Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Poetry funding in Spain

Living in a foreign country has provided me with an extra perspective, the chance to compare and contrast. Some aspects of U.K. life now seem tattier, others seem better. Take poetry funding, for instance.

In the U.K. we tend to complain about the distribution of funding among publishers, mags, events and festivals,and those complaints are often justified. However, the grass is sometimes actually weedier elsewhere, as in Iberia.

There are many excellent poetic ventures in Spain, but a vast amount of funding gets pushed into prizes that are run by local councils. Instead of backing local groups, events and magazines, mayors tend to crave the publicity of handing out a prize that's worth a lot of cash. Doing so also involves far less work than getting their hands dirty with bits and pieces that might make a difference.

The best prizes offer publication, often with an offically-run regional publishing board who don't exactly push sales. Others are worse. A few years ago I was a member of the judging panel for one such local poetry prize over here. At the final meeting I was asked to cast my vote, at which point I tried and failed to explain to the incredulous mayor that I couldn't bring myself to do so: the winner would get 1000€ and no publication. As a prize-winner, his manuscript would be ineligible for any other prize or magazine publication. In other words, by choosing a winning piece I would be condemning the text to oblivion. Cash in exchange for destroying art. The saddest aspect is that umpteen poets submitted their work in the full knowledge of how the system functioned.

In summary, maybe we aren't quite so badly off after all back in the U.K....?!

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