‘Crowning glory’ for award-winning poet

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Award-winning poet Jo Shapcott has been awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

The honour recognises her body of work which culminated in her latest book of verse, Of Mutability, which was named Costa Book of the Year.

It has been described as her response to being diagnosed with breast cancer and an acknowledgement in the front of the slim 54-page volume says it “owes everything” to the medical team at Hereford County Hospital who treated her.

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who chaired the medal’s judging panel, said: “Jo Shapcott won the Costa Book of the Year Award in 2010 for her collection Of Mutability, but the award of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry is the true crowning of her career.

“The calm but sparkling Englishness of her poetry manages to combine accessibility with a deeply cerebral engagement with all the facets of being human – alert to art and science, life and death. Her peers will be very proud and happy for her today.”

Shapcott, from London, published her first volume of poetry, Electroplating The Baby in 1988, followed by Phrase Book (1992) and My Life Asleep (1998).

Her verse has been acclaimed and won a number of awards including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Collection and the National Poetry Competition twice.

The poet is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and is president of the Poetry Society.

Distinguished past recipients of the Gold Medal have included WH Auden (1936), John Betjeman (1960), Hull-based Philip Larkin (1965), Stevie Smith (1969) and Ted Hughes (1974).

The Gold Medal for Poetry was instituted by George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then poet laureate, John Masefield.

The honour is awarded for excellence in poetry for either a body of work or an outstanding poetry collection published during the year of the award.