Mir Mahfuz Ali The winner of the 2013 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize is Mir Mahfuz Ali, for his poem, ‘MIG-21 Raids at Shegontola’

In awarding the Prize, judge John Glenday said: “It’s always difficult choosing between the various strengths of different poems. Every effective poem works in a different way – each is a combination of craft, insight and imagination, but in Mir Mahfuz Ali’s poem there is another ingredient – necessity. And by necessity I mean that quality which allows the poem to take a moral stance, to act as a redemptive force, rescuing the individual from history. In this respect, it is a form of first aid for the soul, telling the world in us a little more about the world out there.

“The poem immediately draws us in to its heartbreaking narrative – as is always the case, big things need to be talked about in small ways. It begins with a small boy caught up in savagery, and ends with that same boy surviving, but transformed. Mahfuz uses striking imagery to build a visceral description of the attack, juxtaposing images of violence and astonishing beauty. There are no fancy tricks nor virtuoso flauntings here, just a vivid, enthralling, brutal account of aggression and its consequences. But remarkably, one of those consequences is quietly positive: this child survives, only just survives – but emerges “like an apprentice baker” – a subtle reference to sustenance and compassion, to life continuing.” (from The Poetry Review 104:2)

Mir Mahfuz Ali was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and studied at Essex University. He dances, acts, and has worked as a male model and a tandoori chef. He has given readings and performances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and other theatres in Britain and beyond. His poems have appeared in The Poetry Review, London Magazine, Poetry London, Ambit and PN Review. Mahfuz was shortlisted for the New Writing Ventures Awards 2007 and the Picador Poetry Prize 2010. His poetry has been published in the anthology Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word (Bloodaxe Books, 2010), edited by Bernardine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra. His debut collection Midnight, Dhaka was published by Seren in 2014.

Mir Mahfuz Ali’s winning poem was first published in The Poetry Review, 103:4, Winter 2013, edited by Maurice Riordan. A new poem, ‘Bullet’, was published 104:2 in celebration of Mahfuz’s prize.

John Glenday’s third collection Grain (Picador, 2009) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for 2010 Ted Hughes Award and the 2010 Griffin International Poetry Prize.