Hannah Sullivan wins John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize

Poet Hannah Sullivan is the winner of the inaugural John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize at Trinity College Dublin.

This is the first year of the prize, which will be awarded on an annual basis to the author of an outstanding debut poetry book collection in the English language.

Valued at €10,000 the prize is sponsored by the John Pollard Foundation and administered by the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre in the School of English, Trinity. The patron of the John Pollard Foundation is Stephen Vernon, Chairman of Green Property plc, who named the Foundation in memory of his grandfather, John Pollard.

Hannah Sullivan was awarded the prize for her debut collection Three Poems, which was published by Faber & Faber in 2018. Though each poem stands apart, their inventive and looping encounters make for a compelling unity.

‘You, Very Young in New York’ captures a great American city, in all its alluring detail. It is a wry and tender study of romantic possibility, disappointment, and the obduracy of innocence. ‘Repeat until Time’ begins with a move to California and unfolds into an essay on repetition and returning home, at once personal and philosophical. ‘The Sandpit after Rain’ explores the birth of a child and the loss of a father with exacting clarity.

At an award ceremony in Trinity, Professor Harry Clifton, a member of the judging panel, said of Three Poems: “It is our particular pleasure to award the prize, in this its inaugural year, to a work of poetry that seems, in the controlled expansiveness of its form, its unity of cosmopolitan flux with a hearkening back to roots, and its life-affirmation, to evoke the ghost of Louis MacNeice, who would, as Irishman and internationalist, have taken it totally to heart.”

Commenting on winning the award, Hannah Sullivan said: “It’s an incredible honour to be the first winner of a prize set up to consider a diverse body of work, but also admirably focused in its attention to first collections. I’m immensely grateful to the selection committee; they were set an impossible task!”

“At a personal level, there’s a particular significance in being awarded an Irish prize. The last poem in Three Poems is about and for my father, who was born in London in 1950 to parents who had only recently arrived from Bantry in Co. Cork. He cultivated in me the sense that poetry was an important thing, something I might work at. And I’ve been especially indebted, I think, to some Irish poets: as a teenager to Yeats and the MacNeice of Autumn Journal and, as a woman writer, to Eavan Boland.”

Chair of the selection committee and Professor in English in Trinity, Aileen Douglas, added:  “This new award demonstrates the vitality and diversity of current poetry in English and features volumes from a range of publishers including small independent houses as well as university presses and long established commercial publishers. The Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre has a rich tradition in creative writing and the nurturing of new talent. We are delighted to be associated with the Pollard Foundation and with this prestigious new international prize.”

Other members of the judging panel were Harry Clifton, poet, former Ireland Professor of Poetry and visiting research fellow in English, Trinity; Tim Dooley, tutor for The Poetry School, visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster, and an arts mentor for the Koestler Trust; and Tom Walker, Ussher Assistant Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity.

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