Writer and performance poet Hollie McNish has won 2016's £5,000 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her poetic memoir about becoming a parent, Nobody Told Me (Blackfriars, an imprint of Little, Brown).
McNish was announced the winner of the award, funded by Carol Ann Duffy from her honararium as Poet Laureate, at a ceremony at the Savile Club in Mayfair yesterday (29th March).
The Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes award judges, award-winning poets Jo Bell and Bernard O’Donoghue and singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, praised McNish's "funny and serious, humane and consciousness-raising" work for its "vivid language", its ability to "put things that most people ignore right back in the spotlight" and for "skilfully tackl[ing] hidden agendas and political issues in our society".
One of the judges, Bell, said the collection had changed the way he thinks about women and should be compulsory reading for new parents. Taken from the author's personal diaries, it blends poetry and storytelling following McNish through pregnancy to her first pre-school drop off.
"Adrian Mitchell said that 'most poetry ignores most people' but Hollie’s book puts things that most people ignore right back in the spotlight," said Bell. "This book is more than the sum of its parts, combining the immediacy of a diary with straight talking poetry from a spoken word tradition. This book is funny and serious, humane and consciousness-raising: it changed the way I think about women (and I am one). Should be given to every new parent, and handed to them along with their baby-care products."
Williams said the collection would "resonate outside the poetry world to reach a new generation of poetry readers" and praised it for tackling issues such as public breast-feeding, non-waged care work and interracial relationships.
O’Donoghue, who last year was shortlisted for the TS Elliot Prize, added of McNish's work: "Hollie McNish describes the experience of pregnancy and young motherhood in a vivid language that brings both forms to life, and makes them real for readers to whom these things are new as well as those to whom they are familiar."
McNish's new collection, Plum, will publish in June 2017 with Picador. She has previously written two other collections, Papers (Greenwich Exchange) and Cherry Pie (Burning Eye Books) and co-wrote the play Offside (Bloomsbury).