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Karen McCarthy Woolf Wins 2nd Place in Laurel Prize

Wednesday, 7 Oct 2020

Cover of Seasonal Disturbances by Karen McCarthy Woolf Congratulations to Karen McCarthy Woolf, who has been awarded second place in the inaugural Laurel Prize for her collection, Seasonal Disturbances. Poet Laureate Simon Armitage's new award recognises and encourages the resurgence of nature and environmental writing currently taking place in poetry.

The announcement was made at an online ceremony and reading held on the evening of National Poetry Day, 1 October 2020.The judges were Simon Armitage, Robert Macfarlane and Moniza Alvi. The prize will be awarded annually for the best published collection of environmental or nature poetry. It is funded by Simon Armitage out of the £5,000 honorarium he receives annually from the Queen, and is run by the Poetry School.The prize awards £5,000 (1st prize), £2,000 (2nd prize) and £1,000 (3rd prize). In addition, this year’s partner the UK’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are funding a commission for the three winners to write a poem inspired by the AONB closest to their heart.

An eleven book longlist was announced on 24 July, and the three shortlisted titles were revealed on 25 August 2020. The order of the winners was revealed at an online prize ceremony on Thursday 1 October, National Poetry Day, 7.30pm, at which both Karen McCarthy Woolf and Pascale Petit were present. Pascal Petit won first place for her collection Mama Amazonica, and Colin Simms third place for Hen Harrier.

Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate, commented on the 11-strong longlist:“Reading these books has been a hugely uplifting and moving experience. The strength of the long list is testimony to the 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.”

Fellow judge Robert Macfarlane, poet & nature writer, comments:'The Laurel Prize longlist 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."

The three shortlisted titles were discussed in a special edition of Radio 3's The Verb on 18 September. Judges Simon Armitage and Moniza Alvi talked about nature poetry with host Ian McMillan and judge of the Gingko Prize Jade Cuttle. You can listen to that here.
Karen MCarthy Woolf author photo 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’.

Read more about the book and buy it here.






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