• British poet laureate Simon Armitage will donate his salary to fund the new award for poetry about climate change.
  • The Laurel Prize will go to the best collection of nature or environmental poetry.
  • The climate crisis has revived interest in nature and environmental writing.

“We are facing the most catastrophic threat to the future of our planet that we have ever encountered,” wrote British poet laureate Simon Armitage in a blog post to announce the launch of a new award for poetry about climate change.

The Laurel Prize will be awarded annually to the best collection of nature or environmental poetry, with the aim of highlighting “challenges and potential solutions at this critical point in our planet’s life."

The poet, playwright and novelist has pledged his laureate’s honorarium of $6,450 each year to support the award.

Queen Elizabeth presents Simon Armitage with The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry upon his appointment as Poet Laureate during an audience at Buckingham Palace, London, Britain May 29, 2019.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth presents Simon Armitage with The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry upon his appointment as poet laureate in May 2019.
Image: Jonathan Brady/Pool via Reuters

Armitage hopes the Laurel Prize will shine light on a similar resurgence taking place in poetry.

The climate crisis has revived interest in non-fiction nature and environmental writing, with works by authors such as Helen Macdonald and Robert Macfarlane hitting international bestseller lists.

“The new wave of nature writing in non-fiction has been well documented over recent years but not enough attention has been paid to a similar move in poetry, with climate crisis and environmental concerns clearly provoking this important strand of work,” he wrote.

Workers wade through a flooded St. Mark's Square during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy November 24, 2019. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri - RC2KHD9H0AYY
In a warming climate, coastal cities such as Venice are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise.
Image: Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

The prize will be run by UK arts organization Poetry School, which also awards the annual Ginkgo Prize for the best single “ecopoem."

It will be judged by Armitage, Macfarlane and the poet Moniza Alvi, and presented in May 2020.

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