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University of St Andrews has a lot to celebrate on National Poetry Day

The University of St Andrews is celebrating a double win at last night’s Forward Poetry Prizes ceremony in Somerset House, London.

John Burnside, Professor in Creative Writing, has been named the winner of the £10,000 Forward Prize for his collection Black Cat Bone, while St Andrews graduate Dr Rachael Boast won the Felix Dennis Prize for best first collection.

Professor Burnside has been nominated for the prize four times, but this was his first win – conquering a shortlist that the prize’s founder William Sieghart said was “one of the finest” in its 20-year history. Professor Burnside beat collections from the Oxford Professor of poetry Geoffrey Hill, David Harsent, Michael Longley, D Nurske and three-time winner Sean O’Brien.

Burnside’s Black Cat Bone, the judges said, had a “vitality of language, an undertow of complexity and an evocative dream logic”.

He is currently teaching creative writing in the University of St Andrews’ renowned School of English, the first to establish a creative writing degree in Scotland.

The 56-year-old writer has published more than a dozen poetry collections and is also the author of a collection of short stories, two memoirs and several novels, including The Devil’s Footprints (2007). Sir Andrew Motion, chairman of the judging panel said:

“Burnside’s Black Cat Bone is at once a very direct and a very subtle book. There’s no doubting its big themes – of mortality, transience and various kinds of catastrophe – but they are handled in a way that rightly allows their menace to seem insidious as well as brutal. This makes the book one to linger over, as well as one to enjoy at first reading.”

Joining the former Poet Laureate on the judging panel were author Lady Antonia Fraser, journalist Sameer Rahim and the poets Fiona Sampson and Leonie Rushforth.

The panel also recognised the talent of University of St Andrews graduate Dr Rachael Boast who won the Felix Dennis Prize for best first collection for Sidereal.

In 2006 she completed an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews, before going on to complete her PhD.

The Forward Prizes were founded in 1992 and reward both established and up-and-coming poets.

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