Poet Laureate announces inaugural prizewinner

Professor 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 the University of Leeds’ Professor of Poetry, and its poetry centre after winning the Brotherton Poetry Prize.  Selected from almost 400 entries, the winner was announced at an event where all five shortlisted poets read one of their five submitted poems.

Holt, originally from Chesterfield in Derbyshire, said he was looking forward to working with Professor Armitage, saying “Simon Armitage was the first poet I ever read,”.

The prize, which was launched last year, aims to nurture previously unpublished poets.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 decision to award the prize to Dane Holt 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.

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. 

“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. “

Professor Simon Armitage

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.”

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.”

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.