Ted Hughes Award

The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry seeks to recognise excellence in poetry, highlighting outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life. The £5,000 prize is donated by Carol Ann Duffy, funded from the annual honorarium the Poet Laureate traditionally receives from HM The Queen.

The winner of the 2017 Ted Hughes Award was Jay Bernard for Surge: Side A.

The judges for the 2017 award were Gillian Allnutt, Sally Beamish and Lemn Sissay.

Judge Sally Beamish said “An intensely personal relating of the New Cross massacre; powerful, lyrical and communicated with extraordinary intimacy. I was particularly struck by their drawing of a parallel between the struggle for validation in the black British community, and the poet’s own clarification of identity by transforming their body through surgery. The performances are riveting and the poems are propelled by a strong internal momentum.”

Gillian Allnutt said “How grateful I am for the honesty and vulnerability of Jay’s presence in the poems and in the performance of them”

Lemn Sissay said “The shocking truth about Jay Bernard is that many people may not have heard their unique, inspiring and powerful voice, until now”

You can find poems from each shortlisted work, and an video excerpt of Jay Bernard’s performance of Surge: Side A, in the sidebar to the right of this page.

Read more in the press release

 The shortlist

Top row, L-R: Jay Bernard, Caroline Bird, Kayo Chingonyi, Inua Ellams. Bottom row, L-R: Matthew Francis, Antony Owen, Greta Stoddart.
Jay Bernard for Surge: Side A (Speaking Volumes)

Jay Bernard is from London and works as a writer and film programmer at BFI Flare (London’s LGBT film festival). They are the author of three pamphlets, The Red and Yellow Nothing (2016), English Breakfast (2013), and Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (2008), and have been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, including TEN: The New Wave and Out of Bounds: Black British Writers and Place. They were part of the original line-up for two Speaking Volumes Breaking Ground tours to the USA, showcasing the best Black British writers from the UK.

Surge: Side A was performed at the Roundhouse as part of The Last Word Festival 2017, investigating the New Cross Fire of 1981, a defining moment in Black British history that claimed thirteen lives. From the judges: “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)

Caroline Bird is an award-winning poet. Her debut, Looking Through Letterboxes, was published when she was 15. She won a major Eric Gregory Award in 2002 and was short-listed for the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2001, and the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2008 and 2010. Her latest collection, In These Days of Prohibition, was shortlisted for the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize. She was one of the five official poets at London Olympics 2012. She is also a playwright and in 2013, she was short-listed for Most Promising New Playwright at the Off-West-End Awards. 

In These Days of Prohibition, her 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)

Kayo Chingonyi is a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry and the author of two pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016). He was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and has completed residencies with Kingston University, Cove Park, First Story, The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Royal Holloway University of London in partnership with Counterpoints Arts. He was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016 and co-edited issue 62 of Magma Poetry and the Autumn 2016 edition of The Poetry Review. He is now poetry editor for The White Review. Kayo is also an emcee, producer, and DJ and regularly collaborates with musicians and composers both as a poet and a lyricist. He holds down a fortnightly show on Netil Radio called Keep It 100 which is a celebration of groove and feeling in music spanning from rockabilly ditties to afrobeats (with regular forays into R&B, Hip Hop, and House).

Kumukanda, its title coming from a Zambian word for ‘initiation’, is a wide-ranging and lyrical debut collection that investigates race, memory and masculinity. From the judges: “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)

Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is an award winning poet, playwright & founder of the Midnight Run. Identity, Displacement & Destiny are reoccurring themes in his work in which he tries mixing the old with the new, the traditional with the contemporary. He has three pamphlets of poetry published by Flipped Eye, Akashic and several plays by Oberon. He won an Edinburgh Fringe First award for The 14th Tale, and The Live Canon Prize for Shame Is The Cape I wear. He has been published in The Poetry Review Summer 2016, Best British Poetry (Salt) 2015, The Salt Book of Younger Poets 2012, Chorus (MTV Books), City State (Penned in the Margins) TEN The New Wave (Bloodaxe), and in magazines such as Poetry Paper, Magma, Pen International, Wasafiri and Oxford Poetry.

#Afterhours 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)

Matthew Francis is the author of four Faber collections of poetry, most recently Muscovy (2013). He has twice been shortlisted for the Forward Prize, and in 2004 was chosen as one of the Next Generation poets. He has also edited W. S. Graham’s New Collected Poems, and published a collection of short stories and two novels, the second of which, The Book of the Needle (Cinnamon Press), came out in 2014. Matthew Francis lives in West Wales and is Professor in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University.

The Mabinogi is 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. From the judges: “an intriguing retelling of the first four stories of The Mabinogion… a refreshing experience”

Antony Owen for The Nagasaki Elder (V Press)

Antony Owen is from Coventry, England, with an interest in exploring the consequences of conflicts which he considers are largely overlooked. Author of five poetry collections, his most recent book The Nagasaki Elder was inspired by atomic bomb survivors’ accounts and growing up in Cold War Britain at the peak of nuclear proliferation. His poems have been translated into Japanese, Mandarin and Dutch. CND Peace Education (UK) selected Owen as one of their first national patrons in 2015, and his poems feature in a national CND peace education resource to schools. Owen is also a recipient of the 2016 Coventry Peace & Reconciliation Award for various peace projects.

The Nagasaki Elder is 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)

Greta Stoddart was born in Oxfordshire in 1966. Her first collection At Home in the Dark (Anvil) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2002. Her second book, Salvation Jane (Anvil), was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award 2008. She was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem in 2012. Her third book, Alive Alive O (Bloodaxe, 2015), was shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2016.  She lives in Devon and teaches for the Poetry School and the Arvon Foundation.

Who’s There? is 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. From the judges: “It’s a piece that offers no judgement and no (illusory) hope: it simply presents, with courage and cleanliness, an aspect of contemporary life that’s pretty hard to take.” You can currently listen to Who’s There in full on Soundcloud.

Congratulations to all the shortlisted poets! You can find poems from each shortlisted work in the sidebar to the right of this page. The winner will be announced at the Ted Hughes Award & National Poetry Competition awards ceremony on 28th March 2018.