Our Judges for 2015
Sir Andrew Motion (Chair)
Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL is an English poet, novelist, and biographer who was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009. Previously, he read English at University College, Oxford and subsequently spent two years writing about the poetry of Edward Thomas for an M. Litt. From 1976 to 1980 he taught English at the University of Hull; from 1980 to 1982 he edited the Poetry Review and from 1982 to 1989 he was Editorial Director and Poetry Editor at Chatto & Windus. During the period of his laureateship, Motion founded the Poetry Archive, an online resource of poems and audio recordings of poets reading their own work. In 2012, Sir Andrew became President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, taking over from Bill Bryson, and in 2014 co-founded the Resurgence Poetry Prize.
He is now Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in London. He was knighted for his services to literature in 2009. Sir Andrew is a council member of the Advertising Standards Authority and, since last July, Chairman of the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council.
Alice Oswald is a British poet who won the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2002. Oswald read Classics at New College, Oxford, and afterwards trained as a gardener and worked at such sites as Chelsea Physic Garden, Wisley and Clovelly Court Gardens. She currently lives on the Dartington Estate in Devon with her husband, the playwright Peter Oswald (also a trained classicist), and her three children. In 1994, she was the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award. Oswald’s work is characterised by its ecopoetic stance. Her first collection of poetry, The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile (1996), won a Forward Poetry Prize (Best First Collection) in 1996, and was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize in 1997. Her second collection, Dart (2002), which won the T.S. Eliot prize in 2002, combined verse and prose, and tells the story of the River Dart in Devon from a variety of perspectives. In 2004, Oswald was named as one of the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation poets. Her collection Woods etc., published in 2005, was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Collection).
In 2009 she published both A sleepwalk on the Severn and Weeds and Wildflowers, which won the inaugural Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, and was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. In October 2011, Oswald published her 6th collection, Memorial, based on the Iliad attributed to Homer, but departing from the narrative form of the Iliad to focus on and commemorate the individual characters whose deaths are mentioned in that poem. Memorial was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize, but Oswald withdrew the book from the shortlist, citing concerns about the ethics of the prize’s sponsors.
Jo Shapcott FRSL is an English poet, editor and lecturer who has won the National Poetry Competition, the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Costa Book of the Year Award, a Forward Poetry Prize and the Cholmondeley Award. Shapcott has won the National Poetry Competition twice, in 1985 and 1991. Her Book: Poems 1988-1998 (2000; reprinted 2006) consists of poetry from her three earlier collections: Electroplating the Baby (1988), which won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, Phrase Book (1992), and My Life Asleep (1998), which won the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Collection).
Together with Matthew Sweeney, she edited Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times (1996), an international anthology of contemporary poetry in English. Her 2002 book Tender Taxes is a collection of English versions (or translations) of Rainer Maria Rilke’s French poems. Her 2002 collection of essays Elizabeth Bishop: Poet of the Periphery was co-edited with Linda Anderson. In 2006, Fiona Samson in The Guardian summarised her work: “Shapcott remains overwhelmingly a poet of presence, renegotiating the concrete world with as much brio as her own dancing cow. The consummate openness of this brilliantly intelligent selection extends the possibilities for poetry written in English. It reminds us that she remains a pioneer among contemporary British writers. We should be grateful for her.”