First Collection Poetry Prize 2019, and the winner is...
The Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast is delighted to announce the winner of the First Collection Poetry Prize 2019
THE SEAMUS HEANEY CENTRE - FIRST COLLECTION POETRY PRIZE 2019
Supported by Glucksman Ireland House, New York University and The Atlantic Philanthropies
The Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast is delighted to announce the winner of the First Collection Poetry Prize 2019 is:
Unearthly Toys: Poems and Masks, by Ned Denny (Carcanet, 2018)
The prize was announced by Nick Laird (Professor at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s and chair of the judges panel) at an evening reception on Tue 2 July 2019, 7.30pm at No Alibis Bookstore, Botanic Avenue, Belfast.
Speaking about the winning collection Professor Nick Laird, Chair of the judging panel said:
Ned Denny’s book is a terrific and complex hybrid of the ancient and modern, shot through with flashes of surrealism and wit. It’s also deeply felt, earnest, and concerned with the large questions of being alive, of loving, of trying to exist in a secular world separated from nature. Original poems in a variety of sophisticated forms – deftly turned sestinas, ghazals, pantoums, villanelles - are interposed with ‘remakes’ of other poets’ work. He writes pieces after Laforgue, Baudelaire, Goethe, Calvalcanti and Li Po among others.
It’s imaginative work – allusive, elusive, dense in its diction and music: Denny is immersed in the canon, and one can see Ezra Pound, Robert Herrick, even Seamus Heaney himself, contribute to his voice. It begs to be read closely and rewards attention. Here is work that manages both to renew the traditions, and be startlingly fresh, that manages to walk ‘the rain-sweetened paths of the garden centre”. It’s also funny: “flesh is subatomic gnomes going whee”, nicely descriptive: “the kaleidoscopic head of a bee” “the moon’s closed-circuit stare”, and manages to give vigorous life to tropes as diverse as gothic horror, romance, and medieval fairytales. Denny is no throwback or strict formalist though, and as unabashedly full of technique and craft as the work is, there is something intractably modern about the poems: here are alien abductions, drones, grand theft auto, an ode to magic mushrooms. Denny writes, “I woke in a book-illumined room / where all possible genres spoke”, and he is right.
About the Author
Ned Denny was born in London in 1975 and has worked as a postman, art critic, book reviewer, music journalist and gardener. His poems and remakes have appeared in publications including PN Review, Poetry Review, The White Review, Oxford Poetry, the TLS, and Modern Poetry in Translation. Carcanet published his first collection, Unearthly Toys: Poems and Masks, in February 2018 and B, a version of the Divine Comedy, is forthcoming.
As winner of the First Collection Prize, Ned Denny will speak with students at this year's Poetry Summer School in the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's, and will read at Glucksman Ireland House, and at New York City's Irish Art Centre's annual Poetryfest in November 2019.
About the Prize
The Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize is part of the Heaney Legacy project, a fund set up between Queen's University Belfast and the Arts Council for Northern Ireland, supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies. The Prize is also supported by Glucksman Ireland House at New York University. It is awarded to a writer whose first full collection has been published in the preceding year, by a UK or Ireland-based publisher. The winning writer receives £5,000 and is invited to read at Glucksman Ireland House at New York University. For this they receive travel, accommodation, and a $1,000 honorarium.
This year’s judges were Professor Nick Laird, Chair of Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre; Professor Edna Longley, critic and Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University Belfast; and Dr Stephen Sexton, poet and lecturer at the Seamus Heaney Centre.
The 2019 shortlist were:
- Jinx, by Abigail Parry (Bloodaxe Books, 2018)
- Shrines of Upper Austria, by Phoebe Power (Carcanet, 2018)
- Three Poems, by Hannah Sullivan (Faber & Faber, 2018)
- The Distal Point, by Fiona Moore (Happenstance Press, 2018)
- Gall, Matt Howard (The Rialto, 2018)