Our final poetry news round-up of the week looks at the Forward poetry prize and the poet Roger McGough and his new poetry anthology.
Poet from Northern Ireland Shortlisted for Top Prize
A poet from Northern Ireland, who has a rather unusual inspiration for his work, has been announced as one of the writers shortlisted for what is one of the largest literary prizes in the UK.
Stephen Sexton, who was born in Ballygowan, uses Super Mario – the mascot of the Nintendo video game – as a source of inspiration. Sexton, a lecturer in creative writing at Queens University, which is located in Belfast, began writing his Mario inspired poetry when his mother passed away from cancer when he was just 23.
If All the World and Love Were Young, his debut book, used imagery that he took from a level of the game Super Mario World. He equated the bosses and castles found at the end of the game levels with some of the real-life occurrences that took place at the time such as visits to the hospital and his mother’s final weeks in a hospice. Each line of each poem also uses 16 syllables in honour of the 16-bit console he used as a child.
The book has now been nominated in the category of “Best First Collection” of the Forward Prizes for which there is a £5000 award. The prize boasts an impressive previous winners list including the current poet laureate Simon Armitage, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
The winners of the prize will be announced at a special event that will take place on 20th October at the Southbank Centre.
Durham Book Festival and Roger McGough
When the poet Roger McGough took a DNA test, the results were for the most surprising – he has roots in Ireland and Scotland which were no surprise to him given his upbringing in Liverpool and his Roman Catholic background. What did surprise him was the Spanish, Greek and Italian routes in his lineage which were a significant proportion.
It was until he was talking about the test with fellow poet Carol Ann Duffy that the idea was mooted to turn the results into a poem. The results are “The Full English” a poem in which McGough speculates on the lives of his ancestors that ultimately gave him his DNA profile.
The poem is part of McGough’s new anthology “joinedupwriting” which will get an airing a the Durham Book Festival which will take place in October. A number of the works in the anthology are inspired by the poet’s Liverpudlian childhood.
Some of the poems discuss the strict schooling that he received whilst others talk about things like his favourite chippy from his childhood or using Brasso to polish the family’s silver items.
McGough has been penning poetry since he was in his 20’s. In 1967 he became more prominent as a poet when The Mersey Sound was published. He was also a member of The Scaffold; a comedy music trio who wrote and recorded the UK chart-topper Lily The Pink.
However, it was a career as a poet that he chose rather than one that would take him into musical circles. And it certainly paid off. In his illustrious career he has written over 100 books of poetry for both children and adults.