Each year the Eric Gregory Awards recognise a collection of poems – published or unpublished – by a poet under 30. Set up in 1960 by the late Dr Eric Gregory, the awards help celebrate the encouragement of young poets. They are celebrated as part of the Society of Authors’ Awards.
Here, we catch up with five of last year’s Eric Gregory winners to find out where they are now, and what impact the award has had on their life and work.
Mary Jean Chan, won for A Hurry of English
"Winning an Eric Gregory Award last year allowed me to feel more confident about my poetry and about my debut collection Flèche, which was published in July 2019. I was honoured to be chosen alongside a stellar group of poets, including James, Sophie, Dominic, Seán and Phoebe. Looking back at all the previous Eric Gregory Award winners, I felt humbled to be included amongst many of my favourite contemporary poets. As a BAME and queer poet, I am glad that the Award has begun in recent years to spotlight more BAME voices, including the brilliant Victoria Adukwei Bulley who received her Eric Gregory in 2018. I am grateful to the judges who chose my pamphlet A Hurry of English (ignitionpress, 2018) last year, and wish to thank them again for their support."
Seán Hewitt, won for Lantern
"It was such an honour to be given an Eric Gregory Award. The news came only a week after I signed the contract with Jonathan Cape for my debut collection, Tongues of Fire, which has just been published, so it was quite a whirlwind. Life now seems very different, but awards like the Eric Gregory are more important than ever – being given a substantial sum of money, for a young poet, is an empowering, career-changing thing, and when the precarity of a life in poetry shakes me, I'm very grateful to have this award behind me. It gives me confidence and reassurance, and has made the world of difference to how I think about my work. I can't wait to see the next list of winners."
Dominic Leonard, won for This Mysterious
"Within the space of an hour last year I lost my debit card in Leeds city centre, was told a member of my family was about to pass away, and found out I’d won. The last year has been taken up completely by moving away from home, starting a chaotic full-time job, a catastrophic election, and a pandemic; writing concretely about the effects of the award, beyond the pecuniary (which is a significant and real privilege to have been granted), is hard. I took brazen pleasure in the attention of winning something significant but feel the nebulous shame of awards concurrently with gratitude for the existence of arts funding. Maybe after this – Emily Berry – 'there will be prizes for everyone, or none at all.'"
James Patterson, won for Bandit Country
"Winning an Eric Gregory Award for Bandit Country is probably the nicest surprise I've ever received. When you send something off which you've been so close to for so long you kind of expect it to disappear from view, so it was incredibly humbling for these poems to be recognised in this way. Especially since the list of past winners reads like a who's who of everyone you'd want to emulate.
"Similarly, I'd never have expected that one year on, the world would be experiencing the turmoil of our current political moment. Being in pandemic lockdown feels like the dream-state inverse of the joy that came from winning an Eric Gregory, and the brutality currently being meted out against our POC brothers and sisters in the United States is a timely reminder that there are racial injustices which need redressing everywhere."
Phoebe Stuckes, won for Platinum Blonde
"It was so exciting to win an Eric Gregory Award, especially in such great company, I have loved being on such a fantastic list! It has definitely boosted my confidence in my writing. I thought the judges' comments were very insightful and to have your work read in that way, with such care, was amazing. The money from the Eric Gregory award has given me that little bit of freedom; having savings has given me independence and security that I haven’t had before and I am very, very grateful for that. Due to the pandemic, my collection Platinum Blonde will now be coming out in September 2020, and I'm very excited for when it does."
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