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Karen McCarthy Woolf on Laurel Prize Shortlist

Wednesday, 26 Aug 2020

Laurel Prize shortlist We're over the moon to share that Karen McCarthy Woolf is on the shortlist of the inaugural Laurel Prize! Karen is shortlisted for her 2017 collection Seasonal Disturbances. Our greatest congratulations go to Karen and the other shortlistees.

The prize is funded by Simon Armitage out of his £5,000 laureate's honorarium, which he receives annually from the Queen, and run by the Poetry School. It is awarded annually for the best published collection of environmental or nature poetry - this is the first year of the prize.

Simon Armitage said: “Reading these books has been a hugely uplifting and moving experience. The strength of the long list is testimony tothe way that contemporary poetry is bearing witness to the fragile state of the planet and the importance of engaging with nature through detailed observation and considered language. These are collections that explore our deep and complex relationship with the world around us and our actions within it.”

Poet and nature writer, Robert Macfarlane, one of the judges said: "The Laurel Prizelonglist gives the lie to any old, staid understandings of 'nature poetry'; the work here is singingly, variously alive to the complexities of modern nature, and to the experiences of hope, fear, wonder and horror in which our relations with the natural world are entangled."


Following her groundbreaking 2014 début An Aviary of Small Birds (‘technically perfect poems of winged heartbreak’ – Observer), Karen McCarthy Woolf returns with Seasonal Disturbances. Set against a backdrop of ecological and emotional turbulence, these poems are charged yet meditative explorations of nature, the city, and the self. A sinister CEO presides over a dystopian hinterland where private detectives investigate crimes against hollyhocks; Halcyon is discovered as a dead kingfisher, washed up on an Italian beach. Lyrical and inventive, McCarthy Woolf’s poems test classic and contemporary forms, from a disrupted zuihitsu that considers her relationship with water, to the landay, golden shovel, and gram of &. As a fifth-generation Londoner and daughter of a Jamaican émigré, McCarthy Woolf makes a variety of linguistic subversions that critique the rhetoric of the British class system. Political as they may be, these poems are not reportage: they aim to inspire what the author describes as an ‘activism of the heart, where we connect to and express forces of renewal and love’. Buy it here.

Find out more about the prize on their website.









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