Ledbury Hellens Poetry Prize for Second Collections

Ledbury Poetry is pleased to announce ZAFFAR KUNIAL as the WINNER for the fourth edition of the Ledbury Hellens Poetry Prize for second collections for England’s Green, published by Faber.

You can watch film of Zaffar Kunial reading his poem Foxglove Country from England’s Green HERE: Zaffar Kunial – Englands’ Green on Vimeo

In an online Award Ceremony on the evening of 4th December all six shortlisted poets read from their work.

Pilgrim Bell, Kaveh Akbar (Chatto)

All the Names Given, Raymond Antrobus (Picador)

A Blood Condition, Kayo Chingonyi (Chatto)

England’s Green, Zaffar Kunial (Faber)

The Poison Glen, Annemarie Ní Churreáin (The Gallery Press)

Bloom, Sarah Westcott (Pavilion Poetry)

The winner was announced as Zaffar Kunial by judges Togara Muzanenhamo and Penelope Shuttle.

The Judges said:

Selecting a shortlist was both a demanding and richly-rewarding process. All the books on the shortlist caught our attention immediately. Our congratulations to all six poets on the power, timeliness and the magic of their collections.

We took great care in reading and rereading – and our decision on the winning collection was unanimous. Zaffar Kunial’s England’s Green is a natural and accomplished progression from the previous collection ‘US’ and embodies what the Hellens Ledbury Second Collection Prize seeks to encourage and embody.  The collection is grounded, visionary and linguistically meticulous. England’s Green possesses wit and seriousness in a wonderfully maintained equilibrium. Throughout the collection a profoundly-original imagination illuminates the complex fabric of existence in charged and insightful poems that leave little doubt that the poet’s skill will only increase with time. We believe England’s Green will be a landmark collection going into the future.

JUDGES COMMENTS on the 2024 SHORTLIST:

Kaveh Akbar – Pilgrim Bell

Pilgrim Bell is a remarkable book – a book very much about the soul and the divine. The poems are woven together with an ancient, fable-like tone commanded by a voice that makes the reader aware of our individual scale in our current place and time as well as in the grander spectrum of faith and belief. Violence and beauty and faith and doubt interact through the pages.

Annemarie Ní Churreáin – The Poison Glen

Drawing inspiration from the concept of restorative justice – Annemarie Ní Churreáin’s The Poison Glen entwines legend from the Gaeltacht landscape with moments from history to depict the systematic mistreatment of unmarried or abandoned mothers and the children born to these women. Ní Churreáin revisits locations of state “care” institutions in Ireland over the past hundred years and beyond with an inquisitive lens that requires us to ask what the left-behind sites remember or what sense of the child remains after trauma. The Poison Glen stands as a literary monument to silenced voices.

Kayo Chingonyi – A Blood Condition

A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi is concerned with inheritance and grief. The collection not only addresses personal bereavement but also highlights the impact and ramifications of losing a promising generation to illness. Chingonyi uses form to its full advantage – the opening poem, “Nyaminyami”, draws the reader into the collection with long sentences that flow like the Zambezi: a crown of sonnets entitled “Origin Myth” roll on from one piece to the next building on the origins of the condition of the blood; the pecha kucha “Genealogy” captures a series of twenty snap shots from memory; while “16 Bars for the Bits” lays down the poetics of rap-prosody. In A Blood Condition the balance of sonic and referential meaning is achieved with sheer elegance.

All The Names Given, Raymond Antrobus

Raymond Antrobus’s explorations of his patronym have wide and productive ramifications in this collection. The threat of perpetuated violence as a recurring and comprehended challenge upon bodily-being and soul is witnessed here with force and clarity. The sins of the fathers are present; this charged dynamic is given condemnation, recognition, and forgiveness. The isolating and identity-shaping of hearing-loss is explored in finely-attuned work. Further, Antrobus speaks without polemic, but with informed vigour, for the many who are marginalized, and denied utterance. These are living and redoubtable poems.

England’s Green, Zaffar Kunial

We follow the poet’s shining thread through a labyrinth of multiple aspects of green; the realities and metaphysics of grief, memory, time and place.  Zaffar Kunial puts his masterly linguistic word-play to the service of scrupulous examination into human experience, and into the green world of nature. He brings alive the contingencies and paradoxes of language; his mother tongue of daily life, and the remoter Kashmiri of his father.  Green has many manifestations here: his mother’s burial place, we held her wake at England’s gate; the green flag of Islam; the foxglove’s green yet verbalised nature.  This green world is neither idyll nor wasteland, it is a region of bewitching recognitions. England’s Green is a fully-visioned world, and is, in the truest sense, worldly.

Bloom, Sarah Westcott

The quietism that distinguishes Bloom’s instinctual observations has unique power and purpose, and is in accord with both the sensual and the sacral; the poems have perfect pitch. The natural world is perceived as full of intuitive energy, a faithful mirror to human experience. Every shimmering perception holds its nerve. Flowers and plants, weathers and all growing things are allied to woman’s experience, to menstruation and motherhood, in a profound meditation upon life’s joys and forfeits. The physical world of body and bloom is alive and present here, the language lifting from the page as if bathed in holy water.

