The presentation of the 31st LOEWE Foundation International Poetry Prize and winning book, held at the Westin Palace Hotel in Madrid, brought together, once again, a number of stakeholders and personalities from the fields of culture, fashion, and literature. The eyes of the many well-known faces at the event were all on poet Basilio Sánchez, winner of the Prize.
Sheila Loewe, President of the LOEWE Foundation, gave a very warm welcome to what she described as “an ongoing gathering of friends around poetry”. Enrique Loewe, Honorary President of the Foundation, shared some moving words in memory of Carmen Alborch and Elio Berhanyer as he looked back on a cultural initiative that, after 31 editions, is still going strong.
Following the Award Ceremony, Antonio Colinas presented the winning book, He heredado un nogal sobre la tumba de los reyes. The title, Colina explained, “tends to the surreal and the irrational despite the work’s simplicity and pared-down virtuosity”. Colinas then pointed to the Prize’s commitment to different aesthetics. “The focus has not been on a single poetic style. On the contrary, there are as many views, perspectives, and approaches as winning works”. As such, he added, the collection of crowned books published over the past 31 years is “a three-decade chronicle, a synthesis of poetry written in Spanish”. He also mentioned the `open approach´ taken by Editorial Visor, welcoming and publishing every single winner and therefore providing an “incredible platform for Latin America, that world that we must never forget, and that often partakes in the Prize”.
“While Sanchez is an established author, his work is a bit of a secret”, said Colinas. The Prize rewards his personality, one that shies away from traditional and influential literary circuits. Colinas pointed to his other vocation –in the medical field– because it adds to his poems “a humanity that is palpable throughout everything he writes”. He called it a profound book “that requires several readings” because, beyond its raw virtuosity, “the reader feels compelled to try to figure out what is behind it”. This is a book Colinas believes is “very much needed, because it’s so different from the simplistic sentimental poetry that somehow manages to go viral in today’s world”. Finally, he praised Basilio Sánchez for remaining faithful to his personal poetic voice, “which he puts to the test in each book. He has not been unduly influenced or been seduced by siren songs that abound in today’s literary world”. As Colinas explained, in Basilio Sanchez “we have a poet”.
Basilio Sánchez thanked Colinas for “the attentive and extremely generous reading” of his poems and the Jury –among whom, he said, many of his literary role models are to be found– for having awarded him with a Prize that he doesn’t want to consider “a recognition of quality or of the more or less fortunate verses within, but rather, of the spirit that spurs it, the humanistic style that drives it, that passionate confidence with which it seeks to overcome the exhaustion and disappointment that are so rampant today”. He applauded the LOEWE Foundation’s effort to “promote and preserve this important literary contest that is capable of generating, amidst the confusion and uncertainty of our time, a moral space for poetry, the humblest but also the most necessary of the manifestations of the soul”. He thanked everyone in attendance, his friends and family, and in particular, his wife and children, to whom the book is dedicated. Sanchez then spoke of the painting –by Basilio’s own father– that illustrates the book’s cover, explaining its relationship to the verses. “It’s a meditative book”, he added, “but also the field book of a naturalist who sees words as his raison d’être and who uses both poetry and the images words can conjure to question the world and how he interacts with it. These are verses written by someone who knows there is nothing more beautiful than allowing the night to convince you that everything is eternal”.
Photo Captions: Sheila Loewe, Basilio Sánchez and Antonio Colinas. Enrique Loewe, during his speech. Basilio Sánchez and his verses. Chus Visor, Manuela Carmena and Lourdes Garzón © Álvaro Tomé for LOEWE Foundation, 2019.