Costa Winners/Burns Celebrations/Pennsylvania Laureate – Poetry News Roundup January 10th

Our final poetry news round-up of the week looks at the winners of the 2019 Costa Book Awards, celebrations for Robert burns and the poet laureate of Pennsylvania.

Costa Book Awards 2019 – Winners Announced

Earlier this week the five winners of the Costa Book Awards for 2019 were announced. There are five different categories in the award and winner was chosen from a shortlist of five entries per category – the shortlist was announced back in December.

Of the five winners this year over half were nominated for a first body of work. Costa Novel of the Year Award went to Jonathan Coe for his 13th novel; a novel based around the divisions of Brexit Britain.

The First Novel Award went to Sara Collings for her Gothic romance set in 19th century London. The Biography Award went to Jack Fairweather, a former war reporter, and the Children’s book award was given to debut novelist Jasbinder Bilan for her contemporary Indian children’s story.

This year’s Costa Poetry Award was won by Mary Jean Chan, a poet, critic and lecturer for her debut poetry collection, Fleche. The book takes a look a wide range of topics; everything from queerness to cultural history and multilingualism. The judges felt that the collection was a stunningly beautiful collection of verses that were both political and personal.

Each of the winners will receive £5000. They will also be eligible to become the winner of the ultimate title, the 2019 Costa Book of the Year. The winner of the final prize will not be announced until 28th January.

Burns Day Celebrations

25th January with mark Robbie Burns Day. This year is the 261st anniversary of the poets birthday. Whilst Scotland will almost certainly mark the day with the traditional celebrations complete with Scottish music, bagpipes, single malt scotch and, of course, haggis, celebrations are planned to take place in other countries all over the world.

Wherever there are people of Scottish heritage, it is likely that some form of Burns night celebration is being planned to the poet who is often referred to as the national bard of Scotland.

Pictou County in Canada is one such place preparing for Burns night, an occasion that they have been celebrating for many years. Over the years the number of people joining them to celebrate has increased from just a handful to last years headcount of just over 200 people.

The Poet Laureate Position That Isn’t

All over the United States of America, state boards meet and appoint poet laureates. Almost every state has one and every couple of years they appoint a new candidate to the position. However, in Pennsylvania the situation is a little different. For almost two decades there has been no poet laureate. That is twice as long as the position has existed and nobody knows why.

The last poet laureate in the state was the poet Samuel Hazo, who was appointed in 1993 by the governor and was the first, last and only poet laureate the state has ever had. When he had served 10 years, the role was simply closed. No official statement or reason has ever been given for the unusual situation that now exists.

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