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Isabel Galleymore Wins the 2020 John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize

Wednesday, 22 Apr 2020

Isabel Galleymore, Significant Other We're delighted to announce the news that Isabel Galleymore’s debut collection Significant Other has won the 2020 John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize!

The John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize, sponsored by the John Pollard Foundation, and administered by the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin, is awarded annually for an outstanding debut poetry book collection in the English language.

Award-winner Isabel Galleymore said:

“I am honoured and delighted to receive the John Pollard Foundation International Prize. As a debut poet, I was unsure what to expect from the publication of Significant Other. Although a year has now passed, the news of this prize reminds me that this feeling has not changed – to have won is completely unexpected and highly exciting. I am very grateful to Stephen Vernon, the patron of the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize, to Trinity College Dublin for hosting it, and to my publisher Carcanet, for believing in the book and submitting it for the prize in the first place.”

“I believe a prize dedicated to debut collections is a wonderful thing and it is important to me that this prize has been founded in Ireland with its rich literary landscape. It may come as no surprise that the way I look at the natural world, and write about it, is greatly influenced by Seamus Heaney. His eye for detail and ear for sound in Death of a Naturalist, and many of his other collections, continues to instruct me on the abundant microcosms of life that we may otherwise overlook.” .
Galleymore added:

“Significant Other grew from a number of divergent experiences: my PhD that partly focused on metaphor and ecopoetry; as well as writing residencies that I was pleased to accept across Cornwall and, later, the National Reserve of Tambopata in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. The latter allowed me a deeper understanding of biodiversity and ecological crisis, as well as the privilege of first-hand observation of certain species. When I finished the collection, I had some doubts as to whether the number of poems about limpets, mussels and goose barnacles would render the collection too obscure. I am pleased to have been proved wrong.”

Professor Eve Patten said:

“This year’s submissions represented an extraordinarily rich and vivid response to the landscapes of our time – political, economic, natural and emotional. While the range of subjects covered was diverse, the judges noted that a sense of poetic responsibility to the present moment was common to almost all the poets considered. There was a tremendous intellectual force in evidence too, alongside an ambitious play with form and style. Nothing else ‘leaps at the heart’ like a poem can, Virginia Woolf said, and many poems also touched our hearts during the reading journey from submissions to shortlist and on to choosing our winner.”

Poetry scholar Dr Nerys Williams from University College Dublin was a member of the selection committee. Celebrating Significant Other, she added:

“The volume’s spare, if not condensed lyrics, represent minute acts of perception. Isabel Galleymore’s tightly wrought poems document our world during a time of ecological crisis; these poems represent the anthropocene. Using the lyric form as a recording of precise detail and as an anatomy of emotion, Isabel creates a compendium of our creature world while narrating stories of human love lost.”

“Of late it can often seem that contemporary poetry is dominated by a prosaic discursiveness, or a confessional narrative which over defines itself as definitive political action. Significant Other strives to find a balance between political rhetoric and self-reflection. This innovative volume offers a moving portrait of a world in crisis. Quietly assured, Isabel’s poems ask us to slow down, pause, observe anew and above all, take responsibility.


Congratulations, Isabel - find out more here.
Image of Isabel Galleymore Isabel Galleymore’s debut pamphlet, Dazzle Ship, was published by Worple Press in 2014. Her work has featured in magazines including Poetry, the London Review of Books and in New Poetries VII. In 2016 she was a poet-in-residence at the Tambopata Research Centre in the Amazon rainforest. In 2017 she received an Eric Gregory Award. She teaches at the University of Birmingham.

In her first book of poems, Significant Other, Isabel Galleymore takes a sustained look at the ‘eight million differently constructed hearts’ of species currently said to inhabit Earth. These are part of the significant other of her title; so too are the intimacies – loving, fraught, stalked by loss and extinction – that make up a life. The habit of foisting human agendas on non-human worlds is challenged. Must we still describe willows as weeping? In the twenty-first century, is it possible to be ‘at one’ with nature? The poems reflect on our desire to locate likeness, empathy and kinship with our environments, whilst embracing inevitable difference. As the narratives belonging to animal fables, Doomsday Preppers and climate change deniers are adapted, new metaphors are found that speak of both estrangement and entanglement. Drawing at times from her residency in the Amazon rainforest, Galleymore delves into a world of pink-toed tarantulas, the erotic lives of barnacles, and caged owls that behave like their keepers. The human world revises its own measure in the light of these poems.

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