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Simon Armitage's Speech

"A question often asked when poetry has one of its brief moments in the spotlight is, 'How is poetry doing? What kind of state is it in? Is it in good health?' And the answer I tend to give is that it is as well as it ever was and no worse than it will ever be. Poetry is not popular. Popular culture is popular. Pop music is popular. Popcorn is popular. Poetry isn't popular. If it were, it wouldn't be poetry. It isn't dormant or dead, or even having a little nap. Poetry is awake, alive, alert, doing its own thing, available to all, attractive to the few, beholden to none. Wherever we find the hot air of politics and the blunt instrument of dogma and the double-speak of the marketplace and the silver tongue of the media, we'll also find poetry – a small but endlessly dense counterweight to all that guff. So, ask me how poetry is doing and that's what I'll usually say. But ask me after judging the Manchester Poetry Prize and I'll say it seems to be in very good health indeed. Prizes and poetry aren't obvious bed-mates. Prizes really belong to the world of game-shows and sport. But if they must exist, then they should be meaningful and they should be credible. The Manchester Poetry Prize is certainly significant; it's one of the biggest in the country already. And in terms of being honourable, asking for anonymous entries ensures that reputations and allegiances don't enter the equation. Also asking for a batch of poems rather than a single entry allows judges to look beyond competency and control in writing and to reward other virtues, such as risk-taking, inventiveness and sustained achievement. There was, throughout the entries, plenty of that on display."

Simon Armitage, Manchester Poetry Prize Chair of Judges 2010.

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