Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 13:39 UK

Apology as poet scoops book prize


Culture Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas initially announced the wrong winner before correctly naming Dannie Abse's The Presence Wales Book of the Year

A book by poet Dannie Abse written to help him overcome his grief after his wife died in a a car crash has won the Wales Book of the Year.

There was initial confusion when Culture Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas named Tom Bullough the winner, before apologising and correcting the error.

Abse, an accomplished writer and poet, penned The Presence in the aftermath of his wife Joan's death in June 2005.

The Cardiff-born author, who lives in London, also wins a 10,000 prize.

Abse was pronounced winner of the annual prize at in the Hilton Hotel, Cardiff, on Tuesday, but there was controversy when the wrong name was announced.

Bullough, a young novelist, had almost reached the stage to collect the cheque amid the applause of the audience when it was announced that a mistake had been made, and that the actual winner was the veteran poet.

The culture minister immediately apologised for the mix-up, and Bullough returned to his seat while the award was then given to Abse. Bullough did not then return to the stage to collect his 1,000 runner's-up prize.

Later, the after-dinner speaker, historian John Davies, used part of his speech to criticise the minister in strong terms for the mistake.

Abse's The Presence is both a journal of his grief and a portrait of a marriage which lasted more than 50 years.

At Hay, Abse spoke movingly of his struggle to cope with the sudden loss of his wife.

He said after his wife's death he had "days of sloth" but "just raised moments to write something".

He said: "I hope (without confidence) to articulate unhappiness is to diminish it."

Nia Wyn and her son Joe
Nia Wyn's book was also described as "therapy" by her

Originally the memoir had not been intended for publication, but he had been persuaded to publish it.

'Amazing talent'

Both runners-up each received 1,000.

Journalist Nia Wyn, whose book Blue Sky July charts her life after her son was born with cerebral palsy, and novelist Tom Bullough were runners-up.

Wyn wrote Blue Sky July after her son Joe was born with cerebral palsy, and Bullough's The Claude Glass is a drama set in the Welsh borders.

The Wales Book of the Year award is administered by Academi with the financial support of the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Welsh Books Council.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas said the Wales Book of the Year builds on a "fantastic literary history" by recognising "the amazing talent we have to offer".

"We can justly claim that we are continuing to make our mark on the literary map of the world in both English and Welsh," he added.

The winner of the Welsh-language Book of the Year and another 10,000 prize was Gareth Miles for his novel Y Proffwyd a'i Ddwy Jesebel, which is about the methodist revival.

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