International Dylan Day, on 14th May, marks the date on which ‘Under Milk Wood’ was first read on stage at The Poetry Center, New York in 1953. This year, it also marks the 10th anniversary of the International Dylan Thomas Prize, which supports and nurtures young writing talent from around the world. Worth £30,000, the award is made to the best published literary work of fiction in the English language, written by an author aged thirty-nine or under.
On Saturday 14th May 2016, Max Porter was named as the winner of the 10th International Dylan Thomas Prize for his first book, ‘Grief Is the Thing with Feathers’. This novella is the story of two young boys who face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness. In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and the pain of loss gives way to memories, the little unit of three starts to heal.
Chair of judges Professor Dai Smith (Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University) said:
“Max Porter, the judges felt, takes the common place of grief, the pall of death, the loss of loved ones, the things that we will all experience and transforms the ordinary through an extraordinary feat of imaginative prose, but prose that slips in to poetry and out again. The way it plays with the archetypal figure of Ted Hughes’’ Crow’ is both astonishing and beguiling. It is funny, it is deeply moving and it is a book that the judges are proud to see as the winner of the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize, in partnership with Swansea University.”
‘The Keep’ magazine is delighted to congratulate Max Porter, who is a senior editor at Granta and Portobello Books, not only for the success of his own book, but also to recognise his editorial commitment to working with Tom Bullough on his novel ‘Addlands’, (published by Granta) an extract from which will be published later this month in ‘The Keep’. Coincidentally, one of the judges for this year’s International Dylan Thomas Prize was Owen Sheers, who has contributed a poem to ‘The Keep’. We are excited to be even marginally associated with this important event in Welsh literary and cultural life.