2 November 2023
Ledbury Poetry is pleased to announce the SHORTLIST for the fourth edition of the Ledbury Hellens Poetry Prize for second collections published in Britain and Ireland in 2021 and 2022. The Judges are Togara Muzanenhamo and Penelope Shuttle.
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 will be announced at an online reading and award ceremony on Monday 4th December at 7pm. You can reserve your Free ticket here: https://ledburypoetry.org.uk/events/online-award-ceremony-for-ledbury-hellens-poetry-prize-for-second-collections/
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.
Kaveh Akbar is the author of two poetry collections: Pilgrim Bell (Graywolf, 2021) and Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James, 2017), in addition to a chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic (Sibling Rivalry, 2016). He is also the editor of The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse: 100 Poets on the Divine (Penguin Classics, 2022). In 2024, Knopf will publish Martyr!, Kaveh’s first novel. The recipient of honors including multiple Pushcart Prizes, a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship, and the Levis Reading Prize, Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and teaches at the University of Iowa .
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.
Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a poet from the Donegal Gaeltacht. Her books include Bloodroot (Doire Press, 2017), Town (The Salvage Press, 2018) and The Poison Glen (The Gallery Press, 2021). She is a recipient of the Arts Council’s Next Generation Artist Award and a co-recipient of The Markievicz Award. Ní Churreáin has held literary fellowships in the U.S. and throughout Europe. She was a 2022–23 Decades of Centenaries Artist in Residence at Donegal County Archives.
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.
Kayo Chingonyi FRSL was born in Zambia in 1987, and moved to the UK at the age of six. He is a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry and of The Civitella Ranieri Foundation. In 2012, he was awarded a Geoffrey Dearmer Prize by The Poetry Society and was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in 2015. His first full-length collection, Kumukanda, won the Dylan Thomas Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award. A Blood Condition was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the T.S. Eliot Prize, and the Costa Poetry Award. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2022.
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.
Raymond Antrobus was born in London, Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the author of To Sweeten Bitter (Out-Spoken Press, 2017), The Perseverance (Penned In The Margins / Tin House, 2018), All The Names Given (Picador / Tin House, 2021) and the children’s picture book Can Bears Ski? (Walkers Books, 2020). A number of his poems were added to the UK’s GCSE syllabus in 2022.
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.
Zaffar Kunial lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, and was born in Birmingham. His debut collection, Us, was shortlisted for a number of prizes, including the T.S. Eliot Prize. England’s Green, his latest collection, has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Rathbones Folio Prize and the Ondaatje Prize.
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.
Sarah Westcott grew up in Devon and is particularly interested in writing about and through the natural world. Her books include Inklings (a PBS Pamphlet Choice) and two collections with Pavilion Poetry – Slant Light and Bloom. A hybrid pamphlet, Pond, is forthcoming with the Braag press in 2024. She begins doctoral research in multi-species poetry at Birmingham University next year.
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.
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.
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