Annal: 1997 Whitbread Book Award for Poetry

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 1997.

Book:Tales from Ovid

Tales from Ovid

Ted Hughes, Ovid

A powerful version of the Latin classic by England’s late Poet Laureate, now in paperback.When it was published in 1997, Tales from Ovid was immediately recognized as a classic in its own right, as the best rering of Ovid in generations, and as a major book in Ted Hughes’s oeuvre. The Metamorphoses of Ovid stands with the works of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton as a classic of world poetry; Hughes translated twenty-four of its stories with great power and directness. The result is the liveliest twentieth-century version of the classic, at once a delight for the Latinist and an appealing introduction to Ovid for the general reader.

Book:Assembling a Ghost

Assembling a Ghost

Peter Redgrove

A collection of the poetry of Peter Redgrove. His poems cover a range of topics from a summer cycle ride in Esher to the treatment of rust, from porridge to insects, and from leather goods to shell suits.



Simon Armitage

In 1996, Simon Armitage bought a powerful Russian telescope and began to inspect the night sky from his West Yorkshire home. The sequence of short poems in the middle of this book must have something to do with that new interest, each receiving its classical title from one of the constellations, while turning out to be less concerned with pure astronomy than with moments in the life of the poet’s mind. Celestial themes loom large elsewhere, with a number of what could be called religious poems towards the beginning of the book, and a play based on events around a total eclipse of the sun at the end. This dramatic tour de force was commissioned by the National Theatre, for performance by children, and confirmed Armitage as one of our true poetic experimenters—ceaselessly exploring and capable of making his stylistic advances without ever losing the confidence of his audience.

Book:Sugar Paper Blue

Sugar Paper Blue

Ruth Fainlight

It took twenty-seven years for a complex of events, impressions and memories to distill into the title-poem of this collection. Based on a visit to Leningrad in 1965 and the shock of learning that Anna Ahkmatova was living in the flat above her guide’s; drawing on remembered stories of her mother and aunt as young immigrants to New York City in the early years of the century, and on the overwhelming reality of Russian history, Ruth Fainlight uses many voices to give expression to so much rich material. There are meditations on the art of poetry, observations of the natural world—whether the sub-molecular realm of chaos theory, the geomorphic reality of continental drift or the habits of crepuscular moths, and examples of her characteristic subtle analysis of the shifting relationships between women and men.

Book:Violet (Selima Hill)


Selima Hill

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