Poet Laureate announces inaugural prizewinner


Simon Armitage has performed one of his first official duties since becoming Poet Laureate, announcing the winner of the University of Leeds’ new poetry prize.

Dane Holt, a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast, will receive mentoring and support from Leeds’ Professor of Poetry, as well as the University’s poetry centre.

Selected from almost 400 entries, the winner of the Brotherton Poetry Prize was announced at an event last night, after all five shortlisted poets read one of their five submitted poems.

Mr Holt, 26, originally from Chesterfield in Derbyshire, said he was looking forward to working with Leeds’ Professor of Poetry.

“Simon Armitage was the first poet I ever read,” he added.

The prize, launched last year, aims to nurture previously unpublished poets. The runners-up were Sheffield-based Pete Green; Maeve Henry, from Oxford; Majella Kelly from Tuam in Ireland; and Robyn Maree Pickens, from Dunedin in New Zealand.

The choice was unanimous among the judges – writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg; poets and Douglas Caster Cultural Fellows Vahni Capildeo and Malika Booker; University Librarian Dr Stella Butler; University of Leeds Poetry Centre Director Professor John Whale, and Professor Armitage.

All of the finalists and judges were present to see the winner named.

The art form is healthy and vibrant, with no let-up in the number of people wanting to take language seriously and work with it in a considered and thought-provoking way.

Professor Simon Armitage

Professor Armitage said: “The fact that there were so many outstanding submissions to this new poetry prize confirms to me that the art form is healthy and vibrant, with no let-up in the number of people wanting to take language seriously and work with it in a considered and thought-provoking way.

“Our very strong shortlist could have been many times longer.”

Winning poet Dane Holt reads one of his poems at last night's award ceremony

Winning poet Dane Holt

Melvyn Bragg, who in 2017 stood down after 18 years as University of Leeds Chancellor, said: “I was very impressed by the range of entries. Some of the subjects were learned and classical, others could not have been more contemporary. The prize obviously tapped into a rich store. 

“It’s very encouraging to see that poetry at its roots is in such great shape.”

It’s very encouraging to see that poetry at its roots is in such great shape.

Melvyn Bragg

Professor John Whale said: “The award of the first Brotherton Poetry Prize is an exciting moment for the University of Leeds Poetry Centre. Our aim in establishing the prize was to be able to identify and support new poets and we are delighted with the outcome.

“Our shortlisted poets all have distinctive voices and a firm commitment to their craft. We look forward to working with them.”

Our shortlisted poets all have distinctive voices and a firm commitment to their craft.

Professor John Whale

And Dr Stella Butler added: “We hope the prize encourages the next generation of poets to draw inspiration from the library’s wonderful literary archives and other special collections.

“Libraries are about creativity and excellence, and the prize has produced both!”

The prize was open to anyone over 18 who had not yet published a full collection of poems. The winner receives £1,000 and the opportunity to develop their creative practice with the poetry centre. The four runners-up each receive £200.

The poems of all five shortlisted writers will now be published in an anthology by respected publisher Carcanet, and they will be invited to take part in a series of readings and events at the University of Leeds and other Yorkshire venues.

The five shortlisted poets with judges of the inaugural Brotherton Poetry Prize at the University of Leeds

The shortlisted poets, together with the Brotherton Poetry Prize judges 

The prize has been generously supported by the Charles Brotherton Trust. Brotherton’s uncle, Lord Edward Brotherton of Wakefield, was a Yorkshire industrialist and philanthropist who funded the iconic University library building that bears his name.

Further information

About the shortlisted poets:

  • Pete Green grew up in Grimsby and lives in Sheffield, where they started to write poetry in 2014. Their work explores the geographical margins between urban and rural spaces and between land and water; and margins of other kinds, between progress and stagnation, renewal and depletion, analogue and digital, and between personal and communal identities. In 2017 Pete's debut pamphlet, Sheffield Almanac, was published by Longbarrow Press. Their poetry has also appeared in a number of journals. 
  • Maeve Henry lives in Oxford and works for the NHS.  She has been writing poetry seriously for about a decade, and has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies.  She was shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize in 2018.
  • Dane Holt is currently working towards a PhD at Queen's University Belfast. His poems have appeared in The Tangerine and in 2018 he was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introduction Series. 
  • Majella Kelly is from Tuam, a small town in County Galway in the West of Ireland. Her poetry has been widely published and placed in many competitions. Last month she won the Strokestown International Poetry Competition and last year she won the Ambit Poetry Prize. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford.
  • Robyn Maree Pickens is a New Zealand art writer, curator and poet. Her critical and creative work is centred on the relationship between aesthetic practices and ecological reparation. Robyn’s poetry has appeared in a number of journals in Australia, the USA and the UK. She was a finalist of the 2018 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize judged by Eileen Myles, and winner of the takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Prize 2018. Robyn is currently a PhD researcher in ecological aesthetics at the University of Otago, New Zealand.

About the judges:

  • Simon Armitage has won numerous awards for his poetry and was awarded a CBE in 2010. He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and became Professor of Poetry at Leeds in 2017. 
    Malika Booker is a poet, writer and artist, and considered a pioneer of the present ‘spoken word’ movement. She has worked for numerous organisations including, the BBC, British Council, National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • Melvyn Bragg is one of the country’s foremost broadcasters and writers and has edited, produced and presented a large number of innovative, award-winning arts television and radio programmes across the cultural spectrum, including The South Bank Show and In Our Time.
  • Stella Butler has been University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection at the University of Leeds since April 2011. She has a PhD in the history of science and is Chair of the Designation Panel of Arts Council England.
  • Vahni Capildeo is the author of seven volumes of poetry and won the Forward Prize in 2016, taught at the University of Leeds in 2009, is a Rhodes Scholar, and was a Poetry Fellow in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.
  • John Whale, Director of the University of Leeds Poetry Centre is a poet and an academic. He has published two collections of poems with Carcanet/Northern House, Waterloo Teeth (2010) and Frieze (2013).  The former was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Forward Prize for best first collection. His work was first featured in Anvil New Poets 2 (1995), edited by Carol Ann Duffy. Since 2001 he has been a co-editor of Stand magazine.
  • For images, interviews or further information, contact the University of Leeds press office on +44(0)113 343 4031 or email pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk
  • Founded in 1969, Carcanet is an outstanding literary publisher with a comprehensive list of modern and classic poetry in English and translation, inventive fiction and non-fiction. A live backlist of some 1000 titles includes literature from 37 languages and 50 nations and celebrated authors include Nobel Prize-winners and many outstanding discoveries from around the world. Poets range from Ovid to Gillian Clarke, Robert Graves to Eavan Boland and Mervyn Peake to Kei Miller. www.carcarnet.co.uk