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This report is taken from PN Review 177, Volume 34 Number 1, September - October 2007.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

The Roland Mathias Prize, worth £2000 to the winner, was awarded for the second time at the end of April. It went to Dannie Abse for Running Late, a further revelation of the poet's deft ease, whatever the subject. In this predominantly elegiac book the familiar lightness of touch persists. The contents are leavened with a fair measure of wit and humour, and the weightier themes are greeted with a sad smile and shake of the head. What can one do, after all, faced with the accumulating evidence of entropy, and the loss of friends and loved ones? Yes, weep for the moment, treasure the memories, and treasure, too, what the seasons bring to our gardens and what remains of the familiar bric-a-brac of a lifetime. One of Abse's enviable gifts is story telling, the communication of message or moral in simple narrative without a wasted word; another is his ability to express human love - not the whirlwind of passion but abiding love - in a way unsentimental, yet deeply affecting.

The poet didn't come to Brecon to receive his prize. Just in case, he sent an old friend and editor from Hutchinson with a letter of apology and gratitude instead. His reluctance to travel down from London was understood by all (he is now 84), yet it was a pity. Roland Mathias, whose generosity created the prize, was almost certainly the first critic to give lengthy, well-considered attention to Abse's poetry, a ...


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