Today I enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the offices of Faber & Faber to celebrate poet Kona Macphee‘s award of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Fine food, convivial company, and some familiar, lovely faces. I was not the only person present to comment: ‘Why can’t we do this every day?’
Kona joins a distinguished list of poets who have won this coveted prize (it alternates between poetry and fiction), including Seamus Heaney, Hugo Williams, Tony Harrison, Alice Oswald, Paul Muldoon, John Burnside, Michael Hofmann, Geoffrey Hill, Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie, Greta Stoddart, Glyn Maxwell, and my late, great teacher Michael Donaghy – Obi-Wan Kenobi of an almost entire generation of younger poets. Kona received the prize in recognition of a splendid second collection, Perfect Blue.
Kona and I go way back to 2001. The two of us appeared together in the anthology Anvil New Poets 3. It is difficult to convey now my joy then when first I held that anthology in my hands – oh, how clever I am! – or my shame when I leafed through and happened upon two devastating lines: ‘He grips the gather of her waist / and pours her like a ewer into dance.’ At the foot of the page, the poet’s name: Kona Macphee. I was so utterly incapable of such concise, entirely apt and beautiful imagery. The sophistication was staggering. Reading further, the depression simply grew. Kona Macphee, I thought, you are just too annoyingly talented. But, as with all true talents, Kona is a terrific person, with humility, generosity and a rich sense of humour.
Kona published a first, acclaimed collection, Tails, in 2004. And, in 2010, she followed this with Perfect Blue. I published some poems which later appeared in the collection in New Welsh Review, so I had an indication that Perfect Blue was going to be a book of incredible quality, integrity and maturity. And so it is. I am thrilled that Kona has won this award, which will push her to the front of things – where she belongs. Buy the book!