So, like it or lump it, 20 poets from Britain, first published here between 2004 and 2014, have been singled out for media hype, a book tour, and general praise. A disclaimer, I was not eligible for this prize, though several excellent poets Eyewear publishes were.
The 2014 Next Generation Poets list in full:
Tara Bergin (This is Yarrow, Carcanet)
Emily Berry (Dear Boy, Faber & Faber)
Sean Borodale (Bee Journal, Jonathan Cape)
Adam Foulds (The Broken Word, Jonathan Cape)
Annie Freud (The Mirabelles, Picador)
Alan Gillis (Here Comes the Night, Gallery)
Rebecca Goss (Her Birth, Carcanet)
Jen Hadfield (Nigh-No-Place, Bloodaxe)
Emma Jones (The Striped World, Faber & Faber)
Luke Kennard (The Harbour Beyond the Movie, Salt)
Melissa Lee-Houghton (Beautiful Girls, Penned in the Margins)
Hannah Lowe (Chick, Bloodaxe)
Kei Miller (A Light Song of Light, Carcanet)
Helen Mort (Division Street, Chatto & Windus)
Daljit Nagra (Look We Have Coming to Dover!, Faber & Faber)
Heather Phillipson (Instant-flex 718, Bloodaxe)
Kate Tempest (Brand New Ancients, Picador)
Mark Waldron (The Brand New Dark, Salt)
Sam Willetts (New Light for the Old Dark, Jonathan Cape)
Jane Yeh (The Ninjas, Carcanet)
Now is hardly the time to carp - congratulations to these people, several of whom I have taught in workshops, or taught with, and many I admire and consider friends or colleagues (a few I am less keen on, such is life).
Of these, several are already viewed as essential poets of their generation, such as Luke Kennard, Daljit Nagra, Jane Yeh, Jen Hadfield - and others, like Helen Mort and Emily Berry and Kate Tempest are debut poets of recent vintage that any critic or teacher of new British poetry would include on their syllabus.
Why many people will be unhappy with this list is not new - the tendency for the poets to come from established or long-running presses (even indie Penned in the Margins is ten years old; Salt was venerable already when it stopped single author titles last year); the impression that more innovative poetries are not included - the general lack of multicultural range (though this has been somewhat addressed this time). Some will regret the absence of any poet from Seren, or Eyewear or Cinnamon, or Arc, or Enitharmon, or Anvil, or Shearsman etc. - and wonder if the cost of submission was an issue. Eyewear submitted a number of our poets.
The judges are talented and smart and know their stuff, and one has to accept their selection. My own list would have looked, more or less, 50% like theirs, anyway. It is not a very shocking list, and gets a lot "right". It does miss a lot, though, too, and seems heavily weighted to publications in the last few years (considerably fewer of the poets come from the first half of the decade under examination).
There are some very painful absences - several Salt poets, James Brookes and Jon Stone, seem to me to be as brilliant as any poet now writing in the UK. Perhaps Salt did not submit them? What of James Byrne? Sandeep Parmar? Zoe Brigley? Kathryn Simmonds? All should have been there.
Others one might have expected to find on this list would include in no order: Lorraine Mariner, Rachael Boast, David Briggs, Frances Leviston, Siddhartha Bose, Miriam Gamble, Sarah Jackson, Adam O'Riordan, Kate Potts, Tom Chivers, Niall Campbell, Olli Hazzard, John Clegg, Melanie Challenger, Tishani Doshi, Paul Batchelor, Sam Riviere, Hilary Menos, Katy Evans Bush and Ahren Warner, to name a few of the best of the current UK/Irish poets. And, of course, as mentioned above, excellent experimental or smaller press poets are missing in droves.
Sadly, such a promotion will benefit mostly the larger publishers, who already have more funding and more funds, and while it is a good thing to see these fine poets praised and toured, and while any poetry book selling is always good news, it might have been a refreshing change if 25-50% of the poets had come from the small/indie press world.
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