This year,
2012, Pablo García Baena became the ninth winner of the Lorca International Prize for Poetry, awarded annually by the City of Granada.

García Baena was born in Cordoba in 1923, so won
the prize at the age of 89. He already has in his possession the Príncipe de
Asturias Prize for Literature (1984), the Andalusian Prize for Letters (1992)
and the Reina Sofía (2008).

The award came as a surprise, he said, just when he thought he had been
overlooked once and for all and that the time had come for him to hang up his
poetic gloves. His reaction is understandable, for the average age of the nine
Lorca Prize winners is a mere 80. He is indeed the oldest of them all,
although, apart from José
Emilio Pacheco, the second recipient of the award in 2005, who won the prize at
the sprightly age of 66, all winners have been well beyond the age of
retirement for us normal mortals. García
Baena had been in the
running on several previous occasions.

All that was left for him now was the Cervantes
Prize, he surmised, ruefully, but without false modesty.

Once again we have to agree with García Baena’s
appraisal of the situation. The Lorca and the Sofía Prize go hand-in-hand. If a
Lorca Prize winner is not already a Reina Sofía Prize holder, s/he soon will
be. Seven of the nine Lorca Prize winners are also Reina Sofía Prize holders.
Three won the Lorca Prize first, three the Reina Sofía, and last year, in 2011, Fina García Marruz of Cuba, at the tender age of eighty-eight, won both. And with the Príncipe de Asturias on his mantlepiece for nigh
on twenty years, what else is there for the Andalusian poet to aspire to?

Even
so, the Cervantes is is somewhat ambitious goal. Awarded for literature rather
than (just) poetry, so far it has only been claimed by one Lorca Prize winner,
José Emilio Pacheco, second winner in 2005, who went on to win both the
Cervantes and the Reina Sofia in 2009.

With
hindsight, García Baena had the clear profile of a Lorca Prize winner,
characterised as one who, as well as being a seasoned poetry prize winner, is
more likely to be in his 80s than in his 70s. And, yes, with poetesses winning
the two previous editions (though only three of the nine have been women), it
was probably a man’s turn in 2012. And a Spaniard’s. The prize tends to
alternate between Spain and Latin America. He was, incidentally, the third
Andalusian poet to win the prize, all of them in the last four years.
Coincidence or policy decision?

Although
prize money has been reduced from 50,000 to 30,000 euros in these times of crisis,
it is still evidently an award of great value and prestige, and the prize
givers are not inclined to take any risks.

That
is why next year’s winner is likely to be a Latin American. It’s their turn.
Latin American prize-winners are likely to be holders of the Pablo Neruda Prize,
or the Octavio Paz Prize, or both (Pacheco). Or the Juan Rulfo Prize for Latin
American and Caribbean Literature. As previous Latino winners have been from
just three countries – Mexico, Peru, and Cuba – Argentina or Chile must be in
with a good chance next year, and a poet of the calibre of Juan Gelman must
fancy his chances, especially as at 83 next year he is also the right age. He
won the Juan Rulfo in 2000, the Reina
Sofía and the Pablo Neruda in
2005, and the Cervantes in 2007! He’s obviously been on the Lorca Prize
shortlist on a number of occasions already.

With an
eye on the Reina Sofía, this year’s winner Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua must
be another hot contender for the Lorca. I confess I did think he was too
radical and might be disqualified for his association with the Sandanista
Government. He was Minister of Culture
between 1979 and 1988. However, time is a
great leveller and winning the Reina Sofía shows he has become respectable
enough to stand a chance with the City of Granada jury, presided over by the
Lord Mayor, currently the conservative José Torres Hurtado.