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Zeta to champion awardfor writers

Oct 28 2004

Robin Turner, Western Mail


ACTRESS Catherine Zeta-Jones has agreed to be the international ambassador for a £60,000 Dylan Thomas literary prize.

The new award for writers, which aims to rival the Booker Prize, was launched simul-taneously yesterday in Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre and New York's Algonquin Hotel.

The prize was unveiled yesterday at the two venues 3,000 miles apart on the anniversary of Thomas's birthday.

It will be awarded every other year, alternating with Wales' Artes Mundi Arts Prize, which was given for the first time this spring.

Ms Zeta-Jones said yesterday of her role as ambassador for the award, "I hope as the first ambassador for this new prize I can help attract blazing literary talent from young writers all over the world. This is a fantastic initiative and one I am proud to be part of."

She recorded a special message which was played at yesterday's launches in Wales and the USA.

After last night's launch in Swansea, Peter Stead chaired a discussion with two Swansea writers who won prizes of their own, poet Nigel Jenkins and novelist Stephen Knight.

The launch of the prize also served as a launch of the annual Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea, which will continue for the next fortnight.

Swansea historian, broadcaster and writer Peter Stead

said of the Dylan Thomas Prize, "It will celebrate one of the most successful international poets. I believe his estate brings in more money than any other published poet. He is truly international."

The literary prize will go to the best book published in English anywhere in the world by an author aged under 30.

Among the judges will be Peter Stead and Ben Marcus, associate professor of New York's Columbia University.

Professor Marcus was at the launch in New York, where Dylan Thomas died after a drinking bout at the White Horse Tavern.

Following Thomas's death, poets of the 1960s made pilgrimages and did readings at the White Horse, inspired by the "wild Welshman".

Professor Marcus said yesterday, "Dylan Thomas is forever connected to New York.

"I think he put New York poetry on the map and also got into some legendary rows at the White Horse Tavern. It is really hard to walk around Greenwich Village without being reminded of his legacy."

Iwan Davies, head of culture and tourism at Swansea City and County Council, said, "I think the international aspect of the prize is one of the important factors in why we are so keen to support it.

"It is to promote the international language of literature but in doing so to reflect on Swansea and Wales as a centre of literary excellence."


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