THE PRIZE:

This prize aims to support and encourage poets at the ‘mid-career’ stage, with a shortlist and a prize of £5000 for the winning second collection. In assessing the shortlisted second collections, the judges will also read the poets’ first collections and take account of how their work has developed from debut to second book. The shortlisted poets will be invited to read at an Online Prize Giving event as part of Ledbury Poetry when the judges, Togara Muzanenhamo and Penelope Shuttle will announce the winner.

Previous winners of the prize are Sandeep Parmar (2015/6) judged by Vahni Capildeo and Tara Bergin; A.K Blakemore (2017/8) judged by Lachlan Mackinnon and Linda Gregerson and Claudine Toutoungi (2019/20) judged by Naomi Shihab Nye and Sandeep Parmar. The prize is highly valued by publishers and has proven that it can shine a light on collections that might otherwise be overlooked.

THE JUDGES:

Togara Muzanenhamo says, It is truly an honour to be a judge for the Ledbury Hellens Poetry Prize for Second Collections. The award is particularly special because it celebrates the accomplishment of what can be an artistic hurdle for some poets – compiling a second collection. There are numerous prizes for ‘first collections’ and ‘best collections’ but few focus on the pivotal role of a poets’ second book – a book that may highlight a poet’s maturing voice or solidify their career. I am excited at the prospect of reading work that will confidently explore and freely navigate language and introduce us to voices that will shape the future of poetry.

Penelope Shuttle says, A poet’s second collection can be a perilous stepping stone in building a poet’s profile. This Prize seeks to make sure second collections are guaranteed deep and serious consideration. In this way a light is shone upon collections that otherwise might remain in the shadows.

Togara Muzanenhamo was born in Zambia and brought up in Zimbabwe. He has studied in France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. His debut poetry collection Spirit Brides (Carcanet, 2006) was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and his second book Gumiguru (Carcanet, 2014) was shortlisted for the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. A Poetry Society Autumn Recommendation, Virga is Muzanenhamo’s fourth collection of poetry. He lives in Norton, Zimbabwe, on his family’s farm.

Penelope Shuttle lives in Cornwall.  Her thirteenth collection, Lyonesse, appeared from Bloodaxe in June 2021, and was Observer Poetry Book of the Month for July.  Kate Kellaway describes Lyonesse as ‘a singular, arresting and moving book in which her talent, far from seeming familiar or faded, is underpinned by the accumulated wisdom of decades. (The Observer). Covid/Corvid, a pamphlet written in collaboration with Alyson Hallett, appeared from Broken Sleep Books and forthcoming pamphlet Noah. Shuttle was a judge for the Women Poets’ Prize in 2022.

Ledbury Poetry is grateful to Hellens for their sponsorship of this award.

The Pennington Mellor Munthe Charity Trust exists to maintain and preserve Hellens as a home for all those living and working there, and to make it available for community, educational and cultural events, of value both to the local and to a wider audience: this particularly in the fields of poetry and literature, in music, and with regard to the environment, which are the three particular passions of the Board and its Chairman.

Notes to Editors

Inclusive, International, Inspirational

Ledbury Poetry creates live and online programmes throughout the year culminating in Ledbury Poetry Festival each July. Now in its 28th year, it is the largest and most international celebration of poetry and spoken word in Britain making Ledbury the home of poetry in the UK.

As a charity (charity No 1059465) Ledbury Poetry is grateful to all its funders and sponsors and to Arts Council England.

Ledbury Poetry Festival runs 28th June – 7th July 2024.

Ledbury Poetry has moved to The Barrett Browning Institute in Ledbury. Our new home is a hive of activity and welcomes visitors to workshops and events live in Ledbury and online throughout the year. Ledbury Poetry House also hosts the Box Office and a Bookshop.

Ledbury Poetry Critics launched its mentorship programme, recruiting 12 critics of colour, in 2017, and has been responsible for increasing the visibility of poets and critics of colour. There are now over 35 critics within the programme founded by Sandeep Parmar and Sarah Howe with support from Ledbury Poetry. Ledbury Poetry Critics introduce and chair events at Ledbury Poetry Festival and the first Guest Curator has been appointed in 2023 from this programme: Stephanie Sy-Quia. Full information on the programme can be found here: www.ledburypoetry.org.uk/home/ledbury-poetry-critics

Ledbury Poetry Player ensures that events are available for everyone around the world to enjoy.

Ledbury Poetry Competition runs annually. The Judge for 2023 is Philip Gross, Prizes include £1,000 and a week’s poetry course with our partner, Arvon. www.ledburypoetry.org.uk/competition

Ledbury Poetry Salons, Workshops, and Masterclasses are delivered live and online throughout the year. Look for programmes on our What’s On page www.ledburypoetry.org.uk

Ledbury Poetry Learning projects include work in schools, a monthly young writers group, the ‘Crucial Creators’ and learning opportunities for 16-25 year olds, as well as volunteering training and opportunities for all ages – all of which develop and enhance Ledbury as the Town of Poetry.

For all information and to explore our programmes please visit: www.ledburypoetry.org.uk

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For further information please contact Becky Shaw: becky.shaw@ledburypoetry.org.uk 

You can buy these collections from the Ledbury Poetry online bookshop at Bookshop.org 

The Poison Glen is available to order at The Gallery Press