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BAME poets shortlisted for prestigious prize

HAFSAH ANEELA Bashir, Anthony Joseph and Yomi Sode have been selected as the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellows for 2019/20.

Each poet receives £15,000, and is given a year of critical support and mentoring.

The Fellowship will give the poets the time and space to focus on their craft, exploring and fulfilling their potential, with no expectation that they produce a particular work or outcome.

Bashir, Joseph and Sode illustrate the breadth of what poetry can be today. Through activism, theatre and other disciplines the three poets express their practice through a multitude of ways, opening poetry up to a wide range of audiences.

Each has produced outstanding work to date and has been chosen for their potential at these critical points in their individual careers, when the support provided from the Fellowship could make the most difference.
They were selected from a strong field of nominees with nominations being made by a pool of over 200 specialists nationally including poets, publishers, editors, literary development agencies, artists, funders and festival organisers.

One of the selectors, Malika Booker, enthused: “As selectors we were very impressed with the quality and breath of the submissions. The incredible work we saw pushed the boundaries of poetry into unimaginable spaces, by being experimental, cross arts, community focussed, risky, and necessary. We are delighted to have selected these three exceptional poets who particularly encapsulate and exemplify these qualities in their poetic practice.”

Bashir is a poet, playwright and performer based in Manchester, who published her first collection last year. Her work blends narrative, free verse and lyric poetry, exploring relationships between the

private, public and political. Her lyrical activism reflects a strong desire to effect social change drawing on spoken word and her mother tongue of Urdu. During her Fellowship year she wants to explore film, the relationships between imagery and text and different platforms in which her poetry can be transmitted. She is interested in starting a collective with women at its heart, to promote the significance of every person’s voice and support the importance of the arts.

Anthony Joseph is a poet, novelist and musician who lives in London. His work is part of the diasporic avant garde, straddling the interstice between the rhythms of Caribbean creole and the experimental aesthetics of surrealism, jazz and language poetry, while challenging notions of form and identity. He wishes to extend his experimental poetry through the medium of film, and will be using the Fellowship to explore skills which will allow him to make a film exploring notions of fatherhood in the future, shifting his poetry from page to the screen.

Yomi Sode is a poet and playwright based in London who plays an active role in the spoken word scene, primarily as the founder of the successful BoxedIn night in Shoreditch. His poetry is as much narrative and dramatic as it is lyric; it is interrogative and challenging, while nudging readers to think, feel and listen. He aims to use this year to refine his poetry, having spent the last few years immersed in his theatre work. Through his own poetry, and Boxedin, he is trying to make people enjoy poetry in a different way, and sees the Fellowship as a way to continue and extend this.

The poets now join the three inaugural Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellows – Raymond Antrobus, Jane Commane and Jackie Hagan – who have shown how transformative a year can be. Each of these poets has significantly developed their practice, and themselves, significantly through the support of the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships.

Raymond Antrobus has gone on to win the Ted Hughes Award, be London Book Fair Poet of The Fair, and be shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Griffin Poetry Prize, amongst other achievements. In 2019 he became the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for the best work of literature in any genre. Jane Commane launched her first poetry collection, Assembly Lines at the Verve Festival in 2018, published by Bloodaxe.

She also launched How to be a Poet: A 21st Century Guide to Writing Well, which ranked among the top five writing guides on Amazon. She is currently working on her second poetry collection, working title Municipal. Jackie Hagan was one of five writers selected by Hat Trick Productions for its Your Voice, Your Story development scheme in partnership with Channel 4. In 2018, her one woman show, This is Not a Safe Place, showcased at the Hebden Bridge Festival and at the Unlimited Festival, Southbank Centre.

Sarah Crown, Director of Literature, Arts Council England said: “The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships offer poets the invaluable opportunity of a year of mentorship, reflection and development at a crucial stage of their practice. I am delighted that Arts Council England is helping to support these three talented poets: their diverse and innovative work showcases the strength and range of poetic practice taking place across the country today.”

Jon Opie, Deputy Director, Jerwood Arts, said: “The Fellowships were conceived three years ago to reward outstanding poets. We also wanted to showcase the breadth of poetic practice and open up a conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing poets in the UK today.

Hafsah, Anthony and Yomi completely embody the principles of the Fellowships and we are excited for what they might achieve over the coming year. Overall, we were bowled over and humbled by the response from the poets applying for the Fellowships; poetry is alive and well in this country, but also sorely in need of nurturing and support.”

The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships are a six-year initiative supporting poets in the UK. The programme runs biennially for three editions between 2017 and 2022, creating a total of nine Fellows.

The Fellowships invest in the process and practice of making poetry, with no expectations of published work or performed events as a result of the award, and support individuals whose practice encompasses poetry in the broadest artistic sense.

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