Brookes Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing, Hannah Lowe, has been named as a ‘Next Generation Poet’ by the Poetry Book Society. The list of twenty poets, which is drawn up only once a decade, was selected from 241 submissions from poetry publishers. The list represents the most exciting new voices in poetry, published over the last decade and inclusion in the past has launched the careers of many of today’s leading British and Irish poets, including Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage.
Next Generation Poet
Hannah says that receiving the award was especially important for her as she was a late starter as a poet: ”I didn’t write anything until I was 30,” she says. “Lots of the writers in this generation 2014 are the writers I was reading five years ago, thinking: ‘I want to be like you’, and so to be in their esteemed company is fantastic.”
Hannah was inspired to write poetry having read Staying Alive, an anthology of contemporary poetry (published by Bloodaxe Books) and through her teaching of poetry to her sixth-form English students. But it was the subject matter from her own past – the life of her late Chinese- Jamaican father, an elusive presence in her youth – which drove her to find a poetic voice.
Hannah explained: “The collection for which I was selected for Next Generation is Chick, the collection about my Dad. He was Chick, that was his nickname. I think I had this very strong compulsion to write about him and it was a relief really when I finally realised I had a medium to express this stuff and it kind of went from there; I couldn’t stop writing. I signed up for creative writing classes; I think at one point I was doing three classes a week.”
Poetry is the reaching out of the literary arts
The importance placed on poetry at Brookes through the work of the Poetry Centre and individual academics is appreciated by Hannah who sees Brookes’ involvement in the artform as part of the University’s inclusive ethos. She describes poetry as “the reaching out of the literary arts” and says, “I feel that poetry in its short digestible forms despite its reputation of being difficult obtuse and undecipherable is actually incredibly inclusive. Poetry is essentially heard language with all its concerns with the way words sound together with metre and rhyme and rhythm. It has the most basic appeal to all of us.”
She strongly believes poetry is mainly written to be heard and says,“That trait is really evident in the rise of live poetry readings and spoken word performances, which are incredibly popular and Oxford certainly is a place where there is a lot of energy around those scenes.”
Hannah says writing poetry is like rediscovering her love of creativity from childhood.
“For me poetry is closer to music and art than it is necessarily to fiction,” she says, “The poetry I love and try and write is always strongly visual. I try to paint with words. When I write, I think ‘this is the image that’s in my head and how can I make you see it as well?’ And that’s what a painter does. Poetry is also strongly musical, not that prose fiction can’t be, but poetry lends itself more to that. For me it has always overlapped those things I loved as a child – painting and playing music and so to come to poetry later in life it really is like rediscovering the things that I let go when I was younger.”
The next ten years
Next Generation poets are listed once a decade; looking forward to poetry’s direction in the next ten years, Hannah believes there will be ever more diversity: “I think there’s a broader range of voices than ever in this next 2014 list, so for example Kei Miller who has just won the Forward poetry prize is a Caribbean voice. And the spoken word has become more and more popular, so the presence of a voice like Kate Tempest is interesting. I expect there will be more of this kind of poetry, which is closer to rapping.
“In terms of my own writing, I have an interest in the experimental, and thematically, I think writing from the left-wing and anti-racist perspective, which was there in Chick, will continue to guide my work. I am also more and more interested in subversive histories – writing against the main grain of history – so my new pamphlet, for example, tells a different story about British migration challenging the centrality of the Windrush in post-war Caribbean migration.”
Hannah Lowe’s new work Ormonde will be launched on 4 November.
Hannah will be reading her work at the Reading Poetry Festival on 7–9 November as part of an Oxford Brookes event.
Hear Hannah reading from ‘Chick‘ below.