Roland Mathias Poetry Prize
The Roland Mathias Prize was established in 2005, under the auspices of the Brecknock Society and Museum Friends, to commemorate the life and work of the poet and literary critic, Roland Mathias. The Prize for poetry is part of the Wales Book of the Year competition.
Roland Mathias, who lived in Brecon for nearly 40 years, played a major role in establishing Welsh writing in English as a distinctive literary genre. He was editor of the Anglo-Welsh Review for many years and published a number of volumes of poetry. His Collected Poems, edited by Sam Adams, was
published in 2002.
The Prize, which is awarded annually, is for poetry from Wales in the English language. The award ceremony is staged by Literature Wales, who are responsible for running the Wales Book of the Year competition. Recent winners of the poetry prize include John Freeman, Philip Gross, Tiffany Atkinson and Owen Sheers – who was the overall winner of the 2014 competition. They have each in turn performed their poetry at an event in Brecon held by the Brecknock Society.
The winner of the Roland Mathias Prize for 2018 was also the winner of the overall Wales Book of the Year; that is the third occasion in the last decade that a poet has taken the top award. It went to one of the pre-eminent poets in Wales, Robert Minhinnick, for Diary of the Last Man (Carcanet). The chair of the judging panel, Kathryn Gray, described this volume as “a serious book for serious times, reflecting above all the poet’s ecological and political concerns”. She went on to say that the book’s elegiac and melancholic themes were “perfectly balanced by the poet’s indefatigable drive towards the rendering of beauty, most particularly that of the natural world”.
The winner of the 2019 Roland Mathias Prize was awarded at a ceremony on June 20 in Aberystwyth. Ailbhe Darcy won both the Roland Mathias poetry prize and the overall Wales Book of the Year award, the fourth time this has happened in the last eight years. Her winning collection of poetry, Insistence (Bloodaxe Books), is set in the period the poet and her family lived in a post-industrial city in the American mid-West. The poems explore her feelings of bringing up a child in an environment of economic, racial and environmental separation. Ailbhe Darcy is a lecturer in creative writing at Cardiff University.
Ms Darcy will give a performance of her poetry in Brecon this autumn, like all the previous winners of the Roland Mathias Prize. The Brecknock Society and Museum Friends organises the Brecon poetry evening and provides the money for the winning prize, which comes from the fund donated by Roland Mathias for this purpose. Sadly, 2019 will be the last year in which the Prize will be available.