July 2, 2021 12:38:46 pm
The Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast announced the winner of the 2021 Seamus Heaney First Collection Poetry Prize on Thursday which was supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies.
Sumita Chakraborty, the author of Arrow (Carcanet), won the prize at a virtual award night of the Seamus Heaney Annual Poetry Summer School.
Poet, essayist and scholar, Chakraborty is Helen Zell visiting professor in poetry at the University of Michigan, where she teaches literary studies and creative writing.
When she was an undergraduate, she read Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Kinship’. “‘I grew out of all this / like a weeping willow / inclined to / the appetites of gravity’: as soon as I first read these lines…they became for me a meditation about surviving violence and paying attention to the new hungers and desires to which I had begun to lean, which is what Arrow is about,” she said while speaking about the award.
She continued, “This award holds a doubly special place in my heart because my first published piece of academic scholarship was also about Heaney. His presence in both of these ‘firsts’ speaks to how very much his work has meant to me for a long time, and I thank the judges for this honour.”
Formerly, Sumita was a poetry editor of AGNI Magazine and art editor of At Length. In the year 2017, she received a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. In 2018, her poem ‘And death demands a labor’ was also shortlisted for a Forward Prize for Best Single Poem by the Forward Arts Foundation.
This year, the judges were Professor Nick Laird, poet and chair of creative writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Dr Stephen Sexton, poet and lecturer in poetry at the Seamus Heaney Centre, and poet Elaine Feeney.
“Arrow by Sumita Chakraborty is a marvelous collection for both the maximalist and minimalist. Here are brief lyrics, prose essays, parables, lengthy lineated epics – and all of them given life with language stretched and pummelled into shape. Dealing in myth, astronomy, autobiography, philosophy, physics, and metaphysics, Chakraborty possesses a singular outlook and the tone of a prophet.” Nick Laird said in a statement.
Talking about the winning collection, Dr Stephen Sexton said, “These wonderful collections not only demonstrate the talents and brilliance of their authors: they bring out the best in us as readers. Always we ought to try to appreciate a book on its own terms, and these books are gregarious and serious; grieving and wounded. It has been a pleasure to discuss and ponder and query these fine collections with my fellow judges, and, most of all, to come to admire their mythologies and emotional and historical landscapes.”
The Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Poetry Prize is an annual award, bestowed on a writer whose first full collection has been published by UK or Ireland-based publisher in the preceding year. The winner receives a cash prize of £5,000 and is also invited to participate in the Seamus Heaney Centre’s busy calendar of literary events.
The other shortlisted collections for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Poetry Prize 2021 included The Station Before by Linda Anderson, Rose With Harm by Daniel Hardisty, Growlery by Katherine Horrex, and Cannibal by Safiya Sinclair.
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