“But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near”

Eduardo Lizalde,
Mexican poet, winner of the X Lorca Poetry Prize, feels honoured to receive the
award, as any poet would. It must also be an uncomfortable reminder of his own
mortality.

“I’m an
old man and I’ve seen many of my fellow poets pass away, like Juan Gelman who
was a year younger than me.” Gelman died on 14 January this year. On 26 January
he was followed to the beyond by José Emilio Pacheco, winner of the II Lorca
Prize eight years ago. Indeed, four of the first five winners ­- Ángel
González, Blanca Varela, and Tomás Segovia as well as the aforementioned Pacheco
– are already dead. Lizalde says he was bound to all of them by friendship as
well as chosen profession. “I am a survivor,” Lizalde claimed gallantly.

Lizalde is 85.
The average age of the other five surviving prize winners is 87. So Lizalde
could be accused of a modicum of over-optimism.

Because the
Lorca Prize is awarded in recognition of a poet’s life’s work, the 40%
mortality rate is not so surprising. From its initial concept, the purpose of
the City of Granada-Federico García Lorca International Prize for Poetry, to give it its full
and official title, has been to allow the city to bask a little in the fame and
glory of the poetry prize-winner.

Last year’s and this year’s award ceremony. Spot the difference?

It works
something like this: Garcia Lorca was Granada’s greatest son and one of the
greatest poets of the past century, and linking the two to living poets of
quasi-universal acclaim will mutually benefit both city and the poet it
endorses. So each year, praise for the virtues of the winning poet has the
secondary effect of enhancing the cultural status of the city. To this end, the
services of Don Felipe y de Doña Letizia, Prince and Princess of Asturia, who
presided over the first and the latest award-giving ceremony, have been instrumental
in ensuring that Granada is reflected favourably in relevant cultural circles
and beyond, thanks to the extra media exposure achieved. The association of the
Prince and Princess of Asturias with the Prize guarantees for the city a
greater repercussion in the media than would be attained by a more modest
arrangement in terms of pomp and pecuniary reward.

From the outset,
with its initial presentation in New York in 2004, the Lorca Prize sought to take
advantage of the aura contributed by the winning poet. The presence of the
prize-winning poet is so essential to the promotion of the city, that when the
third winner, the Peruvian Blanca Varela, was too unwell to attend the function,
with the consequential loss of divulgatory clout, the organisers decided
henceforth to withhold the quite considerable prize money in the case of the
winner not being present to collect it. In 2011, the Cuban poet Fina García
Marruz, aged 88 at the time, was also not well enough to attend, and so
presumably had to go without the cash prize.

Great poets are
by their nature dissidents, Lizalde, who was proud of having been banned by the
Franco regime, would insist, somewhat defiantly. Even so, they can be harnessed
to what I see as manifestly conservative political ends.

[Source used: G.
CAPPA Granada Hoy 05.02.2014]