Poet Raymond Antrobus wins Rathbones Folio Prize

The London-born poet has claimed the literary prize.

Poet Raymond Antrobus has won the £30,000 Rathbones Folio Prize for his “brave” debut collection.

The British-Jamaican spoken word poet has been honoured with the award for his collection, The Perseverance.

Born deaf in Hackney, the prize-winning writer and performer was thought to have severe learning difficulties when he was a child.

His material has drawn from his own disability, masculinity, the alcoholism of his father, and the experience of his own mixed heritage.

Antrobus’ first collection has been praised by judges for its kindness and universal appeal in an “atomised” age.

He was named the Rathbones Folio Prize at a ceremony on Monday May 20, and is the first poet to receive the accolade.

Kate Clanchy, chairwoman of the judges, said: “We chose eight books we loved in different genres and deciding between them was painful.

The Perseverance was published by Penned in the Margins (Caleb Femi)

“In the end, though, we agreed on Raymond Antrobus’ The Perseverance, an immensely moving book of poetry which uses his D/deaf experience, bereavement and Jamaican-British heritage to consider the ways we all communicate with each other.

“It ’s an exceptionally brave, kind book.

“It seemed, in our atomised times, to be the book we most wanted to give to others, the book we all needed to read.”

Antrobus was born in Hackney to an English mother and a Jamaican father.

He was at first thought to be dyslexic with severe learning disabilities while at school, with his deafness only discovered later.

His debut won the prize after what judges have described as a “tense vote” between The Perseverance, and Alice Jolly’s work, Mary Anne Sate, Imbecile.

Paul Stockton, chief executive of Rathbones, said: “Sincere congratulations from all of us at Rathbones to Raymond Antrobus for winning the Rathbones Folio Prize 2019 with his book The Perseverance.

“It is an impressive feat to be singled out amongst such a diverse and impressive shortlist, and is very well deserved.”

Launched in 2013, the Rathbones Folio Prize judges all books on merit, whether fiction or non-fiction, with an academy of writers.

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