Friday 8 September 2017

Peggy Chapman-Andrews

I regularly browse the shelves of the poetry section at my local secondhand bookshop in Chichester whenever I’m back in the city, so any new intake always attracts my attention. On having a look this August, however, I realized that I was especially in luck, as a number of terrific books had arrived, all from the same private collection. What’s more, they were all signed and dedicated to their previous owner, and there was even correspondence tucked inside them between the poet in question and the collector.

The books were by winners of the Bridport Prize and they were all dedicated to “Peggy”. The letters were addressed to “The Competition Secretary” and discussed prize-giving ceremonies and winners’ reactions to their awards. After getting home with my haul, I started googling and quickly discovered that these books had come from the personal library of Peggy Chapman-Andrews.

These days, most writers associate Peggy Chapman-Andrews with the first novel award in her name, which is still run by the Bridport Prize. In fact, she almost single-handedly set up the Bridport Arts Centre in 1973 and later, as a fundraising venture, the internationally acclaimed Bridport Prize. Peggy continued to help out as a volunteer even into her nineties until her death in 2013.

I feel an intense sadness that her carefully curated collection of poetry books has been broken up. The correspondence was folded and tucked inside each book with such precision. I suppose it’s inevitable that most such private libraries should end up being dispersed, but this is another example of the ephemeral and passing nature of poetic fame and reputation, as I’ll  explore further in forthcoming posts about specific volumes from Peggy Chapman-Andrews’ collection.

At least these books have found a loving home. I treasure their texts and the story behind their journey into my hands. Thank you, Peggy.

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