had a whole speech prepared which was studded with witticisms and would comment upon the state of literature'. But he was so blown away by Dame Eileen that he was lost for words.

The lunch continued till four, when I wandered (somewhat erratically) down Piccadilly towards St James'. I popped into the Waterstones', where the excellent children's section (recently remodelled) kindly asked me to sign a couple of copies of The Liberators. Not that most people were interested, though: there was a queue forming for Keith Richards - and he's not arriving till 5pm on Wednesday.

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