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Shetland poet wins £140,000 US literary prize

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Shetland poet Jen Hadfield has been awarded around £140,000 as one of eight winners of the US Windham-Campbell prize, based at Yale University.

Writers do not apply for the prize, which celebrates achievement across fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama. Their names are put forward by nominators invited by an anonymous prize giving committee.

Announcing the prize on Tuesday, the committee said: “Jen Hadfield’s intricate poems slow down time, reveal overlooked details of the natural world, and forge complex relationships between language, history, and place.”

Hadfield was born in Cheshire to a British father and a Canadian mother, and is an award-winning poet, book maker, and visual artist who moved to Shetland around 16 years ago. Her second collection of poetry Nigh-No-Place won the TS Eliot prize in 2008, making her the youngest ever winner at the time. Her third collection Byssus was published by Picador in 2014 and The Stone Age in 2021, which won the Highland Book Prize.

Writing in English, Shetlandic and Scots dialect, Hadfield’s poetry focuses on the environmental and social perceptions of her home. In a video made for the prize she said: "I get asked why I moved to Shetland, and I give a different answer each time. I wanted to live somewhere where there was a lot of other species on my doorstep, and where I could hop out my front door and be on a cliff in five minutes. I have a desperate desire to celebrate the natural world, and the wild world, and to say something about the here and now. I also fell in love with the Shetland language."

Hadfield, who became the mother of a young boy eight months ago, told Shetland News that receiving the prize was “an amazing feeling”.

“I don’t think I have bought anything in my life without really questioning it carefully. I haven’t really made any decision yet about what I am going to do [with the prize money], but it will be about security and freedom.

“I moved into a house in the past couple of years that I built laboriously and painfully for six or seven years. That was in the throes of Covid, the cost for building materials went through the roof, and what was meant to be my affordable little house became a lot less affordable, and then the mortgages went nuts.

“I have worried for a few years and if nothing else this will take that worry away, and if that is all it does then that’s a phenomenal thing because worry does impact on creativity.”

Deirdre Madden (Ireland) – fiction; Kathryn Scanlan (United States) – fiction; Christina Sharpe (Canada/United States) – non-fiction; Hanif Abdurraqib (United States) – non-fiction; Christopher Chen (United States) – drama; Sonya Kelly (Ireland) – drama; m. nourbeSe philip (Canada/Trinidad and Tobago) – poetry.



◄ High Nowhere: Jean Atkin, Indigo Dreams Publishing

No mere trifle: recovery and discoveries from armchair poets at village book festival ►

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