Joan Margarit (1938-2021) was born in Sanaüja, La Segarra region, in Catalonia. He was an architect as well as a poet, and from 1968 until his retirement was also Professor of Structural Calculations at Barcelona’s Technical School of Architecture, working for part of that time on Gaudí’s Sagrada Família cathedral. He first published poetry in Spanish, but after four books decided to write in Catalan. From 1980 he began to establish his reputation as a major Catalan poet. As well as publishing many collections in Catalan, he published Spanish versions of all his work, gaining recognition as a leading poet in Spanish.
In 2008 he received the Premio Nacional de Poesía del Estado Español for his collection Casa de Misericòrdia, as well as the Premi Nacional de Literatura de la Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2013 he was awarded Mexico’s Premio de Poetas del Mundo Latino Víctor Sandoval for all his poetry. He was awarded the 2019 Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's highest literary honour, worth €125,000, which generally alternates between Spanish and Latin American writers. He received this from King Felipe VI of Spain at a special ceremony at Barcelona's Palauet Albéniz in December 2020, the presentation being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic: the award is usually presented every April at an event in Madrid on the anniversary of the death in 1616 of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. He also received the Reina Sofía Prize for Ibero-American Poetry 2019, the most important poetry award for Spain, Portugal and Latin America.
Tugs in the Fog: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2006), translated by Anna Crowe, the ﬁrst English translation of his Catalan poetry, was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation. Strangely Happy, later poems from Casa de Misericòrdia (2007) and Misteriosament feliç (2008), also translated by Anna Crowe, was published by Bloodaxe in 2011. A third translation by Anna Crowe, Love Is a Place (Bloodaxe Books, 2016) includes all the poems from three recent Catalan collections: No era lluny ni difícil (It Wasn’t Far Away or Difficult, 2010), Es perd el senyal (The Signal Is Fading, 2012) and Estimar és un lloc (From Where to Begin to Love Again, 2014). His final collection Wild Creature (Bloodaxe Books, 2021), also translated by Anna Crowe, brings together poems from his two last two collections, Un hivern fascinant (An amazing winter, 2017) and Animal de bosc (Wild creature, 2020).
The Joan Margarit International Poetry Prize was founded in 2023 by Instituto Cervantes and La Cama Sol publishing house, supported by the family of Joan Margarit. The inaugural winner is American poet Sharon Olds, who will be presented with the award at Instituto Cervantes New York.
Author photo: Xavier Cervera
Books by Joan Margarit