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Inaugural Roehampton Poetry Prize winners celebrate 'marvels' of poetry

Two substantial works of poetry have shared the first ever £5,000 Roehampton Poetry Prize awarded by the University of Roehampton, after their authors were jointly selected by judges as the best books of the year.

Posted: 5 June 2015

image for news story Inaugural Roehampton Poetry Prize winners celebrate 'marvels' of poetry
Professor Fiona Sampson, Director of the Roehampton Poetry Centre at the University of Roehampton.

Sean O’Brien’s The Beautiful Librarians and Carole Satyamurti’s Mahabharata were announced as the winners of the inaugural prize by Professor Paul O’Prey, Vice Chancellor of the University of Roehampton and an acknowledged expert on First World War poetry.

The winners were announced during a high profile ceremony in central London this week. The judges, poets John Burnside and Ian McMillan, and Professor Fiona Sampson, Director of the University’s Roehampton Poetry Centre described all the seven shortlisted works as ‘marvels’ and agreed they demonstrated the vital role poetry at its best continues to play in modern culture.

The Beautiful Librarians, published by Picador was described by Professor Sampson as particularly elegiac, perhaps more disillusioned, in tone than his previous collections. His book is about books and the writing life, and about the loss of a kind of community spirit. Every line, in every poem, manages to be intelligent, measured, and subversive.

Judges agonised over whether Mahabharata, published by Norton, counted as poetry, but agreed that so magisterial and limpid was its blank verse, mightily sustained over 900 pages, and so rich was the addition it made to our culture, that they saluted her poetic achievement.

The Roehampton Prize, for the poetry book of the year as judged by poets, was open to any book written by an author living in the UK, and submissions were made by dozens of publishers. The prize will be awarded again next June.

The Roehampton Poetry Centre encourages the writing, reading and study of poetry and aims to bring living poetry into the heart of the University’s English and Creative Writing’s curriculum. Students are excited and inspired by working alongside the very best poets writing in Britain and the world today. These include Professor Sampson, and Professor David Harsent, the centre’s chair, who won the renowned TS Eliot Poetry Prize this year.

The centre hosts reading series, master classes, and prizes including the newly-established Ruskin Prize, an open-entry poem competition, as well as the Roehampton Prize. It supports the international Poem magazine, soon to be re-launched by Taylor & Francis. Roehampton offers the chance to write and study poetry, English and creative writing at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level.

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