Hannah Lowe has won the Costa Poetry Award for her book, The Kids, part inspired by her time teaching literature to London sixth-formers.
The book is a collection of sonnets – love poems about teaching and learning. It draws on her decade teaching English in the 2000s, her own teenage learning experiences and coming of age in the 90s and her role as a mother.
Costa Book Award judges called her third book ‘the real deal, a page turner that made them want to punch the air with joy’.
The Kids was shortlisted too for the TS Eliot Prize – poetry’s Booker, awarded to Joelle Taylor who writes about the lesbian counterculture of ‘butches’ in the 1990s.
“I'm delighted, of course,” said Brunel creative writing lecturer, Dr Lowe. “It's fantastic that The Kids will have a wider readership because of these prizes. I'm not sure if Brunel students have read it, but I hope they will.
“The Kids presents a whole range of young people, including myself and my son, as well as the students I taught back in the 2000s. There are multifarious experiences represented, and I hope that everyone who reads it will recognise something of themselves in the poems, whether it be as a student, teacher, parent or child.”
While The Kids doesn’t shy away from asking tough questions about education, it shows real fondness for the kids themselves and their uplifting thirst for learning.
“For Hannah to be one of ten poets in the country nominated for the TS Eliot Prize is a huge achievement,” said Meretta Elliott, Brunel’s head of English and humanities. “But in the same year to win the Costa Poetry Award is just exceptional. Creative Writing at Brunel yet again demonstrates the quality of our lecturers and Hannah’s achievement will only further enhance the aspirations of our students.”
Based in Wood Green, North London, Dr Lowe was born in Essex to a Jamaican-Chinese father and English mother. Themes of family, multiculturalism and mixed heritage run through much of her work. She’s now working on two poetry chapbooks due out May, about the historical entanglements of the British Empire and China. One is about Chinese wallpaper, “a luxury good of empire, many examples of which can still be found in British great houses, particularly in National Trust houses,” she says. “The other is about the old Chinatown at Limehouse, and explores some of the sinophobic responses to the Chinese at that time, and the construction of Limehouse's notoriety.”
Dr Lowe’s first poetry collection, Chick (Bloodaxe, 2013) won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award for Best First Collection. In September 2014, she was named one of 20 Next Generation poets by the Poetry Book Society. Her family memoir Long Time, No See (Periscope, 2015) featured as BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week.
The overall £30,000 Costa Book of the Year award will be announced on 1 February.
The Kids by Hannah Lowe, Bloodaxe Books, £10.99
Hear Hannah talking about The Kids on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row
Images: Lealle Brady courtesy of Bloodaxe Books