A collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Arts Council England, the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships offer a significant new professional development opportunity for poets, made possible through a bequest from Mr Joseph Compton in 1964.
The year-long Fellowships invest in the process and practice of making poetry, rewarding individuals who are making, or are capable of making, a significant contribution to a community of poetry. A distinctive part of the Fellowships is that they provide an open space for poetic practice, with no expectation of published work or performed events as a result of the award.
Over the Fellowship year, the poets will also have access to mentors and critical friends to help realise their vision, as they develop and enhance their practice. The initiative will award three bursaries biennially for three editions between 2017 and 2022.
Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Arts Council England worked with 250 nominators nationally, including poets, publishers, editors, literary development agencies, artists, funders and festival organisers. Their nominations led to 190 applications, resulting in a culturally and professionally diverse longlist of 65 poets from which a shortlist of eight was selected for interview.
The selection panel included writer, critic and academic David Dabydeen, poets Kate Fox and Mimi Khalvati, Gemma Seltzer, Relationship Manager (Literature), Arts Council England and Shonagh Manson, Director, Jerwood Charitable Foundation.
The successful Fellows were selected from a strong field of nominees who reflect the growing depth and breadth of poetry activity across the country, from grassroots to academic level, with a persistent theme of entrepreneurship and a growing trend of hybrid styles which intersect with a variety of art forms.
Born in Hackney, East London, page and spoken word poet Raymond Antrobus explores deafness, diaspora and language (oral, written and sign) which fuses with his practice as a teacher of performance and creative writing.
Originally from Coventry and now based in Warwickshire, Jane Commane is a page poet and editor whose work interrogates the complexities of class, ideas of place and identity, and examines the current troubled climate of austerity Britain.
Manchester-based page and performance poet Jackie Hagan uses a range of techniques, including puppetry and humour, to reach audiences who ordinarily might not engage, and to bring down barriers around people’s otherness, championing oddness and confronting prejudice.
Raymond Antrobus said: “Poetry in the UK needs more Fellowships like this. It not only takes the talent of the poet seriously, but poetry itself. This opportunity has come to me at an exciting time: when people are realising how broad the category of poetry is and its value. More importantly, this Fellowship has won me time. I have been scraping by for the last 10 years and I haven’t had the privilege to prioritise my own work. The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship is the first grant I have won which allows me to prioritise my craft as a poet, rather than as a teacher or community leader. I hope being one of the first recipients of the Fellowships gives me the opportunity to trail blaze.”
Jane Commane said: “The Fellowship is permission to take your work seriously, by gifting the time and resources to make that concentration on the quiet work – the craft of poetry – possible. Poetry has a really important role in how we respond to and interpret the world about us; there’s no doubt we’re living in strange and challenging times as a country, and as a world. I will be thinking and writing about poetry’s role in terms of history in the making, and how poetry can be a voice for change, documentation and response to our age. People and place mean a great deal to me, so no doubt the Midlands, and canals, rivers, cities and roads will be themes that find their way into some of this too.”
Jackie Hagan said: “I feel validated and accepted into a community that I sometimes feel too wonky, un-London and broken-toothed to be part of. I’m currently threadbare, so I want to get my bones full of hope, and enough space around my head so that I am capable of archiving the lives of the current disabled underclass with insight, humour and accuracy. There’s so much work to be done in the world and I know I can do it well, but then rent day comes and so I do loads of work for money. Having a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship means I can have a Ready Brek glow to go into the scary bits of towns and make a difference.”
Sarah Crown, Director of Literature, Arts Council England, said: “Many congratulations to Jackie, Jane and Raymond, whose talent, ambition and generosity are being recognised here. The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships offer them an unprecedented opportunity to create groundbreaking work and make a real impact within the poetry sector, as well as highlighting the vibrancy of the scene within the UK today. We’re delighted that our collaboration with Jerwood Charitable Foundation is able to provide much-needed funding for poets ready to take the next step in their career.”
Shonagh Manson, Director, Jerwood Charitable Foundation, added: “Working with Arts Council England to dream up an opportunity all about poets and poetry has been an immense privilege. As a panel, we were taken aback by the quality of submissions, and humbled by the sheer vivacity of the poetry community. It’s a community of self-starters who are making their own opportunities where often there are none. While this is commendable, I am proud that we have been able to award three inaugural bursaries with substantial financial support. Through the programme I hope we can inspire further support for this crucial and often under supported art form.”
The Fellowships start in August 2017.