The English Faculty and Wolfson College are pleased to announce the winner of the Jon Stallworthy Poetry Prize 2022.
Alexander Peplow, of Merton College, was revealed to have won the Prize at the Award event on Tuesday, 18 January 2022 for his entry A Quick Lie. His second entry, Munsalvaesche, was selected as the joint runner up. This is an incredible accomplishment and speaks volumes of Alexander's skill.
We received a record number of submissions for the prize this year, 82 poems being more than double the entries of the previous six years. Our judges reflected that the subject of Sleep-cycles had “… proved very productive – not only in the number of poems but in the range of treatment. The topic gave room for metaphorical consideration of the sense of ‘sleep’; predictably, Hamlet’s ‘sleep of death’ was as common as sleep in bed, and often more physically evoked.”
The judges recognized Peplow’s winning poem as “a brilliantly ghoulish evocation of the first ‘year or two of an eternal rest’ in the grave, reminiscent of the opening of Great Expectations (or of the Irish novel Cré na Cille by Máirtín ÓCadhain, translated as Graveyard Clay).”
His other submission was “a very different kind of haunting poem: the Parsifal story in which the knight goes to his candle-lit bed and half-wakes to see a series of terrifying dream-images from Gothic romance: ‘a spider as big as a cat’ which runs across his face while he could not close his mouth.
“One great virtue of these two gripping poems was the way they expressed strangeness through entirely clear and lucid language: ‘a giant as tall as he would be if he were twice as tall’, for example. There was no over-reaching or striving for special effects.”
The other joint runner-up was announced as E. L. Hallesy of New College for her poem Charm for Not Knowing which the judges felt was “a graceful, unforced villanelle which was squarely on the set topic from its opening lines:
There’s another time our bodies keep
and, dreaming, I would always wake to find
we’d known each other better in our sleep.”
Ben Philipps of New College, Katharina Freige of St Hugh's College and Rebecca Dillon of St Hugh's College were also shortlisted for this prize, which is particularly noteworthy given the volume of entries this year. All the shortlisted candidates attended the award event, which took place online due to the ongoing pandemic, and read their submissions aloud before the winner was announced.
The judges, the English Faculty and Wolfson College offer their congratulations to Alexander and their thanks to all entrants for their submissions.