Helen Dunmore's Inside the Wave on Costa Shortlist

Helen Dunmore's Inside the Wave on Costa Shortlist


Helen Dunmore’s final collection, Inside the Wave, has been shortlisted for the 2017 Costa Poetry Award.  The judges (Moniza Alvi, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Nick Wroe) said: "We were all stunned by these breathtaking poems".  

The announcement was made on BBC Radio 4's Front Row on 21 November, when all five category shortlists were revealed. Critic Alex Clarke announced the poetry shortlists, and spoke about the shortlisted titles.  She concentrated almost entirely on Helen Dunmore’s collection: ‘I find it very difficult to see past it actually… It’s a phenomenal book.’ She also picked Inside the Wave as her personal choice to win the overall Costa Book of the Year Award, saying: ‘Helen Dunmore is just an absolute standout book.’  Click here to listen.  Poetry shortlists discussed at 5.56.  Personal picks for overall winner discussed at 11.05.

The Guardian and many other publications lead their coverage of the Costa shortlists with Helen Dunmore's Inside the Wave.  Alison Flood in The Guardian quotes one of the three poetry judges, Kiran Millwood Hargrave:

'…it is just a completely standout collection – every other page I had to stop and read a line out to my husband. The Costa places so much emphasis on reading for pleasure [as a judging criterion], particularly for poetry, which is seen by some as esoteric and not relatable. But this is so relatable to anyone who has experienced loss on any level – and it’s incredibly moving, even if you didn’t know it was Dunmore’s final collection.'

Neil Astley, editor of Bloodaxe Books, was interviewed down the line by Victoria Graham on BBC Radio Devon on 22 November. He was speaking on behalf of the late Helen Dunmore, who lived in Bristol.  Neil spoke about his 40-year editorial relationship with Helen, and the power of the poems in which she faces and comes to terms with her own mortality.  Click here to listen. Available until 22 December. Costa shortlists discussed at 2.33.  Neil Astley interviewed at 2.37.

The five category award winners will be announced on 2 January 2018 on Radio 4's Front Row at 7.15pm, with the overall Costa Book of the Year announced on 30 January.

Helen Dunmore's family write:

“We are absolutely delighted that Inside the Wave has been shortlisted. Helen would have been thrilled. Poetry was at the heart of all of Helen’s work, which makes this nomination very special.”


Helen Dunmore died on 5 June 2017. She was 64, and had been suffering from cancer.  She was one of Bloodaxe's first writers, publishing her first collection, The Apple Fall, in 1983, and went on to publish all her poetry with Bloodaxe.  Inside the Wave, which was her tenth poetry book, appeared in April of this year.  Her final poem, 'Hold out your arms', written on 25 May just ten days before her death, was read on Front Row and published in The Guardian (it can be read here), and was added to the reprint of Inside the Wave. In her tribute to Helen Dunmore in The Guardian, Kate Kellaway wrote: Her last collection is her most spare and moving. Inside the Wave is smooth as a sea pebble and liminal – poised between life and death.’ Helen's obituary and further tributes can be found here

[22 November 2017]

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