This article is taken from Stand 238, 21(2) June - August 2023.

Hannah Copley Editorial
The only group not celebrating enthusiastically were the poets. Unlike the Costas, the new Nero Book Awards would not include poetry as a prize category, focusing instead on Debut Fiction, Fiction, Children’s Fiction, and Non-Fiction. According to a spokesperson from Caffè Nero, ‘the chosen categories reflect the main genres readers are most likely to find/see when they visit a bookshop or online retailer’. Meryl Halls, Managing Director of The Booksellers Association, the trade organisation in charge of administering the prize, praised the new award for undertaking ‘that rare thing of celebrating books across multiple genres, with an emphasis on commercial books with wide appeal.’ Many did not necessarily see the exclusion of poetry as a particularly ‘rare thing’, but rather a familiar willingness to ignore the important role that it plays in our literary and popular culture.

Writing in the Guardian, Rishi Dastidar argued that commercial popularity had very little to do with the decision, pointing to Rupi Kaur and Warsan Shire as two notable examples of poetry’s widespread popular appeal. ‘The failure here’, notes Dastidar, ‘is one of imagination – a belief that because contemporary poetry currently appears to be a niche interest it must always be so. Or that most of what is written is overly intellectual at the expense of being accessibly emotional.’ Poetry, like any art form, is a broad church, with something for everyone. What’s missing from the new prize is the belief that a work can be rigorous and intellectually challenging and still moving. Hannah Lowe’s collection, The Kids, which won both ...
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