Picador has acquired a "unique" and "stirring" poetry anthology of migrant stories from schoolchildren, called England.
Teenage students at the Oxford Spires Academy, a comprehensive school where the majority of pupils have English as an additional language and 32 languages overall are spoken, have chalked up a range of prestigious awards to date, including, in 2017, the Forward Young Responses Prize (Mukahang Limbu, 16), the John Betjeman Prize (Amineh Abou Kerech, 13) and Foyle Young Poets (Aisha Mango Borja, 14).
Their mentor and teacher, the prize-winning poet Kate Clanchy, a Writer in Residence for the academy, will now bring their poems together in an anthology in which "they document the pain of migration and the exhilaration of building a new land, an England of a thousand voices". Their poems have been described as "by turns raw and direct, funny and powerful, lyrical and heartbreaking", as well as "easy to read and hard to forget, as fresh, bright and present as the young migrants who produced it".
England has been acquired by Picador publisher Paul Baggaley and poetry editor Don Paterson on exclusive submission from Zoe Waldie at RCW. It will be published in June 2018.
Clanchy said: “It was late at night, I’d been to the pub, and I was putting together a school anthology of my students’ work over the last eight years for the retiring head teacher. I thought, as you do: gosh these are good. Anyone would want to read these.
"Editor Don Paterson and the team at Pan Macmillan saw what I saw in the poems: the excitement of fresh voices fresh into English, the power of raw experience honestly expressed, and he wanted to put a book together.
"Since then, we’ve worked together in shaping the anthology, and making sure a portion of the proceeds goes back into helping more young people write. In times when it is hard to find something to believe in, these young migrants show us a new, dynamic, multi-cultural England, and their work is full of joy as well as pain.”
Paterson, poetry editor at Picador, said the young poets' words "remind us of what poetry is for".
"At a time when the UK is going through a radical crisis of identity, it’s good to be reminded of those national qualities in which we can continue to take pride," he said. "Despite the efforts of a few, we remain an inclusive and welcoming land: that these wonderful young poets have so readily found a tongue in this country, in this language, proves it beyond doubt. These powerfully moving verses often speak of great sadness, but in their clear-eyed bravery, their determination to turn often painful experience into beautifully memorable speech, they remind us of what poetry is for – and offer more cause for optimism than any other book you’ll read this year."