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Chakraborty & Horrex Shortlisted for Seamus Heaney Prize

Tuesday, 8 Jun 2021

We're delighted that the shortlist for the 2021 Seamus Heaney First Collection Poetry Prize includes two debuts from Carcanet poets. Congratulations to Sumita Chakraborty for being shortlisted with Arrow, and to Katherine Horrex with her collection, Growlery.

The Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize is awarded to a writer whose first full collection has been published in the preceding year, by a UK or Ireland-based publisher. The winning writer receives £5,000 and is invited to participate in the Seamus Heaney Centre’s busy calendar of literary events.

This year’s judges are Professor Nick Laird, poet and Chair of Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre; Dr Stephen Sexton, poet and lecturer in Poetry at the Seamus Heaney Centre. They are joined by the poet Elaine Feeney.

Speaking about the prize Nick Laird, Chair of the judging panel said: “The Seamus Heaney First Collection Poetry Prize is a highlight of the Seamus Heaney Centre’s year, and we always look forward to what the shortlisted writers do next.”

The winning and shortlisted writers will read at a virtual event on Thursday 1st July, as part of the Seamus Heaney Poetry Summer School. Find the full shortlist and read more about the prize at the Seamus Heaney Centre's website here.
Cover images of Sumita Chakraborty's Arrow and Katherine Horrex's Growlery Arrow is a debut volume extraordinary in ambition, range and achievement. At its centre is 'Dear, beloved', a more-than-elegy for her younger sister who died suddenly: in the two years she took to write the poem, much else came into play: 'it was my hope to write the mood of elegy rather than an elegy proper,' following the example of the great elegists including Milton, to whose Paradise Lost she listened during the period of composition, also hearing the strains of Brigit Pegeen Kelly's Song, of Alice Oswald and Marie Howe. The poem becomes a kind of kingdom, 'one that is at once evil, or blighted, and beautiful, not to mention everything in between'.

As well as elegy, Chakraborty composes invocations, verse essays, and the strange extended miracle of the title poem, in which ancient and modern history, memory and the lived moment, are held in a directed balance. It celebrates the natural forces of the world and the rapt experience of balance, form and - love. She declares a marked admiration for poems that 'will write into being a world that already in some way exists'. This is what her poems achieve. Buy the book here.


Growlery conjures a place haunted by flooded villages, broken ankles, ovarian health and factories. It dwells on a world of civic tensions, in the twilit zone between city and country, the human and the natural. Here, Brexit is a city with streets 'worn into themselves like grafted skin', corpse flowers bloom in America, and urban foundations crumble into cisterns.

Horrex - whose poems found an enthusiastic readership via Carcanet's New Poetries series - unpicks the illusion that order upholds society and reveals the true ramshackle complexion of things. Her debut collection reimagines the 'growlery' of Dickens' Bleak House by looking at the concept of internal space in a twenty-first century which is both connected and disjointed. Buy the book here.

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