Colin Simms, Pascale Petit and Karen McCarthy Woolf have been shortlisted for the inaugural Laurel Prize, an ecopoetry award funded by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage.
Run by Armitage and the Poetry School, the award is given annually to the best published collection of environmental or nature poetry.
The three-book shortlist features Hen Harrier by Simms (Shearsman), the poet and naturalist's third collection devoted to poems on a specific species; Petit's Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe Books), which won the 2018 RSL Ondaatje Prize and is set in both a psychiatric ward and the Amazon rainforest; and McCarthy Woolf's Seasonal Disturbances (Carcanet), a collection that explores nature, the city, and the self.
The shortlist was picked by a panel of judges made up of Armitage, Moniza Alvi and Robert Macfarlane.
Armitage said: “Reading these books has been a hugely uplifting and moving experience. The strength of the list 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.”
The winner will receive £5,000 with a £2,000 prize for second and £1,000 for third place. Sponsor the UK’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty is funding a commission for the three writers.
A prize ceremony will be held at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and online around the last week of September or first week of October 2020, depending on the coronavirus situation.
Sally Carruthers, director of the Poetry School, said: “The Laurel Prize addresses the most critical issue facing humanity today— that of climate crisis. These strange times of Covid-19 lockdown have perhaps heightened our appreciation of the landscapes, species and ecosystems with which we share this planet and these volumes of poetry speak to us in a uniquely powerful way about these precious and fragile relationships.”