English teacher wins Costa poetry prize


An inspirational secondary teacher has won the Costa poetry prize for his very first book.

An inspirational secondary teacher has won the Costa poetry prize for his very first book.

Jonathan Edwards, who has taught English at Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls for 10 years, did not win the overall 2014 Costa Book of the Year prize (the award went to Helen MacDonald for H is for Hawk), but his work was highly praised.

The judges, chaired by bestselling author Robert Harris, said: “We haven’t had as much fun reading a poetry collection in ages. Joyous, brilliant and moving – this is a poet to celebrate.”

Mr Edwards’ book, My Family and Other Superheroes, was published to critical acclaim in 2014. The superheroes of the title are a motley crew, including Evel Knievel, Sophia Loren, Ian Rush, Marty McFly, a bicycling nun, and a recalcitrant hippo.

Before the overall prize was announced in London last week, Mr Edwards said that his pupils had been an enormous inspiration to him.

“It’s a great joy to work with them and they are also my harshest critics,” he said. “I know that if poems can get past year 8, prize judges are no problem.

“Young people love creative writing as it gives them a chance to play with language and to express something that they can’t in other parts of their lives. It’s a privilege to lead these pupils in creative work.”

Previous winners of the Costa poetry award include poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and, in its previous incarnation as the Whitbread award, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.

“These are writers whose work I’ve admired, studied and taught for many years, so to see my name on that list is somewhat incomprehensible,” said Mr Edwards, who runs a creative writing group at his school.

“Poets keep writing ultimately because they want their writing to connect emotionally with readers. We want to make people feel the way that our favourite poems make us feel. 

“An award like this increases the number of readers your poems can reach, so that’s a truly wonderful thing.” Staff and pupils at Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls are very proud. “His poetry is incredible,” said deputy head Tom Arrand.

CAPTION: Hero! Costa poetry winner Jonathan Edwards



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