Anthony Anaxagorou receives the Ondaatje Award for his postcolonial poetry anthology.

With his third collection of poetry, which the judges praised for “pushing the boundaries of form and language,” the British-Cypriot poet received the £10,000 prize.

With a “beautiful” book that “pushes the boundaries of form and language to locate a new aesthetic with which to address the legacies of colonisation,” poet Anthony Anaxagorou has won the £10,000 Ondaatje prize.
The Royal Society of Literature’s prize, given each year, honours a superb piece of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry that successfully conveys a sense of place. The award went to Anaxagorou for her poetry collection Heritage Aesthetics, which examines racism in the present while also examining the history of British imperialism.

Samira Ahmed, a journalist and the head of the jury, stated that Anaxagorou’s poetry “is beautiful but does not sugarcoat. His writing on Britain is tainted with the arsenic of past imperial arrogance. And this collection’s joy stems from his courage, wisdom, and maturity as well as from his truly felt love.
The history of migration in Anaxagorou’s family between Cyprus and the UK has influenced his collection. In their Guardian review, poet Mary Jean Chan stated that “intertextuality pervades the collection,” with passages from books and magazines being creatively threaded into the poems.

Roger Robinson and Joelle Taylor, both poets, were on the judging panel with Ahmed. The 2020 Ondaatje Prize winner Robinson stated that Anaxagorou “let the narrative of the poems fracture as if somehow there had been a traumatic event, and that fracture became a form by deconstruction of texts and literatures to make comment not only on them but also on the fact that Cyprus has been shaped by 2,000 years of colonial rule.”
Accord to Taylor, Heritage Aesthetics “pushes the confines of form and language to locate a new aesthetic with which to address the legacies of colonisation. A tour guide, an archive, a personal meditation on belonging. Beautiful.”

At the Southbank Centre in London, Anaxagorou hosts the monthly poetry and music event known as Out-Spoken. In order to publish poetry and critical writing with an emphasis on voices that are underrepresented in the publishing industry, he founded Out-Spoken Press in 2015. After the Formalities, the poet’s second collection, made the 2019 TS Eliot Prize shortlist. In 2020, he collaborated with Stormzy’s publishing label #Merky Books to release How to Write It, a manual for writing fiction and poetry.

Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka, England’s Green by Zaffar Kunial, and Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris were the other books selected for the Ondaatje prize.
Of the books that made the shortlist, the judges stated: “Cinematic in scope and description, we were enticed by personal stories connected to larger histories, rich and adventurous language, and revelations that sometimes bordered on an unexpected new form of creative documentary”.

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