Pascale Petit has won the inaugural Laurel Prize for ecopoetry with Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe Books).
The winner was announced at a virtual ceremony on 1st October by organisers the Poetry School and Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who funds the award with his £5,000 honorarium. The prize goes annually to the best published collection of environmental or nature poetry.
Petit took the £5,000 prize with Karen McCarthy Woolf's Seasonal Disturbances (Carcanet) taking the £2,000 second place spot and Colin Simms' Hen Harrier (Shearsman) picking up the £1,000 third place award.
Mama Amazonica is set in a psychiatric ward and the Amazon rainforest, described as an asylum for animals on the brink of extinction, revealing the story of Pascale Petit’s mentally ill mother and the consequences of abuse. The book is Paris-born Petit's seventh collection and won the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize in 2018.
Armitage said: “Reading these books has been a hugely uplifting and moving experience. The strength of each winner is testimony to the way that contemporary poetry is bearing witness to the fragile state of the planet and the importance of engaging with nature through detailed observation and considered language. These are collections that explore our deep and complex relationship with the world around us and our actions within it.”
Robert Macfarlane, one of the judges, added: "The Laurel Prize gives the lie to any old, staid understandings of 'nature poetry'; the work here is singingly, variously alive to the complexities of modern nature, and to the experiences of hope, fear, wonder and horror in which our relations with the natural world are entangled."
In addition to prize money, this year’s partner the UK’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty is are funding a commission for the three writers.