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Winner of inaugural Flambard Poetry Prize announced


A collection of five poems exploring the theme of love and loss has won a new national poetry competition set up by Newcastle University.

Launched earlier this year by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA), the Flambard Poetry Prize has been created in recognition of the achievements of North East-based Flambard Press, which was widely recognised as one of the finest small publishers in the UK.

Flambard Press was set up in 1990 by Margaret and Peter Lewis. It published an acclaimed range of poetry and fiction, some of which was shortlisted for high profile competitions such as the Booker Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize, and the Whitbread First Novel Award, and included works by Val McDermid, Sid Chaplin and Neil Astley, founder of Bloodaxe Books, another notable North East publisher. Flambard Press closed in 2012, and the following year the Lewises gifted the entire Flambard archive to the University. In gratitude for this gift, the Friends of the University’s Robinson Library endowed the prize for the competition.

The winning poetry collection, by Alice Allen, was announced at a ceremony at the Culture Lab at Newcastle University. The collection beat off competition from poems about ghost ships on the Tyne, the love between a Japanese gardener and the Shogun’s daughter, as well as poems about hospital visiting, cherry trees and the Buddha, refugees in the snow, and an African childhood, among others.

The prizes were presented by Margaret and Peter Lewis, and Michael Chaplin, President of the Friends of Newcastle University Library.      

Professor Linda Anderson, Director of the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, said: 
“Flambard Press helped to nurture many emergent writers both here in the North East and nationally so it is only fitting that we honour that achievement by creating this new prize specifically for poets who are at the start of their career.

“The fact that we had more than double the number of entries we were expecting illustrates the interest and excitement around modern poetry, and I am delighted that the competition has got off to such a fantastic start.” 

The judging was carried out by Peter Bennet and Gladys Mary Coles, both of whom are critically-acclaimed poets in their own right. In addition to the first and second prize winners, the judges also commended collections by Paul Adrian, Audrey Ardern-Jones, Karen Jane Cannon, Stephen Devereux, Daniel Hardisty, and Sue Leigh.

Commenting on the entries, Peter Bennet said:
“We were very impressed with the diversity of subject matter and style.  The poems were of a very high quality and we saw a quiet confidence in the best entries, combining imaginative reach with an ability not to be strained or overwhelmed by experience. By considering five poems as a single entry, we were able to get a sense of the poet’s ability to handle different themes and their overall confidence.”

Fellow judge Gladys Mary Coles added:
“We admired the originality in thought and perception, and keen sensibility of the winning collections. I am delighted to have been asked to judge the inaugural competition, and would like to express our gratitude and admiration for the achievements of Flambard Press, bringing to publication many poets and authors in their beautifully produced books.”

The competition will be run annually, and is open to any poet who has not had a collection of their own work published. Entries for next year’s Flambard Poetry Prize are expected to open in September 2015. For more information, visit the NCLA website.

published on: 24 November 2014