Development & Alumni Relations Office 


04 July 2018

The Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University has announced the winner of this year’s First Collection Poetry Prize – Richard Osmond, for his anthology Useful Verses, published by Picador Poetry.


The announcement was made at a special reception on Tuesday 3 July at the ‘No Alibis’ Bookstore on Botanic Avenue in Belfast.


Richard Osmond's debut Useful Verses follows in the tradition of the best nature writing, being as much about the human world as the natural, the present as the past.


The Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize was inaugurated to celebrate the work of the Centre, and to honour its founding poet. It is awarded to a writer whose first full collection has been published in the preceding year, by a UK or Ireland-based publisher, through the support of Glucksman Ireland House and The Atlantic Philanthropies.


The winner receives £5,000 and is invited to read at Glucksman Ireland House at New York University for the annual Tom Quinlan Lecture in Poetry (Autumn 2018). For this they receive travel, accommodation, and a $1,000 honorarium.


This year’s judges were Professor Edna Longley (critic and Professor Emeritus at Queen’s and Chair of the judging panel), Professor Gerald Dawe (writer and Fellow Emeritus at Trinity College Dublin), and Doireann Ni Ghríofa (poet and Fellow at the Seamus Heaney Centre).


Speaking about the winning collection Professor Longley said: “Useful Verses is a wonderfully original collection, which relishes and renews everything that poetry can do with language. It’s also a challenging vision of our relations with the natural world.”


Born in 1987, Richard Osmond works as a wild-food forager, searching for plants, fruits and fungi among the forests and hedgerows of Hertfordshire. He received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2017.


With a deep knowledge of flora and fauna as they appear in both natural and human history, as they are depicted in both folklore and herbal, Richard views them through a wholly contemporary lens. So Chamomile is discussed through quantum physics, ants through social media, wood sorrel through online gambling, and mugwort through a traffic cone.


This is a fiercely inventive, darkly witty and brilliantly observed debut from a voice unlike any other you have read before - and as far from any quaint and conservative notion of 'nature poetry' as it is possible to get.


Since 2003 the Seamus Heaney Centre has been home to some of the UK and Ireland’s foremost poets, novelists, scriptwriters, and critics. Building on a literary heritage at Queen’s that stretches back to the 1960s ‘Belfast Group’, the Centre is dedicated to excellence and innovation in creative writing and poetry criticism.


The 2018 shortlist also included: Kumukanda, by Kayo Chingonyi (published by Chatto & Windus); The Immortalist, by Ellen Cranitch (Templar Poetry); Alarum, by Wayne Holloway-Smith (Bloodaxe Books) and All the Prayers in the House, by Miriam Nash (Bloodaxe Books).


For more on Glucksman Ireland House NYU, please contact Associate Director Miriam Nyhan, telephone: 001 (212) 998-3952 and for information on Picador Poetry, contact Alice Dewing, telephone: +44 (0)20 7014 6146.


General enquiries to Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO), tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.


Media enquiries to Rachel Brown, Coordinator, Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s, telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 1074.



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