Debut poets dominate £30k Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist

Debut poets dominate £30k Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist

The work of young and experimental poets dominates this year's Dylan Thomas Prize, worth £30,000.

Jay Barnard's poetry collection Surge (Chatto) addresses "black radical British history against the backdrop of the Grenfell and 'Windrush' scandals," while Mary Jean Chan's Flèche (Faber) is an exploration of multilingualism, queerness and psychoanalysis, and If All the World and Love Were Young (Penguin) by Stephen Sexton is a requiem for the poet's late mother.

The poets are joined by novels On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Jonathan Cape) and Téa Obreht's "portrait of the American dream in the Wild West, Inland (W&N). Also shortlisted is Bryan Washington’s Houston-based short story collection Lot (Atlantic).  

Chair of the judges Swansea University’s Professor Dai Smith said: “The shortlist for 2020 ranges across the genres of poetry, short form fiction and the novel, and each work manages to address up front the pressing social and personal concerns and dilemmas of our time.

"But what suddenly stands out in stark relief, amidst the overwhelming global nature of the crisis in which all humanity now finds itself struggling to cope, are the universal values which these disparate books highlight: compassion, empathy, courage against despair, anger against indifference and love in despite of everything.

"In a very dark time these six supremely talented young writers do what all such writers do: they light the way, and so must be read for all our sakes.”

Now in its 15th year, the £30,000 prize is awarded to an author aged under 39 for the best published literary work written in English, and includes fiction in all its forms. It was  won last year by Guy Gunaratne for his debut novel, In Our Mad and Furious City.

The winner will be announced on Thursday 14th May in a virtual ceremony hosted by Swansea University.