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Ted Hughes Award Winner announced! | 08-Apr-15

Judges Grayson Perry, Julia Copus and Kei Miller presented the 2014 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry to Andrew Motion for Coming Home, a poetic reimagining and radio performance of shared conversations centred on the effect of conflict, praised by the judges for its "innovative and deeply moving" poetry.

"Coming Home is our deserving winner. We loved the way in which the listener is invited in to the writing process: first we eavesdrop on conversations with the soldiers, and then we witness the poems hatching from those conversations. The author has gone to some lengths to absent himself from the lines, and claims to have changed very little to produce what he calls "a rapid fire kind of poetry", but don't be fooled: Motion's skilful shaping and alterations have resulted in a subtle and magical transformation. All the time we are aware of a gap between the interviewees' words and the sorrow that lies behind them. It's this gap that Andrew Motion exploits to make an accessible, innovative and deeply moving poetry." Julia Copus, Judge.

"This year's energetic and varied consignment of entries for the Ted Hughes Award was, as ever, delivered into our hands by members of the Poetry Society and the Poetry Book Society; it is, in that sense, a peculiarly democratic prize. A great deal of lively debate ensued as we discussed the merits of the work - performances, books, radio pieces, and all manner of collaborations. We were looking, above all, for work that surprised and moved us; work that was innovative, but not for innovation's sake; work that was vital and relevant enough to connect with a wide readership and that took account of the world around it. In some cases, the crucial element of surprise arose from the spark that flies when two or more artists work together; in others, from the poet's own imaginative resources. Our shortlist of five reflects that divergence of approach" - Julia Copus.

Patience Agbabi for Telling Tales

In Telling Tales award-winning poet Patience Agbabi presents an inspired 21st-Century remix of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales retelling all of the stories, from the Miller's Tale to the Wife of Bath's in her own critically acclaimed poetic style. Celebrating Chaucer's Middle-English masterwork for its performance element as well as its poetry and pilgrims, Agbabi's newest collection is utterly unique. Boisterous, funky, foul-mouthed, sublimely lyrical and bursting at the seams, Telling Tales takes one of Britain's most significant works of literature and gives it thrilling new life. Telling Tales is published by Canongate.

Imtiaz Dharker for Over the Moon

Over the Moon is Imtiaz Dharker's fifth book of poems and drawings from Bloodaxe. Her main themes are drawn from a life of transitions: childhood, exile, journeying, home, displacement, religious strife and terror, and latterly, grief. These are poems of joy and sadness, of mourning and celebration: poems about music and feet, church bells, beds, café tables, bad language and sudden silence. In contrast with her previous work written amidst the hubbub of India, these new poems are mostly set in London, where she has built a new life with - and since the death of - her husband Simon Powell. Imtiaz Dharker is also an accomplished filmmaker and artist, and all her collections are illustrated with her drawings, which form an integral part of her books. She is possibly the only British poet-artist who always publishes her poetry and art together.

Carrie Etter for Imagined Sons

Carrie Etter's Imagined Sons (Seren) interweaves two kinds of poems to produce a deepening sense of a birthmother's consciousness. In the 'birthmother's catechisms', the same question - How did you let him go?, for one - evokes different answers over time, while the 'imagined sons' are prose poems in which the birthmother encounters her son once he's come of age. His guises include a pilot, a criminal, even an olive. Through these two forms, Imagined Sons takes a non-confessional approach to what might otherwise be considered a confessional. 

Andrew Motion for Coming Home

Coming Home is a series of poems (of which 'One Tourniquet' forms a part) that Andrew Motion wrote about the last (or almost the last) British soldiers to leave Afghanistan. He spent time at the British Army camp in Bad Fallingbostel, in northern Germany, interviewing these soldiers. He then wrote poems based on transcripts of the conversations they shared - and, in one further case, with the London-based mother of a British soldier who had been killed in the fighting. In a quite fundamental ways these poems are therefore collaborations, in which Andrew's editing, intervening, selecting, guiding and writing is combined with the soldiers' acts of witness. Coming Home was originally aired on Radio 4, and produced by Melissa Fitzgerald.

Alice Oswald for Tithonus

Tithonus is a poem and performance by Alice Oswald that was commissioned by London's Southbank Centre and staged there on midsummer's night, 21st June 2014. It is said that the dawn fell in love with Tithonus and asked Zeus to make him immortal, but forgot to ask that he should not grow old. Unable to die, he grew older and older until at last the dawn locked him in a room where he still sits babbling to himself and waiting night after night for her appearance. This poem is the voice of Tithonus meeting the dawn at midsummer. It starts at 4.17am, when the sun is six degrees below the horizon, and stops 46 minutes later, at sunrise. Oswald collaborated with nykelharpa player Griselda Sanderson who produced accompanying, haunting sounds for the performance. BBC Radio 4's The Echo Chamber broadcast a shortened version of the piece on midwinter's evening, 21st December 2014, and the text is available from The Letterpress as a pamphlet.

Read more about the Ted Hughes Award on the Poetry Society's website.

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