In London, Raymond Antrobus Named 2019 Young Writer Award Winner

In News by Porter Anderson

With appreciation for Raymond Antrobus’ ‘commitment not just to recognizing difference but to the difficult act of forgiveness,’ the Young Writer Award Jury opts for poetry this year.

Raymond Antrobus at the award ceremony for the 2019 Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award. Image: STUW

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Armfield, Fowler, Sherwood on Shortlist
The 2019 Young Writer of the Year Award overnight at the London Library (December 5) has honored The Perseverance, the poetry collection by Raymond Antrobus (Penned in the Margins, October 2018).

This is the awards program sponsored by the Sunday Times and the University of Warwick for British and Irish writers who are 35 and younger. As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, its shortlist included three strong contenders for the top honor:

  • Salt Slow by Julia Armfield (Pan Macmillan/Picador, May)
  • Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler (Hachette/Little, Brown/Fleet, February)
  • Testament by Kim Sherwood (Hachette/Quercus/Riverrun, July, 2018)

The winner of this one gets a 10-week residency in the University of Warwick’s writing program and a purse of £5,000 (US$6,566). This year, the winner and the three shortlisted finalists also get yearlong memberships at the London Library.

It’s been a big year for Antrobus. The Perseverance has had wins including the Poetry Book Society Choice, the Ted Hughes Award, the Rathbones Folio Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award. Shortlistings for the title include the Griffin Prize, the Forward Prize for best first collection, the Jhalak Prize, and the Michael Murphy Prize.

The Perseverance has also been named Poetry Book of the Year by The Guardian and by the Sunday Times—the latter of which sponsors the Young Writer award and puts its literary editor Andrew Holgate into place as chair of the jury.

Antrobus is 33 and from East London’s Hackney district.

Apparently the load of submissions this year—reportedly surpassing 100 titles for the first time—prompted an expansion of the jury panel. This year, Holgate is joined by editor and bookseller Nick Rennison; Warwick’s Gonzalo C. Garcia; poet and writer Kate Clanchy, and the bestselling author Victoria Hislop.

In a rationale about the selection, juror Clanchy is especially informative, saying, “We wanted to find a writer who both speaks for now and who we were confident would continue to produce valuable, central work. Raymond Antrobus’ The Perseverance draws together the worlds of performance and page poetry and speaks for his Jamaican British heritage and his d/Deaf communities in a way that’s completely contemporary.

“But it was the humanity of the book, its tempered kindness, and its commitment not just to recognizing difference but to the difficult act of forgiveness that made us confident we had found a winner for this extraordinary year.”

Background on the Young Writer of the Year Award

This awards program was on hiatus between 2009 and 2015. Past winners are:

  • Adam Weymouth, Kings of the Yukon (2018)
  • Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends (2017)
  • Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers (2016)
  • Sarah Howe, Loop of Jade (2015)
  • Ross Raisin, God’s Own Country (2009)
  • Adam Foulds, The Truth About These Strange Times (2008)
  • Naomi Alderman, Disobedience (2007)
  • Robert Macfarlane, Mountains  of  the Mind: a History of a Fascination (2004)
  • William Fiennes, The Snow Geese (2003)
  • Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2001)
  • Sarah Waters, Affinity (2000)
  • Paul Farley, The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You (1999)
  • Patrick French, Liberty or Death: India’s Journey to Independence and Division (1998)
  • Francis Spufford, I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination (1997)
  • Katherine Pierpoint, Truffle Beds (1996)
  • Andrew Cowan, Pig (1995)
  • William Dalrymple, City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi (1994)
  • Simon Armitage, Kid (1993)
  • Caryl Phillips, Cambridge (1992)
  • Helen Simpson, Four Bare Legs in a Bed and Other Stories (1991)

This is one of the many award programs administered by the Society of Authors, and in addition to the Sunday Times and University of Warwick, it also has partnership support from the British Council.

On social media, you can find more about the award at @YoungWriterAward and #YoungWriterAward.


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book prizes is here, and more from us on the UK market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.