Finuala Dowling and Michiel Heyns Win the English Academy’s Olive Schreiner and Thomas Pringle Prizes
Dowling wins for her collection of poetry, Notes from the Dementia Ward, published jointly by Kwela Books and Snailpress, while Heyns, whose latest novel is Bodies Politic (Jonathan Ball), wins for a portfolio of reviews published in the Sunday Independent – many of which can be accessed at MichielHeyns.co.za. It’s the second time Heyns has won the Pringle for reviews.
The Academy had this to say about the awards:
It was most gratifying to be witness to such a fine spectrum of South African [poetry] talent and such a vast range of styles – from the witty and quirky to the angry and heartfelt; from those poems catalyzed by the classical to those inspired by socio-historical happenings; from the capturing of tender moments of loss and love to the encapsulating of ironic twists and fresh insights.
The following citation provides reasons for the panel’s choice of Finuala Dowling’s poetry collection as the winning entry for this year’s award:
Dowling’s is a brave and distinctive voice. Her poems claim attention with an effortless charm, each line quickened by luminous perceptions and setting up new fields of vision. The panel was particularly impressed by the poet’s mastery of the art of compression and her novelistic insight, her fresh turn of phrase and disarming honesty. This is a truly contemporary poetic voice, at once witty, relaxed, compassionate and incisive. Here, there is no posturing; there is a notable lack of overt political comment, yet each poem is embedded within the South African political milieu, manifested in subtle innuendo or incorrigible, self-reflexive frankness, (R Gray, I Rabinowitz and P van Schaik).
Heyns won the same award in 2006, also for reviews in the Sunday Independent. This year’s panel, like the previous one, arrived at its decision by consensus. The panellists, Dr Lynda Gilfillan (convener), Ms Kate McCallum and Dr Glenda Cleaver, felt that Heyns was most deserving of the award:
Michiel Heyns has shown once again that he is the consummate reviewer, informing the reader of the content of a book, analysing it, and finally expressing an erudite opinion. The reader has had the pleasure of an informed analysis and a cracking good read, as opinions are expressed with elegance and lucidity. The reviews themselves span a range of literary styles and genres, from South African short stories and novels to international literature.
Dowling wins R5 000 and Heyns R2 000; they will receive their prizes next year.
The English Academy’s oft-remarked-upon system of convoluted awards will see the Olive Schreiner go to a work of drama in 2011 (and one of fiction in 2012). Meanwhile, we’re still expecting the news about the (separate) 2010 Pringle Awards for short stories and literary articles. (2011 will see Pringles awarded for reviews, poetry and educational articles.)
Congratulations to both!
- Notes from the Dementia Ward by Finuala Dowling
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