Jay Bernard has won the £5,000 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for Surge: Side A (Speaking Volumes).
Surge: Side A is a performance work investigating the New Cross Fire of 1981, in which 13 young black people lost their lives. It was produced by Speaking Volumes and was performed at the Roundhouse, London, as part of The Last Word Festival 2017.
Ted Hughes Award judges Gillian Allnutt, Lemn Sissay and Sally Beamish praised Bernard's work for being “riveting... propelled by a strong internal momentum”.
Beamish said: “An intensely personal relating of the New Cross massacre; powerful, lyrical and communicated with extraordinary intimacy. I was particularly struck by their drawing of a parallel between the struggle for validation in the black British community, and the poet’s own clarification of identity by transforming their body through surgery. The performances are riveting and the poems are propelled by a strong internal momentum.”
Bernard is from London and is the author of three poetry pamphlets: The Red and Yellow Nothing (Ink Sweat & Tears and Café Writers, 2016), English Breakfast (Math Paper Press, 2013), and Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (Tall Lighthouse, 2008).
They beat off competition from a shortlist of seven including Caroline Bird for In These Days of Prohibition (Carcanet), Kayo Chingonyi for Kumukanda (Chatto), Inua Ellams for #afterhours (Nine Arches Press), Matthew Francis for The Mabinogi (Faber & Faber), Antony Owen for The Nagasaki Elder (V Press) and Greta Stoddart for Who’s There? (BBC).
The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, presented annually by The Poetry Society since 2009, celebrates the "outstanding contributions made by poets to cultural life, acknowledging the possibilities of poetry both on the page and beyond".
Bernard was presented with the award by Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy at a reception at the Savile Club, London last night (28th March).