June 14, 2019

Announcing the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships for 2019/2020

Hafsah, Anthony and Yomi illustrate the breadth of what poetry can be today. Through activism, theatre and other disciplines the three poets express their practice through a multitude of ways, opening poetry up to a wide range of audiences. Each has produced outstanding work to date and has been chosen for their potential at these critical points in their individual careers, when the support provided from the Fellowship could make the most difference.

They were selected from a strong field of nominees by poet Malika Booker; poet, editor and Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellow 2017/18 Jane Commane; Jan Kofi-Tsekpo, Relationship Manager, Literature for Arts Council England; Jon Opie, Deputy Director of Jerwood Arts; Debris Stevenson, Grimepoet; and Nathalie Teitler, Project Manager for Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships. Nominations were made by a pool of over 200 specialists nationally including poets, publishers, editors, literary development agencies, artists, funders and festival organisers.

As selectors we were very impressed with the quality and breath of the submissions. The incredible work we saw pushed the boundaries of poetry into unimaginable spaces, by being experimental, cross arts, community focused, risky, and necessary. We are delighted to have selected these three exceptional poets who particularly encapsulate and exemplify these qualities in their poetic practice Malika Booker

Hafsah Aneela Bashir is a poet, playwright and performer based in Manchester, who published her first collection last year. Her work blends narrative, free verse and lyric poetry, exploring relationships between the private, public and political. Her lyrical activism reflects a strong desire to effect social change drawing on spoken word and her mother tongue of Urdu. During her Fellowship year she wants to explore film, the relationships between imagery and text and different platforms in which her poetry can be transmitted. She is interested in starting a collective with women at its heart, to promote the significance of every person’s voice and support the importance of the arts.

Anthony Joseph is a poet, novelist and musician who lives in London. His work is part of the diasporic avant-garde, straddling the interstice between the rhythms of Caribbean creole and the experimental aesthetics of surrealism, jazz and language poetry, while challenging notions of form and identity. He wishes to extend his experimental poetry through the medium of film, and  will be using the Fellowship to explore skills which will allow him to make a film exploring notions of fatherhood in the future, shifting his poetry from page to the screen.

Yomi Sode is a poet and playwright based in London who plays an active role in the spoken word scene, primarily as the founder of the successful Boxedin night in Shoreditch. His poetry is as much narrative and dramatic as it is lyric; it is interrogative and challenging, while nudging readers to think, feel and listen. He aims to use this year to refine his poetry, having spent the last few years immersed in his theatre work. Through his own poetry, and Boxedin, he is trying to make people enjoy poetry in a different way, and sees the Fellowship as a way to continue and extend this.

The poets now join the three inaugural Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellows – Raymond Antrobus, Jane Commane and Jackie Hagan – who have shown how transformative a year can be. Each of these poets has significantly developed their practice, and themselves, significantly through the support of the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships.

Raymond Antrobus has gone on to win the Ted Hughes Award, be London Book Fair Poet of The Fair, and be shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Griffin Poetry Prize, amongst other achievements. In 2019 he became the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for the best work of literature in any genre. Jane Commane launched her first poetry collection, Assembly Lines at the Verve Festival in 2018, published by Bloodaxe. She also launched How to be a Poet: A 21st Century Guide to Writing Well, which ranked among the top five writing guides on Amazon. She is currently working on her second poetry collection, working title Municipal. Jackie Hagan was one of five writers selected by Hat Trick Productions for its Your Voice, Your Story development scheme in partnership with Channel 4. In 2018, her one woman show, This is Not a Safe Place, showcased at the Hebden Bridge Festival and at the Unlimited Festival, Southbank Centre.

The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships offer poets the invaluable opportunity of a year of mentorship, reflection and development at a crucial stage of their practice. I am delighted that Arts Council England is helping to support these three talented poets: their diverse and innovative work showcases the strength and range of poetic practice taking place across the country today – Sarah Crown, Director of Literature, Arts Council England

The Fellowships were conceived three years ago to reward outstanding poets. We also wanted to showcase the breadth of poetic practice and open up a conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing poets in the UK today. Hafsah, Anthony and Yomi completely embody the principles of the Fellowships and we are excited for what they might achieve over the coming year. Overall, we were bowled over and humbled by the response from the poets applying for the Fellowships; poetry is alive and well in this country, but also sorely in need of nurturing and support – Jon Opie, Deputy Director, Jerwood Arts.

The Jerwood Compton Fellowships are designed and managed by Jerwood Arts, with support from Arts Council England including funds from the Joseph Compton bequest.

Anthony Joseph, Hafsah Aneela Bashir and Yomi Sode. Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellow 2019-20. Supported by Jerwood Arts and Arts Council England. Image Mirren Kessling.