An inspirational English teacher has won the Costa poetry prize for his first book.
Jonathan Edwards, who has taught at Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls for 10 years, will now contend for the £30,000 Costa Book of the Year award with his collection, My Family and Other Superheroes.
He said: “The pupils at HMSG have been an enormous inspiration over the last 10 years.
“It’s a great joy to work with them and they are also my harshest critics – 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, and it’s a privilege to lead these pupils in creative work.”
My Family and Other Superheroes was published to critical acclaim in February 2014 by Seren Books.
The superheroes in question are a motley crew. Evel Knievel, Sophia Loren, Ian Rush, Marty McFly, a bicycling nun and a recalcitrant hippo all leap from the pages and jostle for position, alongside Valleys mams, dads and bamps, described with great warmth.
The Costa 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.”
HMSGTV News reporter Hettie talks to him in his classroom to find out the inspiration for his work.
Mr Edwards is joined by four other category winners in the running for the top prize, to be announced on January 27.
He said: “Previous winners of the Costa poetry award include 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.
“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.”
Mr Edwards runs a popular creative writing group at HMSG, and is inspiring the next generation of young poets.
He added: “Pupils have had some good creative successes over the past few years with the Foyle Awards, the Terry Hetherington Award and also with the Literature Wales initiative ‘Dylan’s Great Poem,’ in celebration of the Dylan Thomas centenary.
“These achievements, and the grins on pupils’ faces when they finish a poem or line they’re pleased with, are brilliant things.”
And Tom Arrand, Deputy Head of HMSG, said: “Mr Edwards is extremely modest but undeniably talented and his creativity offers real inspiration to pupils.
“We were able to offer Mr Edwards a sabbatical in order to work on his poetry and it is fantastic to see that this has brought about such a wonderful accolade.
“Last summer he ran a poetry workshop for pupils from all three secondary schools in Monmouth and the feedback was phenomenal.
“We are all delighted that he has got this far – his poetry is incredible.”