Hannah Sullivan wins inaugural John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize

News - Prizes Thursday, 18 April 2019

The €10,000 Irish prize will now be awarded annually to the author of an outstanding debut poetry collection in English

Poet Hannah Sullivan has been announced as the winner of the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize at Trinity College Dublin. This is the first year of the prize, which will be given annually to the author of an outstanding debut poetry book collection in the English language.

Valued at €10,000, the prize is sponsored by the John Pollard Foundation and administered by the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre in the School of English, Trinity. The patron of the John Pollard Foundation is Stephen Vernon, chairman of Green Property plc, who named the Foundation in memory of his grandfather, John Pollard.

Sullivan was awarded the prize for her debut collection Three Poems, which was published by Faber in 2018 - and won the £25,000 TS Eliot Prize for Poetry this January. She lives in London and is an associate professor of English at New College, Oxford. She received her PhD from Harvard in 2008 and taught in California for four years. Her study of modernist writing, The Work of Revision, was published in 2013 and awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize by the British Academy.

At the award ceremony at Trinity College, Professor Harry Clifton, a member of the judging panel, said of Three Poems: "It is our particular pleasure to award the prize, in this its inaugural year, to a work of poetry that seems, in the controlled expansiveness of its form, its unity of cosmopolitan flux with a hearkening back to roots, and its life-affirmation, to evoke the ghost of Louis MacNeice, who would, as Irishman and internationalist, have taken it totally to heart."

Sullivan said: "It's an incredible honour to be the first winner of a prize set up to consider a diverse body of work, but also admirably focused in its attention to first collections. I'm immensely grateful to the selection committee; they were set an impossible task! At a personal level, there's a particular significance in being awarded an Irish prize. The last poem in Three Poems is about and for my father, who was born in London in 1950 to parents who had only recently arrived from Bantry in Co. Cork. He cultivated in me the sense that poetry was an important thing, something I might work at. And I've been especially indebted, I think, to some Irish poets: as a teenager to Yeats and the MacNeice of Autumn Journal and, as a woman writer, to Eavan Boland."

Aileen Douglas, chair of the selection committee and Professor in English at Trinity, added: "This new award demonstrates the vitality and diversity of current poetry in English and features volumes from a range of publishers including small independent houses as well as university presses and long established commercial publishers. Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre has a rich tradition in creative writing and the nurturing of new talent. We are delighted to be associated with the Pollard Foundation and with this prestigious new international prize."

Other members of the judging panel included Harry Clifton, poet, former Ireland Professor of Poetry and visiting research fellow in English, Trinity; Tim Dooley, tutor for The Poetry School, visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster, and an arts mentor for the Koestler Trust; and Tom Walker, Ussher Assistant Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity.

Pictured: Hannah Sullivan at Trinity College

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