Seven contenders on shortlist for Ted Hughes award

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Jay Bernard, Caroline Bird, Kayo Chingonyi, Inua Ellams, Matthew Francis, Antony Owen and Greta Stoddart have been shortlisted for the £5,000 Ted Hughes award for new work in poetry, the Poetry Society has announced. This year’s judges are Gillian Allnutt, Sally Beamish and Lemn Sissay. 

Jay Bernard for Surge: Side A (Speaking Volumes): Surge: Side A was performed last year at the Roundhouse as part of the Last Word festival, investigating the New Cross fire of 1981 that claimed 13 lives. The judges said: “Startling and fresh and unique… a moving and powerful struggle for validation in the Black British community, and the poet’s own clarification of identity. The performances are riveting and the poems are propelled by a strong internal momentum.”

Caroline Bird for In These Days of Prohibition (Carcanet): Bird’s fifth collection with Carcanet confronts dark regions of the human psyche with surrealism, sharp observation and humour. From the judges: “Powerful, disturbing – yet witty and very funny in places; redemptive.”

Kayo Chingonyi for Kumukanda (Chatto): The title comes from a Zambian word for “initiation”, and is a wide-ranging and lyrical debut collection that investigates race, memory and masculinity. The judges said: “Intense and compelling and won’t let itself or you the reader get away with anything – witness the sequence ‘calling a spade a spade’ with its challenging, detailed complexities.”

Inua Ellams for #afterhours (Nine Arches Press): Combines memoir, diary, poetry and doodle, drawing on the rich collections of the National Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre, London. From the judges: “An intrinsically generous collection which allows us in to the creative process which is described unpretentiously … very inspiring.”

Matthew Francis for The Mabinogi (Faber & Faber): A modern retelling of an ancient Welsh text from the 1300s, in which the borders blur between the physical world and a realm of magic. The judges said: “An intriguing retelling of the first four stories of The Mabinogion… a refreshing experience.”

Antony Owen for The Nagasaki Elder (V Press): A harrowing collection responding to a journey through bombed cities of Japan and drawing on accounts of survivors. From the judges: “Shocking to read, but at the same time strangely beautiful and gentle … relevant to our times, hard-hitting, and brilliantly written.”

Greta Stoddart for Who’s There? (BBC): A radio piece tackling the topic of dementia through an interweave of word, sound and music that was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Echo Chamber. The judges said: “It’s a piece that offers no judgment and no (illusory) hope: it simply presents, with courage and cleanliness, an aspect of contemporary life that’s pretty hard to take.”

The winner will be announced at the Ted Hughes award and National Poetry Competition awards ceremony on 28 March. More details




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