Jay Bernard wins the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for Surge: Side A

Jay Bernard. Photo: Hayley Madden for The Poetry Society

Ted Hughes Award judges Gillian Allnutt, Lemn Sissay and Sally Beamish have chosen Jay Bernard’s 2017 performance piece Surge: Side A (Speaking Volumes), as the latest winner of The Poetry Society’s prestigious prize. The winner of the 2017 award was announced on 28 March 2018, at a reception at the Savile Club, London, where Carol Ann Duffy presented Jay Bernard with their prize.

Surge: Side A won Jay Bernard the 2017 £5,000 prize, which is funded by Carol Ann Duffy from her honararium as Poet Laureate.

Jay was Poet-in-Residence at the George Padmore Institute in 2016, out of which came the poems for their upcoming collection, Surge (2019), based on the New Cross Fire of 1981 where 14 young black people lost their lives. Surge: Side A was produced by Speaking Volumes and performed at the Roundhouse as part of The Last Word Festival 2017.

Jay Bernard is the author of three pamphlets, The Red and Yellow Nothing (2016), English Breakfast (2013), and Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (2008).  Previously, they were a commended winner of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition in 2004, and a top 15 Foyle winner in 2005, and a SLAMbassadors winner (at the time called Rise Slam) in 2004. 

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”

The following poets were shortlisted for the award, for poetry presented or published in the UK during 2017:

  • Jay Bernard for Surge: Side A (Speaking Volumes)
  • Caroline Bird for In These Days of Prohibition (Carcanet)
  • Kayo Chingonyi for Kumukanda (Chatto)
  • Inua Ellams for #afterhours (Nine Arches Press)
  • Matthew Francis for The Mabinogi (Faber & Faber)
  • Antony Owen for The Nagasaki Elder (V Press)
  • Greta Stoddart for Who’s There? (BBC)

Read Jay Bernard’s poem ‘Beacon of Hope’

28 March 2018