Laurel Prize Longlistings for Matthew Hollis, Jane Clarke, Yvonne Reddick & Kris Johnson
Four Bloodaxe titles were included on the twenty-strong longlist for the Laurel Prize 2023. They were Jane Clarke's third collection, A Change in the Air, Matthew Hollis's second collection Earth House, and two first full collections from Yvonne Reddick and Kris Johnson, Burning Season and Ghost River. Yvonne's Burning Season went on to win the category for Best UK First Collection.
The Judges for the 2023 Laurel Prize are poets Pascale Petit (Chair) and Nick Laird, along with journalist and broadcaster Reeta Chakrabarti.
Pascale Petit, 2023 Chair of Judges, said:
“Reading the entries for this year’s Laurel Prize was an intense and immersive experience – so many poets are writing about the ecological crisis now. Our longlist of twenty reveals a wide-
ranging chorus of voices, poems witnessing climate change globally – in the Caribbean, in Canada, at an oil well in Kuwait, from an activist’s prison cell, in a pub called The Arctic, on an Irish farm, an English cricket field, and in a visionary future. These passionate collections offer us hope and renew our faith in the survival of our glorious planet.”
The prize is funded by UK Poet Laureate Simon Armitage’s Laureate’s honorarium, which he receives annually from the King, and is run by the Poetry School. It is awarded to the best collection of
environmental or nature poetry published that year. The Laurel Prize is now an international award for nature poetry written in English, recognising the global importance of environmentalism, and drawing together concerned voices from across the planet.
Simon Armitage commented on the 2023 longlist:
“A world-wide and world-class selection of books reflecting poetry’s global response to the planet’s precarious environmental situation.”
The Laurel Prize partners with the Ginkgo Prize which rewards best single poems. The title poem from Yvonne Reddick's Burning Season won third prize in the Ginkgo Prize for Ecopoetry 2022.
The winners of this year's Laurel Prize will be announced at a ceremony on Friday 22 September 2023, 3.30-5.00pm, at The Howard Assembly Rooms in Leeds, attended by the Judges along with UK Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who founded the prize. The winning poets will be invited to read at the ceremony. A day of poetry readings and workshops will be a part of this year’s BBC Contains Strong Language Festival, which is held this year in Leeds.
The shortlist of winners was announced on 1 September. The Laurel Prize 2023 comprises: First Prize – £5,000, Second Prize – £2,000, Third Prize – £1,000, Prize for Best First Collection – £500, Prize for Best International First Collection – £500 (Sponsored by the Ginkgo Prize for Ecopoetry). In addition, each of the winners will receive a commission from the AONB to create a poem based on their favourite landscape.
More on The Laurel Prize is on their website here.
For all press and media queries, please contact Jaz Ward at the Poetry School - telephone: 07748 327311 email: Jaz@poetryschool.com.
For review copies of the four Bloodaxe titles, please email Christine Macgregor: email@example.com.
Yvonne Reddick: Burning Season
Burning Season is a book about fire and survival, climate change and nature’s defiance. Yvonne Reddick’s understanding of climate change is uniquely personal: her father was a petroleum engineer, and many members of her family worked in the fossil fuel industry. The collection speaks of the paradox that her Dad’s gift to her was her love of nature and mountain landscapes. Burning Season includes a series of vivid, moving and heartfelt poems that explore her grief following her father’s death in a hiking accident. These are set against a wider backdrop of ecological loss and heartbreak. The book combines poems with nature diaries and lyric essays to trace an intriguing family history. It tells the story of a father who worked on North Sea oil platforms and Omani oilfields, and who transported the entire family to Kuwait four years after the first Gulf War. Reddick’s mother worked in seismology, detecting deposits of oil deep below the ground. This family story forms the bedrock of Burning Season, which is Yvonne Reddick’s first book-length collection.
Yvonne Reddick is a writer, editor, ecopoetry scholar and climber. She has published four pamphlets, including Translating Mountains (Seren, 2017), winner of the Mslexia Women's Pamphlet Competition, and Spikenard (Laureate’s Choice, 2019). Born in Glasgow in 1986, she grew up in Aberdeen, Kuwait City and South East England. She lives in Manchester and holds a Readership in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Central Lancashire. Her writing reflects the landscapes she has experienced, their environments, and the impacts of the oil industry on many of them. The title poem from Burning Season won third prize in the Ginkgo Prize for Ecopoetry 2022 and is shortlisted for The Laurel Prize 2023.
Kris Johnson: Ghost River
Ghost River invites readers to stare down blue-mouthed crevasses, venture into old growth forests, and peer beneath the floorboards of ancestral homesteads. In this lyrical and intimate portrait of America’s Pacific Northwest, wilderness and home are interwoven. But this is not Arcadia. Deep time is punctured by strip malls and freeways, wildfires and dams. Questioning the influence of the past on the present, the central sequence reimagines this landscape from the perspective of the British explorer, George Vancouver, who charted its waterways on an expedition to locate the illusive Northwest Passage. In their passage between America and England and the terrain of early motherhood, these poems of loss and renewal explore what it is to be home. Ghost River is Kris Johnson’s first book-length collection.
Kris Johnson is from America’s Washington state but has lived in the UK since 2007. She received her MA and PhD in Creative Writing from Newcastle University where she has also taught and worked as a researcher. In 2019, she was awarded a Developing Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England. Her debut pamphlet, Skinny Dip, was published in 2022 by Enchiridion.
Matthew Hollis: Earth House
In Earth House, Matthew Hollis evokes the landscape, language and ecology of the isles of Britain and Ireland, beginning in the slate waters of northern England. What emerges is a moving meditation on time and the transformative phases of nature. These poems work the seam between the present and the past, between destruction and renewal, humanity and our environment.
Earth House is Matthew Hollis’s long awaited follow up to Ground Water (2004), shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Whitbread Poetry Award. He is the author of Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas (2011), winner of the Costa Award for Biography and Sunday Times Biography of the Year, and The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem (2022). Earth House was published in a hardback edition in April 2023.
Jane Clarke: A Change in the Air
Jane Clarke’s third full collection A Change in the Air is far-reaching and yet precisely rooted in time and place. In luminous language her poems explore how people, landscape and culture shape us. Voices of the past and present reverberate with courage and resilience in the face of poverty, prejudice, war and exile and the everyday losses of living. Across six sequences these intimate poems of unembellished imagery accrue power and resonance in what is essentially a book of love poems to our beautiful, fragile world.
Jane Clarke grew up on a farm in Co. Roscommon, and now lives near Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow. A Change in the Air follows two previous Bloodaxe collections from Jane Clarke. Her 2019 second collection When the Tree Falls was shortlisted for three national Irish poetry prizes, the Pigott Poetry Prize 2020, the Irish Times Poetry Now Award and the Farmgate Cafe National Poetry Award 2020, as well as being longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020. Her debut collection The River (2015) was the first poetry book to be shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize. A Change in the Air is on the shortlist for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2023.
LIVE-STREAMED LAUNCH EVENT WITH JANE CLARKE, YVONNE REDDICK & KRIS JOHNSON
Jane Clarke, Kris Johnson and Yvonne Reddick launched their new poetry collections at Bloodaxe's live-streamed launch event on 23 May 2023. They read live and discussed their new collections with each other and with the host, Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley, joining him from Co Wicklow, North Shields and Manchester. Stunning readings and a fascinating discussion of poetry, nature, home and memory.
[10 August 2023]