Eyewear Publishing LTD is pleased to announce that Jenna Clake is the 2016 winner of the £1,500 Melita Hume Prize--the UK's largest monetary prize for a debut collection--for her book Fortune Cookie.
‘I am thrilled to have won the Melita Hume Prize, and look forward to releasing my first collection,’ says Clake. ‘This is something I have been working towards for the past few years, and I am incredibly grateful to Eyewear for the opportunity.’
Clake is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on the feminine and feminist Absurd in twenty-first century British and American poetry. She is also the Poetry and Arts Editor for the Birmingham Journal of Literature and Language. Clarke's work appears in Poems in Which, The Bohemyth, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and more.
The final judge, Professor Mark Ford, editor of the American edition of John Ashbery's collected poems and Faber poet, selected Fortune Cookie from this year’s exceptionally strong shortlist of ten. Ford had this to say about the finalists and the winner:
'All of the ten submitted manuscripts that made it onto the short list for this year’s Melita Hume Poetry Prize contained excellent poems, and I would not be at all surprised if all ten of the poets selected went on to develop original and interesting poetic careers. I was struck by the variety of the idioms put to use by these manuscripts, and by the different conceptions of poetry implicit in their styles and choice of subject matter. It is perhaps a cliché to say that the most distinctive feature of the contemporary poetry scene is its diversity – we don’t live ‘in the age’ of anyone in particular, as the Victorians, say, lived in the age of Tennyson. Therefore a judge of a poetry competition such as this has to tune in to the kind of poetry that is being developed in a given manuscript, and then come to a decision about how successfully the poet is deploying the techniques made available by the mode selected. Personal taste also, inevitably, comes into it: a different judge might well have picked a different winner.
I was also conscious that the winning manuscript would be published as a book. It is not easy for poets putting together a first collection to get a sense of how a volume should be arranged so as to hold a reader’s interest, and if I had a general tip for these poets it would be to study how, say, Philip Larkin arranged the poems in The Less Deceived and The Whitsun Weddings. A number of the manuscripts submitted seemed to me simply too long, to offer too many poems in the same vein. Certainly poets need to develop a distinctive style, but a collection has to be various and surprising, and to present poetry in a range of different registers.
After much agonizing I selected Jenna Clake’s collection, aptly entitled Fortune Cookie. I found the poems in this manuscript a delight to read: funny, moving, unpredictable, sure-footed, elegant, lively. They reminded me of the work of the great American poet James Tate, who died a couple of years ago. Many offer deadpan accounts of wacky or off-kilter situations, or present mini-narratives that are almost parables, but not quite. Reading each one was indeed a bit like opening a fortune cookie, and finding a motto inside that was at once intriguing and entertaining, bleak and hilarious. I much look forward to seeing this collection in print.'
Eyewear will release Fortune Cookie in autumn of 2017. Reviewers who wish to reserve an advance review copy should email the editors at email@example.com.
The entry period for the 2017 Melita Hume Prize will open in January. The final judge will be Forward-winning poet Vahni Capildeo.