I feel honoured to have been awarded the Guyana Prize for the poetry I have written. At home and abroad I have found that the Prize brings credit to Guyana and those who have won it.
Minister George Norton need have no doubts about the value of the Prize. Young Mosa Telford, herself a winner of the Prize, made a wise comment: “………there should be no question about discontinuing the prize, only about how to fix its shortcomings. We cannot destroy every opportunity of promoting and nurturing Guyanese literature”.
I remember when President Hoyte, who conceived and inaugurated the Guyana Prize in 1987, was asked if he worried about a poor country expending money on a literary prize, he made an immediate and memorable comment, quoting a verse from the work of Moslih Eddin Saadi, a Mohammedan sheik and Persian poet who lived and wrote in the 13th Century:
“If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone
to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”
That is right. Even in the hardest times a man’s needs must not be limited to the material. The flowering of intellect, the appreciation of beauty in literature and music and art, the encouragement of man’s creative imagination never cease to be of ultimate importance. The Guyana Prize gives full recognition to that great truth.
In 1992 when the new President, Dr. Jagan, was asked what should happen about the Guyana Prize, the brainchild of his predecessor, he answered at once: “Of course the Prize must continue” — and he quoted President Hoyte’s words: “We must give stature and status to our makers of words as we do to our makers of things.”