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Stirling PhD student competes for top poetry prize

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Hannah Silva
Hannah Silva has been shortlisted for Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. The winner will be announced at a reception in London this Friday (March 28).

A poet and playwright – studying for a PhD at the University of Stirling – is vying for honours in a prestigious poetry competition.

Hannah Silva is in the running for the £5000 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. The winner will be announced at a reception in London this Friday (March 28). Ms Silva has been shortlisted alongside four other writers for the top prize.

Hannah (30) was shortlisted for a piece entitled “Total Man”.

She said: “I'm absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted, and really very surprised.

“Total Man was part of a wider programme of events produced by Penned in the Margins and Mercy under the banner 'Electronic Voice Phenomena'. Other artists commissioned on the tour include Ross Sutherland, SJ Fowler and Outfit. We performed in some fantastic venues to great audiences; it was an honour to have been part of the project and to work with the producers and the other artists involved.

“I made and toured Total Man in Spring 2013, which was before I started my PhD with Stirling University and the British Library. However - although my PhD is now my main focus - I am continuing to write and make work this year.

“I’m very grateful to Stirling University and particularly my supervisor, Dr Gemma Robinson, for trusting me when it comes to organising the two aspects of my life. So far I've found that being a poet myself is a great help when it comes to analysing poetry in performance and interviewing other poets.”

Ms Silva was born in Dorset, grew up in Suffolk and recently moved to Birmingham. Her work is characterised by its “playful interrogation of language, voice and form”. In 2008 she was described by The Times Online as “one of the most ambitious and entertaining poets in the country”.

She has performed at the Tokyo Design Centre, Krikri International Festival of Polyphony in Belgium, Poetry Hearings in Berlin and throughout the UK at festivals including Latitude, the London Word Festival and StAnza (Scotland’s poetry festival). She won the Tinniswood award at the recent BBC Audio Drama Awards for her play “Marathon Tales”. She is an associate artist with Penned in the Margins, who released her debut poetry collection Forms of Protest in 2013.

Dr Gemma Robinson, a senior lecturer at the University of Stirling, said: “'We are very lucky to have such talented students here in the Division of Literature and Languages at Stirling.

“Hannah won a prestigious PhD scholarship offered by Stirling in collaboration with the British Library last year, and it's fantastic that she finds the time to combine it with her own creative work in poetry, performance and drama. We are thrilled to see her work recognised on the shortlist."

The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry seeks to recognise excellence in poetry, highlighting outstanding contributions made by poets to cultural life.

Established in 2009 by Carol Ann Duffy, the £5,000 prize is funded with the annual honorarium the Poet Laureate traditionally receives from HM The Queen. The award is one of the only prizes to acknowledge the wide range of work being produced by poets – not just in books, but beyond. Previous winners have included Kate Tempest, for her spoken word piece Brand New Ancients in 2012, and Lavinia Greenlaw, for her poetry sound work Audio Obscura in 2011.

One of the judges, the writer Sean Borodale, said: “Shortlisting for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry has given us great pleasure, not least because we were able to agree amicably on which works should go forward. The range of approach and level of ambition made our job rewarding, and we looked for unconventional forms in our choices, but also for poetry which breathes and lives close to life.

“Sadly, as always, we have had to let many fine works slip the net and we would like to thank all the poets we considered for their remarkable poems. It is excellent to work with a prize which offers such broad margins to the definition of poetry and how it finds a shape in the world.”

Read more about the awards

Read the Poetry Society's press release on the awards here

Read Hannah Silva’s blog

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