The Cosmo Davenport-Hines Poetry Prize: 2016 winners

by Ruth Padel, Poetry Fellow

The Cosmo Davenport-Hines Poetry Prize was set up to commemorate a student who loved poetry. His father Richard is always one of the judges, and I was delighted to be invited to chair the four-judge team alongside my colleagues Elizabeth Eger and Alan Marshall. We had 152 entries and the theme was ‘Time’, a general enough title to be interpreted in many more than 152 ways.

Our individual shortlists of ten had few overlaps, but one of the joys of judging the prize is discussing poems with colleagues and learning from their different ways of reading and responding. ‘Reading Poetry’ is a first year course but learning new ways of reading poetry is a lifetime’s work for everybody, and the long list we eventually worked down to this year reflects the state of contemporary poetry: extraordinarily varied.

For the first time, we awarded six Commendations, in addition to the three winners, because we couldn’t bear to give the other poems up. We also awarded a joint Third Prize: the difference between these two poems reflects the whole spectrum of possibilities for poetry today.

Featured image © Michael Handrick.


Cosmo Davenport-Hines Poetry Prize winners 2016

Joint Third Prize

Poem One, by Valeria Marcon Poem One Continue reading The Cosmo Davenport-Hines Poetry Prize: 2016 winners

South Asians and the First World War: Reflections

by Dr Natasha Awais-Dean, Project and Communications Manager  of ‘Cultural Exchange in a Time of Global Conflict: Colonials, Neutrals and Belligerents during the First World War’ (HERA)

Fig 13

 

Despite there being over 1 million South Asian soldiers fighting in the war alongside two million Africans as well as troops from New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, there has traditionally been a rather narrow and Anglo-centric view of how the history of the First World War has been communicated within Britain. Yet, the true story is far more complex and wide-ranging than this suggests.

Over the last two years, there has been greater visibility of the South Asian contribution to the First World War but we still have a long way to go. Now that we have reached the midpoint of the centennial commemoration, how do we keep up the momentum while at the same time find a way, as Dr Santanu Das notes, to go ‘beyond simple recovery and commemoration’ and address the complexity of the history? How do we find creative ways of engaging with the South Asian contribution to draw in fresh generations?

What seems to have been driving this greater visibility of the South Asian war story in Britain is its relation to a broader British Asian identity today – can the contribution of the South Asian soldiers, who served alongside English Tommies, be used to achieve greater racial harmony? Indeed, could this be the key to healing the current racial and ethnic divides in our society (something that we are perhaps feeling now more than ever), but without sanitising any of the horrors of the war or ignoring the racial hierarchies and inequalities that marked the colonial war experience? The need for authenticity is paramount, to maintain integrity in dealing with this often messy history in both an ethical and, crucially, productive manner. Continue reading South Asians and the First World War: Reflections

‘A new route discovered’: On Shakespeare’s Sonnets

by Dr Clare Whitehead, Research Assistant

First published in 1609, Shakespeare’s sonnets are among the most accomplished and absorbing poems in the English language. They are also some of the most beloved and have enjoyed a vibrant afterlife, with continued readings, recitations, and reprints fortifying Shakespeare’s claim in Sonnet 60: “My verse shall stand”. These remarkable poems do not stand alone however, but rather, alongside the many works that they have inspired.

Continue reading ‘A new route discovered’: On Shakespeare’s Sonnets

London is my East: A Reflection on Travel

By Dr Alvin Eng Hui Lim, department alumnus and postdoctoral fellow at the National University of Singapore.

I’m on a British Airways flight from Changi airport, Singapore to Heathrow, London. The cabin crew, a mix of ethnicities, leaves me alone after the initial smiles and courtesies with the inflight entertainment, only punctuating my viewing experience a couple of times to serve me microwaved food – mostly chicken, or vaguely tasting like it.

I’m at Heathrow. A Chinese custom officer chides me in impeccable English for not completing the landing card before I join the queue. I do as told, and my voice struggles to complete a sentence when another custom officer addresses me and stamps my passport.

“What are you here for? What are you studying?”

“PhD. Theatre. At King’s College London.”

Maybe it is my face and how I sound. An inner joke seems to flash across his face as it changes. I am free to go.

Continue reading London is my East: A Reflection on Travel