|Born||12 May 1812
Holloway, Middlesex, England
|Died||29 January 1888 (aged 75)
Sanremo, Liguria, Italy
|Occupation||Artist, illustrator, writer, poet.|
|Genre||Children’s literature, literary nonsense|
About the prize
Edward Lear (12 or 13 May 1812 – 29 January 1888) was an English artist, illustrator, musician, author and poet, and is known now mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose and especially his limericks, a form he popularized. His poems can be characterized by his irreverent view of the world.
His principal areas of work as an artist were threefold: as a draughtsman employed to illustrate birds and animals; making coloured drawings during his journeys, which he reworked later, sometimes as plates for his travel books; as a (minor) illustrator of Alfred Tennyson’s poems. As an author, he is known principally for his popular nonsense collections of poems, songs, short stories, botanical drawings, recipes, and alphabets. He also composed and published twelve musical settings of Tennyson’s poetry. 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. A stuffed rhinoceros becomes a “diaphanous doorscraper.” A “blue Boss-Woss” plunges into “a perpendicular, spicular, orbicular, quadrangular, circular depth of soft mud.” His heroes are Quangle-Wangles, Pobbles, and Jumblies. One of his most famous verbal inventions, the phrase “runcible spoon,” occurs in the closing lines of The Owl and the Pussycat, and is now found in many English dictionaries:
They dined on mince, and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
This poem was a favourite childhood poem of mine and as an adult I often get pleasure in reading his poems again and again, particularly The Owl and the Pussycat. In fact I loved it so much I named my little hotel in Thalpe, Owl and the Pussycat. Every line in the poem reverberated with the space I had created and was thrilled to dedicate my first Sri Lankan project to this wonderful poet.
I hope this prize will enable young aspiring poets to find inspiration from his works and create something unique and special that is a celebration of this life.
Chair of the Edward Lear Prize for Poetry
DETAILS ABOUT THE PRIZE
The Edward Lear Prize for Poetry will be presented annually (up to 10 years) by the Owl and the Pussycat Hotel (Thalpe, Sri Lanka) at the Galle Literary Festival to the poet of the best – in the opinion of judges – eligible poem in the English language.