By Dimithri Wijesinghe
Edward Lear was an English artist best known now mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose, especially his limericks – a form he popularised. His poems can be characterised by his irreverent view of the world.
Lear’s nonsense works are distinguished by a facility of verbal invention and a poet’s delight in the sounds of words, both real and imaginary. Such an example is where a stuffed rhinoceros becomes a “diaphanous doorscraper” and one of his most famous verbal inventions, the phrase “runcible spoon,” occurs in the closing lines of The Owl and the Pussycat.
The Edward Lear Prize for poetry was held on the 19 January at Owl and the Pussycat, Reita Gadkari’s gorgeous hotel in Thalpe. Gadkari is Chair of the Edward Lear Prize for Poetry and has hosted the event since its inception in the hopes that “this prize will enable young aspiring poets to find inspiration from Edward Lear’s works and create something unique and special that is a celebration of this life”.
The competition offers an exciting cash prize for the winners; Rs. 250, 000 for the first, Rs. 150, 000 for the second, and Rs. 75, 000 for the third. The finalists are invited to attend the award ceremony which is hosted during the Fairway Galle Literary Festival season.
The competition this year was judged by four eminent personalities; Gehan Talwatte – a London based media entrepreneur and investor who chronicles his search for the best martini at martinimandate.com, Dilhani Thantirimudalige – a poet and a freelance communication specialists from Kandy, Anthea Peris Flambert – a Licentiate teacher of speech with the Trinity College of Music in London, and Aftab Jafferjee – a barrister based in London, ranked in Band 1 in the field of Crime by Chambers & Partners.
As is the usual, this year’s competition proved to be brimming with talent as the five finalists performed their original poems to the award ceremony audience. Each poem insightful, thought provoking, technically affluent, and simply entertaining.
The competition winners of 2019
First – Gayan Perera for “Billy Joy in Folly Land”
Gayan is an aspiring doctor who’s passionate about reading books on science, history, and adventure. He writes poems and short stories in his spare time.
Second – Khema Wijeywardane for “Wheels on the Bus”
A sociable recluse, Khema left her life in Colombo for the solitude of the Nuwara Eliya hills and feels that nothing lends itself so well to nonsense poetry as the daily, delightful nonsensicalities of life in Sri Lanka.
Third – Sandesh Bartlett for “Colombo Aunties Society”
According himself, “Sandesh” is an “overzealous patron of the Sri Lankan culinary masterpiece that is hot butter cuttlefish”, adding that he is a “part-time lightweight rower and full-time heavyweight eater”.
He is a passionate writer who often finds himself writing during his half-an-hour lunch break at work. He hopes one day to fulfil his lifelong dream of publishing a series of novels.
Fourth – Hasangee Jayawardene for “A Golden Eve”
Hasangee currently works in the field of education, is “not the most dedicated journal keeper”, but enjoys reading varied genres and tries to fit in at least a book a month.
Fifth – Asma Rizmi for “Night”
Asma Rizmi an old girl at Ilma International Girls’ School. She is currently a law student at the Royal Institute of Colombo. Writing has been her passion and it’s something she loves to work on during her leisure time.