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Ned Denny Wins Seamus Heaney Prize

Wednesday, 3 Jul 2019

Cover image of Unearthly Toys by Ned Denny We're over the moon to share the news that Ned Denny has been awarded the The Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize 2019 for his debut collection, Unearthly Toys: Poems and Masks. The announcement was made at the Award Night in No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast on Tuesday 2nd July.

Ned will give a talk to students on the Poetry Summer School at the Seamus Heaney Centre, and will travel to New York in November 2019 to read at Glucksman Ireland House, NYU and the Irish Art Centre's annual Poetryfest.

Speaking about the winning collection Professor Nick Laird, chair of the judging panel said:

Ned Denny’s book is a terrific and complex hybrid of the ancient and modern, shot through with flashes of surrealism and wit. It’s also deeply felt, earnest, and concerned with the large questions of being alive, of loving, of trying to exist in a secular world separated from nature. Original poems in a variety of sophisticated forms – deftly turned sestinas, ghazals, pantoums, villanelles - are interposed with ‘remakes’ of other poets’ work. He writes pieces after LaForge, Baudelaire, Goethe, Calvalcanti and Li Po among others.

It’s imaginative work – allusive, elusive, dense in its diction and music: Denny is immersed in the canon, and one can see Ezra Pound, Robert Herrick, even Seamus Heaney himself, contribute to his voice. It begs to be read closely and rewards attention. Here is work that manages both to renew the traditions, and be startlingly fresh, that manages to walk ‘the rain-sweetened paths of the garden centre”. It’s also funny: “flesh is subatomic gnomes going whee”, nicely descriptive: “the kaleidoscopic head of a bee” “the moon’s closed-circuit stare”, and manages to give vigorous life to tropes as diverse as gothic horror, romance, and medieval fairytales. Denny is no throwback or strict formalist though, and as unabashedly full of technique and craft as the work is, there is something intractably modern about the poems: here are alien abductions, drones, grand theft auto, an ode to magic mushrooms. Denny writes, “I woke in a book-illumined room / where all possible genres spoke”, and he is right.


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 read at Glucksman Ireland House at New York University. For this they receive travel, accommodation, and a $1,000 honorarium.

Congratulations, Ned!
Ned Denny Ned Denny was born in London in 1975 and has worked as a postman, art critic, book reviewer, music journalist and gardener. His poems and remakes have appeared in publications including PN Review, Poetry Review, The White Review, Oxford Poetry, the TLS, and Modern Poetry in Translation. Carcanet published his first collection, Unearthly Toys: Poems and Masks, in February 2018 and B, a version of the Divine Comedy, is forthcoming.




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