The Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast has announced the winner of the 2020 Poetry Prize for a First Collection, supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies.
Laura Scott was announced the winner for So Many Rooms (Carcanet, 2019) during the Seamus Heaney Centre’s annual Poetry Summer School, at a virtual Award Night on Thursday 2 July 2020.
The Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize is part of the Seamus Heaney Legacy Project, a joint fund established by Queen’s University Belfast and the Arts Council for NI, supported by Atlantic Philanthropies. The Poetry Prize is awarded to a writer whose first full collection has been published in the preceding year, by a UK or Ireland-based publisher. The winning writer receives £5,000.
Born in London, Laura Scott now lives in Norwich. Her pamphlet, What I Saw, won the Michael Marks Prize in 2014, and in 2015 she won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize. Her poems have appeared in various magazines including PN Review, Oxford Poetry and Poetry Review, and a selection of her work was featured in Carcanet’s New Poetries VII in 2018.
Speaking about her award, Laura Scott said:
“I’m honoured and delighted, actually I’m over the moon, to have won this prize. As it’s a first collection prize, I was looking back at my first notebook, the one I bought when I started writing seriously. It has fragments of things I wanted to get into poems, notes to myself, and on the tenth page, this quote from Seamus Heaney: ‘This was the first place where I felt I had done more than make an arrangement of words: I felt that I had let down a shaft into real life. The facts and surfaces of the thing were true, but more important, the excitement that came from naming them gave me a kind of insouciance and a kind of confidence. I didn’t care who thought what about it: somehow, it had surprised me by coming out with a stance and an idea that I would stand over.’
“I never met Seamus Heaney, but here he was saying exactly what I needed to hear. He pinpointed the precise sense in which writing poems is doing something bigger than yourself. It is not just you and the words.”
Congratulating the winner, Glenn Patterson, Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s said:
“The First Collection Poetry Prize is a highlight of the Seamus Heaney Centre’s year – one of the stand-out events, and awards, indeed, of the entire poetry calendar. With her collection, So Many Rooms, Laura Scott is a very, very worthy winner. All involved at the Heaney Centre will follow what she does next with great interest, and no little pride.”
This year’s judges were Professor Nick Laird, poet and Chair of Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre; Professor Frank Ormsby, Ireland Chair of Poetry; and Dr Leontia Flynn, poet and reader in Poetry at the Seamus Heaney Centre.
Speaking about the winning collection Professor Nick Laird said:
“Laura Scott’s So Many Rooms is a confident and intricate collection dealing with relationships and memory. Cognizant of all the angles, alive to the smallest damage, to the bruises left on petals by the rain, Scott is a master of the slant take, the delicate phrasing. Her images both clarify and darken the matter at hand. In Scott’s world, poems are ‘like fish / swimming inside you, / waiting for someone / to tap the glass.’”
The shortlist for the First Collection Poetry Prize 2020 included:
- Flèche, by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber, 2019)
- Significant Other, by Isabel Galleymore (Carcanet, 2019)
- A Man’s House Catches Fire, by Tom Sastry (Nine Arches Press, 2019)
- So Many Rooms, by Laura Scott (Carcanet, 2019)
- Fold, by Lucy Wadham (Pindrop Press, 2019)
The virtual award event is available on the QFT player from 7.00pm (BST) on Thursday 2 July 2020: qft.vhx.tv/free/videos/seamus-heaney-first-collection-poetry-prize