Writing School director honoured for ideas explored in latest work
POETRY Professor Michael Symmons Roberts has been presented with this year’s Foyles Best Book of Ideas Prize.
Professor Roberts said he was “delighted, surprised, astonished and honoured” to receive the prize for his work Edgelands, which he co-authored with the University of Lancaster’s Professor of Poetry, Paul Farley.
The £5,000 prize is given each year to a work of non-fiction which presents new, important and challenging ideas.
The Preston-born director of the Manchester Writing School said: “We were assuming that we hadn’t won it because it was such a strong shortlist. When we were invited to go down we seized on it as an opportunity to catch up with each other – we weren’t really expecting anything more.”
Edgelands was conceived after the two poets started to discuss the in-between places that were neither rural nor urban which they often used as settings for their work.
Professor Roberts said: “I had read an article in the journal Landscapes by Marion Shoard naming these spaces as “edgelands” and saying she thought they were beautiful. She asked where the poets were who would do for them what Bronte and Wordsworth did for the moors and the mountains. Under the influence of hubris and drink we decided to rise to that challenge.”
The resulting book attracted interest from four publishers before the pair finally settled on Cape, with the paperback version published by Vintage.
Professor Roberts, who now lives in the Peak District, and whose sixth book of poetry will be published in April, said: “We have been astonished by the response. We’re not the first people in the arts to go into these places – artists and photographers spend a lot of time there.
“There are some great examples around Manchester. It just seemed to us to be a great opportunity to celebrate these edgelands.”
The award was presented at the annual Bristol Festival of Ideas.
The six-strong shortlist also included Zero Degrees of Empathy:A New Theory of Human Cruelty, by Simon Baron-Cohen, The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teachers Us About Being Alive, by Brian Christian, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Made us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier, by Edward Glaeser, Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, and The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and its Causes, by Stephen Pinker.
Professor Roberts is currently adapting first novel for film, and has written a radio drama, Songs and Lamentations, which will be aired on Radio 4 next month.
Next week he will be travelling to London as Edgelands has also been nominated for the Royal Society of Literature’s £10,000 Ondaatje Prize for writing about place.
Edgelands is published in paperback by Vintage and costs £8.99.
May 31st, 2012 - 14:27pm