The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 

Information about the 2014 Ted Hughes Award will be announced in September, so watch this space for news of the UK's number one award for innovation in poetry!

Congratulations to Maggie Sawkins who won the 2013 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for Zones of Avoidance 


Maggie Sawkins receives her cheque from Carol Ann Duffy


Image: Maggie Sawkins receives her cheque from poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy


Zones of Avoidance is a multimedia live literature production written and performed by Maggie Sawkins and directed by Mark C Hewitt with video sequences by artist Abigail Norris. Sawkins describes it as ‘A Word Dance into the Void of Addiction’. The narrator’s quest is to discover the lure of psychoactive substances following her daughter’s descent into addiction. This multi-media live literature production captures the surreal mundanity of living with addiction and combines the poet’s moving testimony with the voices of addicts in recovery. Zones of Avoidance was first performed as part of Portsmouth Bookfest in October 2013.

From Zones of Avoidance

I’m reading ‘The Confessions of an English Opium Eater’ –
I want to understand what drove my daughter out in the snow
with no coat or socks, in search of a fix. 
I want to understand what divinity led her
to set up camp in the derelict ‘pigeon house’ 
after running out of sofas to surf.
I was a Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds girl myself.
I liked the way it made inanimate objects move,
until that day in Balham when my guy sang Rock n Roll Suicide
from a third floor window, and an Alsatian leapt
from the wood grain of the station door, and policemen 
were penguins in disguise.
Tough Love. The mantra of the support group for those 
beaten by their loved one’s addiction.
When I was busted at nineteen and the bedsit landlord 
tipped my belongings onto the street, the last person 
I would’ve turned to was my mother.
You’ve made your bed. Lie on it. Lie on it. Lie on it.
My mother warned me about heroin, but it wasn’t to be
my drug of choice –
I preferred to turn on, tune in, drop out to Timothy Leary,
pick up my needle and move to another groove,

to fathom Hell and soar angelic,
to take a pinch of psychedelic.

Judge Denise Riley said of the winning piece:

"This is an ambitious multimedia presentation using film, voices and sound, which works exceptionally well. It is a challenging, painfully open account of a daughter's addiction, yet it's an account which also offers graceful good humour. Beautifully written and uncompromising, it's a modern story that we felt the writer was compelled to tell; it acts as a vivid witness of harsh experiences which aren't often described in poetry, and Maggie Sawkins' illuminating descriptions will prove helpful for others to hear."

The judges considered work in a wide variety of forms for the award – from radio-plays and installations to books and sound works – including a number of interdisciplinary collaborations. They selected a shortlist of five, including Maggie Sawkins: Steve Ely, Chris McCabe, Hannah Silva and Zoë Skoulding.

Maggie SawkinsMaggie Sawkins has written poetry since she was a child. Her two poetry collections are Charcot’s Pet (Flarestack, 2003) and The Zig Zag Woman (Two Ravens Press, 2007). Maggie works with people in recovery from addiction, and teaches students with specific learning difficulties at South Downs College, near Portsmouth. In 2003 she founded Tongues&Grooves Poetry and Music Club. Last year she represented Portsmouth on the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize 20th Anniversary Tour.

Click here to read more.


The shortlist

Steve Ely for Oswald’s Book of Hours

Chris McCabe for Pharmapoetica

Maggie Sawkins for Zones of Avoidance

Hannah Silva for Total Man

Zoë Skoulding for The Museum of Disappearing Sounds

Click here to read more about the shortlist.


The Judges

Sean Borodale was Northern Arts Fellow of the Wordsworth Trust in 1999 and Guest Artist at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam in 2002. From 2002-7 he was a teaching fellow at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. His long topographical work Notes for an Atlas was recommended by Robert Macfarlane in the Guardian Summer Books 2005. It was performed in 2007 at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, directed by Mark Rylance, as part of the first London Festival of Literature. Recent projects include Grey Matter with artist Jonathan Houlding which included a residency at the Fundacion Pilar i Joan Miro, Mallorca, 2009. Bee Journal, his debut full-length collection of poems was published by Jonathan Cape in 2012. He was selected as a Granta New Poet in 2012 and was recently shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Book Award.

Painter and printmaker Eileen Cooper RA studied at Goldsmith’s College and Royal College of Art, London. She was appointed Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools in 2011, the first female officer of the RA since it was founded in 1768. She has had solo exhibitions at Air Gallery, Benjamin Rhodes Gallery and the Dulwich Picture Gallery (all London); Castlefield Gallery, Manchester; Artsite, Bath; and Glasgow Print Studio. Eileen Cooper at 50 was shown at Art First in London and New York. Her work has featured in many group and international touring exhibitions including: The New British PaintingThe Outsider: British Figuration Now; Picturing People and Innocence and Experience. She has been represented by Art First since 1997 (Image credit: Anne Purkiss)

Denise Riley has a background in both poetry and academia. She is currently Professor of Poetry and the History of Ideas at the University of East Anglia. Riley’s many collections of poetry include Penguin Modern Poets 10 (with Douglas Oliver and Ian Sinclair), and Denise Riley: Selected Poems. She edited Poets on Writing; Britain 1970-1991. Her recent work studies philosophies of selfpresence, the neurophenomenology of selfawareness, and the history of understandings of inner speech and how these enter into our ideas of what’s interior and what’s outside. Her long poem sequence ‘A Part Song’ won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, and was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award (both 2012). (Image credit: Kevin Lake)

Previous winners

The winner of the 2012 Ted Hughes Award was Kate Tempest for her spoken word piece Brand New Ancients.
Read more about Kate Tempest and Brand New Ancients here, and visit the history section to find out about earlier winners, including Lavinia Greenlaw and Alice Oswald.

The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry

The £5,000 prize is donated by Carol Ann Duffy, funded from the annual honorarium the Poet Laureate traditionally receives from HM The Queen. The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry seeks to recognise excellence in poetry, highlighting outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life.

“In order to thrive, poetry must always be open to the world it inhabits. This means that it’s vital for poets to engage with other art forms. A poet can learn as much about their craft from closely examining the work of other artists as they can from poetry itself.” 

Sarah Maguire, judge of The Ted Hughes Award 2011.


What's New?

Are you a poet? Are you planning some exciting new work in 2014? Let us know.


September 2014
2012 Winner Kate Tempest is a Mercury Prize nominee and one of the 2014 Next Generation Poets!

June 2014
Denise Riley, shortlisted for the 2012 THA is awarded announced as a Cholmondeley winner for achievement in poetry 

March 2014

Maggie Sawkins is announced as the winner of the Ted Hughes Award 2013!

March 2014
The shortlist for the Ted Hughes Award 2013 has now been announced! 

November 2013
2012 Winner Kate Tempest appears on Front Row on Radio 4. Click here to hear the interview.

August 2013

2012 Winner Kate Tempest appears on Woman's Hour on Radio 4, click here to hear the interview. 

August 2013
2012 Winner Kate Tempest takes Brand New Ancients on tour to the Edinburgh Fringe.

March 2013
Kate Tempest is announced the winner of the Ted Hughes Award 2012!

March 2013
The shortlist for the Ted Hughes Award 2012 has now been announced.

September 2012
The judges of this year's award have been announced, and recommendations are now being accepted.

March 2012
The winner of the Ted Hughes Award 2011 has now been announced.

February 2012
The shortlist for the Ted Hughes Award 2011 has now been announced.

January 2012
THA 2010 winner, Kaite O'Reilly, has been in touch to tell us about a new project, The Echo Chamber. This new performance from The Llanarth Group interweaves movement, text, and sound to explore “elemental” human matters. See Kaite's website for more info.