Romalyn Ante (pictured top), Dzifa Benson and Jamie Hale have been selected as Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellows for 2020/21, the third and final edition of the programme.
Each poet receives £15,000 and is given a year of critical support and mentoring. The fellowship will give the poets the time and space to focus on their craft, exploring and fulfilling their potential, with no expectation that they produce a particular work or outcome.
Organisers Jerwood Arts and Arts Council England organised the fellowships as a six-year initiative to support poets in the UK, running biennially for three editions between 2017 and 2022, creating a total of nine fellows. Previous recipients are Raymond Antrobus, Jane Commane and Jackie Hagan (2017/18) and Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Anthony Joseph and Yomi Ṣode (2019/20).
The centre said this year's winners "illustrate how diverse and exciting poetry has become in the 21st century". It added: "Through activism, visual arts and theatre, and drawing from their personal experiences/circumstances, the three poets express their practice through a multitude of ways, opening poetry up to a wide range of audiences. Each poet has produced outstanding work to date and have demonstrated enormous, unselfish generosity towards other poets, giving far more than they have received, particularly during the pandemic. They have been selected for the potential they display at this critical point in their individual careers, when the support provided from the fellowship will make the most difference."
Ante is an award-winning Filipino-born, Wolverhampton-based poet, translator, editor and essayist. She is co-founding editor of harana poetry, an online magazine for poets writing in English as a second or parallel language, and her accolades include the Poetry London Prize, Manchester Poetry Prize, Society of Authors Foundation Award, Developing Your Creative Practice and Creative Future Literary Award, among others. Apart from being a writer, she also works full-time as a nurse practitioner, specialising in providing different psychotherapeutic treatments.
Benson (right) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work intersects science, art, the body and ritual, which she explores through poetry, prose, theatre-making, performance, essays and criticism. She has performed nationally and internationally for Tate Britain, the Courtauld Institute of Art, BBC Africa Beyond and more, and she abridged the National Youth Theatre’s 2021 production of "Othello" in collaboration with Olivier Award-winning director Miranda Cromwell.
Hale (left) is a poet, scriptwriter, screenwriter and essayist based in London, whose work often explores the disabled body, nature and mortality. Their pamphlet Shield, about disability, treatment prioritisation and the Covid-19 pandemic, was published in January 2020. Their solo poetry show "Not Sying" was performed at the Lyric Hammersmith and Barbican Centre in 2019, and the filmed version has screened nationally and internationally since. Hale is also the founder of CRIPtic Arts, an organisation showcasing and developing work by and for d/Deaf and disabled creatives.
Jon Opie, deputy director of Jerwood Arts, said: “The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships is a special programme, which over the last four years has charted significant changes in the poetry world and embraced the diversity of voices, experience and histories it encompasses. Past fellows, and now the ones we have announced today, exemplify some of the multitudes of forms and languages that makes poetry an essential part of this country’s life, inseparable from mainstream media, powerfully articulating lived-experiences and enhancing other artforms. I am hugely looking forward to working with Romalyn, Dzifa and Jamie over the coming year. Their talents are unique, and yet they share a generosity and sense of responsibility towards other poets and their communities. I have no doubt their Fellowships will be profound for them and for others around them.”
Sarah Crown, director of literature at Arts Council England, added: “The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship continues to champion change in art funding practice in the UK as fearlessly as it has done for the last four years. Providing mentoring, financial support and, most importantly, time and space for underrepresented poets to experiment and hone their craft—without the external pressures of meeting a particular outcome—nurtures creativity and enriches the sector as a whole.
"The selectors have had the tough task of choosing three recipients from what was yet again an extremely strong set of nominees. Romalyn, Dzifa and Jamie join a long line of talented Fellows, and I am excited to see how they flourish over the coming year.”
The three recipients were selected from a field of nominees by award-winning poet and writer Joelle Taylor; writer, performer, and facilitator Yomi Ṣode; and award-winning poet Pascale Petit. Nominations were made by a pool of more than 200 specialists nationally, including poets, publishers, editors, literary development agencies, artists, funders and festival organisers.
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