Jay Bernard Wins 2018 Ted Hughes Award
April 3, 2018
On Wednesday, March 28, The Poetry Society awarded Jay Bernard the 2018 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for their performance “Surge: Side A,” a multimedia sequence which explores the 1981 New Cross fire. The London poet and performer was selected by a panel of judges comprised of Gillian Allnutt, Lemn Sissay, and Sally Beamish for the £5,000 award.
“The shocking truth about Jay Bernard is that many people may not have heard their unique, inspiring and powerful voice, until now,” said Sissay.
Bernard was selected from a shortlist of seven U.K. poets, including Caroline Bird, Kayo Chingonyi, Innua Ellams, Matthew Francis, Antony Owen, and Greta Stoddart.
“An intensely personal relating of the New Cross massacre; powerful, lyrical and communicated with extraordinary intimacy. I was particularly struck by their drawing of a parallel between the struggle for validation in the black British community, and the poet’s own clarification of identity by transforming their body through surgery. The performances are riveting and the poems are propelled by a strong internal momentum,” said Beamish.
Jay Bernard is from London and works as a writer and film programmer at BFI Flare (London’s LGBT film festival). They are the author of three pamphlets, The Red and Yellow Nothing (2016), English Breakfast (2013), and Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (2008), and have been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, including TEN: The New Wave and Out of Bounds: Black British Writers and Place. They were part of the original line-up for two Speaking Volumes Breaking Ground tours to the USA, showcasing the Black British writers from the UK.
The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry seeks to recognize excellence in U.K. poetry, highlighting outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life. The £5,000 prize is donated by Carol Ann Duffy, funded from the annual honorarium the Poet Laureate traditionally receives. The Ted Hughes Award is informed by recommendations from members of The Poetry Society and the Poetry Book Society.