The winners of the 2016/17 New Poets Prize 

Judged by Andrew McMillan 


Judge's Comments 

 I was thrilled to be asked to judge the New Poets’ Prize, though I was a little nervous about how to approach it — should I be harsh, should I cut the poets some slack because they’re young (and lord knows when I was their age I was writing some terrible things!). In the end I decided I wouldn’t read these pamphlets as the work of new, young poets but rather I would read it with the same scrutiny and expectation as I would the work of my peers or those with several collections behind them. That might have been a tough ask, but the poets I read more than exceeded my expectations. The pamphlets I saw were of an incredibly high quality, and more than that, I felt I was reading poetry that needed to be written — poetry which was engaging with the politics of language, poetry which was engaging with what its like to be alive in 2017 and poetry which felt worked at. That last point is important, one of the great myths and generalisations about the young generation is that technology and social media have diminished attention spans and harmed creativity — the submissions I read were evidence to the contrary. These are poets who are writing back against an idea of transience, of surface-level engagement — these are poets who are asking for our time, for us to slow down, who are presenting us with a language with which we can better understand ourselves. The future of poetry is in safe hands. — Andrew McMillan 



Ian Burnette is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2015, The Forward Book of Poetry, the Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. He is an associate at the Kenyon Review and a senior at Kenyon College. He lives in central Ohio.  

These are poems infused with the spirit of the blues, with the American Midwest, with a friction that bristles between expansive journeys and the ending of things. Immensely readable and enjoyable poems that transported me somewhere else entirely. — Andrew McMillan on Ian's Collection, 'Force'



Sarah Fletcher is an American-British poet currently living in London. Her poetry has been published in The Rialto, the London Magazine, and the Morning Star. She has been a Foyle Young Poet of the Year and a two-time recipient of the Christopher Tower Poetry Prize. Her first pamphlet, Kissing Angles, was published by Dead Ink Books in 2015 and was shortlisted for a Saboteur Award.  

These are arresting, often uncomfortable poems which explore the intersections of sex, violence and disgust. These poems never allow the reader to rest easy, they ask us to interrogate our most shameful thoughts, and through witty surrealism ask us to look afresh at everyday encounters. — Andrew McMillan on Sarah's collection, 'Something Blue'



Lizzi Hawkins is a poet from West Yorkshire. She shares her time between her hometown of Leeds, and Cambridge, where she is reading for a degree in Engineering at Corpus Christi College. She has been commended as a Foyle Young Poet, and her work has appeared in magazines including The Rialto, The Cadaverine, The Compass magazine, and in 'LS13’ — an anthology of Leeds poetry.   

These are incredibly well-constructed, tight poems which are infused with a tender sense of longing; "this is the brittle language that we speak in" declares one poem, there is a fragility here, but a real strength as well. — Andrew McMillan on Lizzi's collection, 'Osteology'



Stefan Kielbasiewicz is a poet, editor and translator living in London. He is currently doing his MA in Creative Writing Poetry at Royal Holloway. He been shortlisted for the Jane Martin Poetry Prize in 2014 and the PEN International New Voices Award in 2016; his work has been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears. 

Poems in conversation with other languages, with other poets (I'm a sucker for a Ginsberg reference) and with other art forms (I'm also a sucker for an Athur Miller reference!); this pamphlet looks at uncomfortable childhood memories and the current geopolitical situation with, in equal parts, a mature and unflinching eye. — Andrew McMillan on Stefan's collection, 'Animal Kingdom'


Highly Commended

Alexander Thomas Shaw for his collection Ten Commandments for Curlers

Natalie Thomas for her collection Hiraeth

Gregory Kearns for his collection Boxcutter

All three highly commended poets submitted dynamic and engaging manuscripts that were using the form of poetry to wrestle with language and push at the boundaries of what it can do. — Andrew McMillan



The 2015/16 New Poets Prize

JUDGE: Helen Mort


Imogen Cassels is from Sheffield, and is in her second year studying English at Cambridge. In 2015 she was selected as a Young Poet on the Underground. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Blackbox Manifold, Waymaking, Ambit, The Interpreter's House, and Antiphon.

The judge, Helen Mort, said of her collection:

The Fire Manifesto

'The Fire Manifesto' is full of praise-poems, poems that celebrate the detail of 'the moon reflecting on the sea', the ritual of making bread, the 'scalloped edge' of land. But the praising is never naive - many of these poems have a haunted, haunting quality too. Knowing and sorrowful, the writing is subtle, always attentive to the music of names.



Jenny Danes was born in Chelmsford in 1995 and studies at Newcastle University. She is currently spending a year living and studying in Augsburg in Germany. In 2013 she was highly commended in the Bridport Prize for poetry, and her work has appeared in magazines including Magma and Brittle Star.
The judge, Helen Mort, said of her collection:

'Gaps' is full of anthropological, elegantly-crafted poems that stand back and take a good, hard look around the room, finding a fresh language for what they see: 'darkness comes and holds me like a glove, / which, by next morning, is a fist'. Poems about moving countries, poems about love, poems about the gaps in language...every subject is treated with clear-sighted confidence.



Phoebe Stuckes studies at Goldsmiths. She has been a winner of the Foyle Young Poets award four times and is a former Barbican Young Poet. She has performed at the Southbank Centre and the Poetry Cafe, and was the Ledbury Festival young poet in residence last year. Her poetry has been published in The Cadaverine, Ink Sweat & Tears, Rising and Ambit.
The judge, Helen Mort, said of her collection: 
Gin and Tonic

There's a sense of confidence in these poems that won't let you rest. Each seems to tell you a secret and then make you complicit in it too. From compelling monologues to blues pieces, every poem is charged with a savage humour, building a world where 'getting dressed feels / like being stood up' and 'crying in cabs / could be glamorous / if I did it correctly.'



Theophilus Kwek was born in Singapore, and reads History and Politics at Merton College, Oxford, where he served as President of the Oxford University Poetry Society. He won the Jane Martin Prize in 2015, and his poems have appeared in The Interpreter’s House, The London Magazine, The Missing Slate, The Oxonian Review, The Adroit Journal, among other publications. His collection, Giving Ground, was published in Singapore in 2016.
The judge, Helen Mort, said of his collection:

The First Five Storms 

'The First Five Storms' has remarkable range and imaginative depth, from Fibonacci to Loch na Fuaiche, from the small detail of 'thawed streams like cracks in the bone' to a panorama of the whole 'lifting land'. These are poems that excavate, honour and renew.



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