Judges Grayson Perry, Julia Copus and Kei Miller presented the 2014 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry to Andrew Motion for Coming Home, a poetic reimagining and radio performance of shared conversations centred on the effect of conflict, praised by the judges for its “innovative and deeply moving” poetry.
“Coming Home is our deserving winner. We loved the way in which the listener is invited in to the writing process: first we eavesdrop on conversations with the soldiers, and then we witness the poems hatching from those conversations. The author has gone to some lengths to absent himself from the lines, and claims to have changed very little to produce what he calls “a rapid fire kind of poetry”, but don’t be fooled: Motion’s skilful shaping and alterations have resulted in a subtle and magical transformation. All the time we are aware of a gap between the interviewees’ words and the sorrow that lies behind them. It’s this gap that Andrew Motion exploits to make an accessible, innovative and deeply moving poetry.” – Julia Copus
“This year’s energetic and varied consignment of entries for the Ted Hughes Award was, as ever, delivered into our hands by members of the Poetry Society and the Poetry Book Society; it is, in that sense, a peculiarly democratic prize. A great deal of lively debate ensued as we discussed the merits of the work – performances, books, radio pieces, and all manner of collaborations. We were looking, above all, for work that surprised and moved us; work that was innovative, but not for innovation’s sake; work that was vital and relevant enough to connect with a wide readership and that took account of the world around it. In some cases, the crucial element of surprise arose from the spark that flies when two or more artists work together; in others, from the poet’s own imaginative resources. Our shortlist of five reflects that divergence of approach” – Julia Copus, Judge
Patience Agbabi for Telling Tales
In Telling Tales award-winning poet Patience Agbabi presents an inspired 21st-Century remix of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales retelling all of the stories, from the Miller’s Tale to the Wife of Bath’s in her own critically acclaimed poetic style. Celebrating Chaucer’s Middle-English masterwork for its performance element as well as its poetry and pilgrims, Agbabi’s newest collection is utterly unique. Boisterous, funky, foul-mouthed, sublimely lyrical and bursting at the seams, Telling Tales takes one of Britain’s most significant works of literature and gives it thrilling new life. Telling Tales is published by Canongate.
Imtiaz Dharker for Over the Moon
Over the Moon is Imtiaz Dharker’s fifth book of poems and drawings from Bloodaxe. Her main themes are drawn from a life of transitions: childhood, exile, journeying, home, displacement, religious strife and terror, and latterly, grief. These are poems of joy and sadness, of mourning and celebration: poems about music and feet, church bells, beds, café tables, bad language and sudden silence. In contrast with her previous work written amidst the hubbub of India, these new poems are mostly set in London, where she has built a new life with – and since the death of – her husband Simon Powell. Imtiaz Dharker is also an accomplished filmmaker and artist, and all her collections are illustrated with her drawings, which form an integral part of her books. She is possibly the only British poet-artist who always publishes her poetry and art together.
Carrie Etter for Imagined Sons
Carrie Etter’s Imagined Sons (Seren) interweaves two kinds of poems to produce a deepening sense of a birthmother’s consciousness. In the ‘birthmother’s catechisms’, the same question – How did you let him go?, for one – evokes different answers over time, while the ‘imagined sons’ are prose poems in which the birthmother encounters her son once he’s come of age. His guises include a pilot, a criminal, even an olive. Through these two forms, Imagined Sons takes a non-confessional approach to what might otherwise be considered a confessional
Andrew Motion for Coming Home
Coming Home is a series of poems (of which ‘One Tourniquet’ forms a part) that Andrew Motion wrote about the last (or almost the last) British soldiers to leave Afghanistan. He spent time at the British Army camp in Bad Fallingbostel, in northern Germany, interviewing these soldiers. He then wrote poems based on transcripts of the conversations they shared – and, in one further case, with the London-based mother of a British soldier who had been killed in the fighting. In a quite fundamental ways these poems are therefore collaborations, in which Andrew’s editing, intervening, selecting, guiding and writing is combined with the soldiers’ acts of witness. Coming Home was originally aired on Radio 4, and produced by Melissa Fitzgerald.
Alice Oswald for Tithonus
Tithonus is a poem and performance by Alice Oswald that was commissioned by London’s Southbank Centre and staged there on midsummer’s night, 21st June 2014. It is said that the dawn fell in love with Tithonus and asked Zeus to make him immortal, but forgot to ask that he should not grow old. Unable to die, he grew older and older until at last the dawn locked him in a room where he still sits babbling to himself and waiting night after night for her appearance. This poem is the voice of Tithonus meeting the dawn at midsummer. It starts at 4.17am, when the sun is six degrees below the horizon, and stops 46 minutes later, at sunrise. Oswald collaborated with nykelharpa player Griselda Sanderson who produced accompanying, haunting sounds for the performance. BBC Radio 4’s The Echo Chamber broadcast a shortened version of the piece on midwinter’s evening, 21st December 2014, and the text is available from The Letterpress as a pamphlet.
The three judges this year are award-winning poets Julia Copus and Kei Miller, and one of the world’s best known contemporary artists, Grayson Perry.
Julia Copus is an award-winning poet and children’s writer. Her debut poetry collection, The Shuttered Eye, appeared from Bloodaxe in 1995. It contained the first of several ‘specular’ poems, a form in which the second half of the poem is an exact mirror of the first. In 2012, Faber published her third collection,The World’s Two Smallest Humans, which was short-listed for both the Costa poetry award and the T.S. Eliot prize. Other awards include first prize in the National Poetry Competition and the Forward prize for best single poem (2010). Julia’s radio work includes Ghost Lines, a cycle of poems and biographical interludes about the experience of IVF, which was short-listed for the 2012 Ted Hughes award. She is currently working on a biography of the poet Charlotte Mew.
Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978. Kei writes across a range of genres: novels, books of short stories, essays and poetry. His 2014 collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet), is shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. His poetry has also been shortlisted for awards such as the Jonathan Llewelyn Ryhs Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Scottish Book of the Year. In 2010, the Institute of Jamaica awarded him the Silver Musgrave medal for his contributions to Literature. Kei has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and a PhD in English Literature from the University of Glasgow. In 2013 the Caribbean Rhodes Trust named him the Rex Nettleford Fellow in Cultural Studies.
Winner of the 2003 Turner prize, Grayson Perry is one of Britain’s best-known contemporary artists. He works with traditional media; ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry and is interested in how each historic category of object accrues over time’s intellectual and emotional baggage. Perry is a great chronicler of contemporary life, drawing viewers in with beauty, wit, affecting sentiment and nostalgia as well as fear and anger. His hard-hitting and exquisitely crafted works reference his own childhood and life as a transvestite while also engaging with wider social issues from class and politics to sex and religion.
Grayson Perry has had major solo exhibitions nationally and internationally including the critically acclaimed Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum. His monumental suite of tapestries The Vanity of Small Differences, which were inspired by his BAFTA winning Channel 4 series: In the Best Possible Taste, are currently on a national and international tour led by the Arts Council Collection and British Council. In June 2013 Perry was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Grayson Perry: Who Are You? was on Channel 4 in October; the accompanying free display at the National Portrait Gallery, sponsored by Coutts, opened 25 Oct. His book, Playing to the Gallery: helping contemporary art in its struggle to be understood is published by Particular Books.