Raymond Antrobus’s poem ‘Sound Machine’ is the winner of The Poetry Society’s Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for the best poem in The Poetry Review during 2017. The Prize, which is awarded annually to a poem by a poet who hadn’t, at the time their work appeared, published a full collection, was judged this year by poet Ocean Vuong.
Of the judging process and selecting the winning poem Ocean said:
“The Poetry Review’s Geoffrey Dearmer Prize 2017 is the first poetry prize I’ve judged in the UK, and I found the wealth of writing in this batch of poems so abundant, so wildly rich in styles and forms, that it was difficult to select the one winning poem without also acknowledging the many successful poems published this past year in The Poetry Review. Among these poems, however, it was Raymond Antrobus’s ‘Sound Machine’ that kept snagging me back to its emotionally textured and sonically charged wordscape. The poem gyrates through interrogations of grief and ancestry twinned with a brooded meditation on masculinity and selfhood, the gifts and burdens we inherit, despite ourselves, from our fathers.”
The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize was established in 1998 in memory of The Poetry Society’s oldest member. Past winners of the prize include Paul Farley, Kim Moore, Kayo Chingonyi and Mir Mahfuz Ali.
Duncan Chambers wins the Hamish Canham Prize, awarded by The Poetry Society’s newspaper Poetry News, with his poem ‘Chess at Baden-Baden, 1925’. The poem, one of twenty-four Poetry Society Members’ poems published in Poetry News between Summer 2017 and Spring 2018, was selected by judges Carole Satyamurti (chair) and a Poetry Society team of Ben Rogers, Julia Bird, Paul McGrane, and Mike Sims.
Judges were unanimous in their choice of Duncan’s poem, which was inspired by Tim Turnbull’s ‘Elegant’ suggestion and published in the Winter 2017 Poetry News. Tim wrote at the time of the poem’s delightful economies, and the contrast between the shabby lives of the participants and the hinted-at grandeur of the tournament resort.
Speaking about the winning poem, Julia Bird said:
“The poem is an elliptical account of the first international chess tournament in Germany since 1924. Global and personal politics shift outside the tournament venue while spectators sit in ‘velvet armchairs’ smoking ‘small packs of Camels’. Subtle patterning connects the winners (their ‘hired, borrowed’ or ‘heirloom’ suits) with the losers, who walk off into the rain, back to a life of ‘blocked drains, candles’ and ‘sardines’. The suspicion develops that the grandmasters, waiters and players who populate the poem are actually themselves the kings, knights and pawns of the game.”