Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2012 – Winner announced

The winner of the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2012 – one of the most important and long-established poetry awards in the UK – was announced at the 24th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival on Friday 2 November at 8pm. The recipient of this best first collection prize is Olivia McCannon for Exactly My Own Length published by Carcanet as part of their TheOxfordPoets imprint.

Olivia McCannon responded to news of her win with:

“I am grateful to the judges for their close reading and comments – a reward in itself. It will be a great privilege and pleasure to read to such a poetry-loving audience next year and to be part of the festival and the community it creates.”

On behalf of his fellow judges Esther Morgan and Alicia Stubbersfield, Chair Robert Seatter writes:

“In a very very close field, what we valued in Olivia McCannon’s book was the judged authenticity of her voice. Her collection has a subtle craftsmanship, and her clean and precise language rewards several re-readings revealing new layers of connection and meaning. Exactly My Own Length is surprising without ever being showy, feelingful without overplaying its sentiment, and universal without being predictable.”

Exactly My Own Length contains work spanning ten years. Roughly half of it was written in Paris, where Olivia lived full-time for eight years. French was her language of everyday communication, and as English became more foreign, she found that she was able to write with greater displacement. The second half came into existence during the last year of her mother’s life – “poems to hold onto when everything was slipping away” says Olivia.

Eleanor Crawforth, Editor of Carcanet said:

“The prize, and its accompanying support from the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, is a major landmark in the development of a young poet’s career, and Olivia’s win reflects the continuing success of Carcanet’s Oxford Poets imprint.”

David Constantine, former Editor of Oxford Poets adds:

“By choosing this book, the judges affirm a wider faith in the good of poetry that is rigorous, heartfelt, and rooted in common realities.”

In addition to the cash award (£2,000), the Aldeburgh prize carries two incalculable benefits for the winner. Olivia McCannon will receive a paid invitation to read at next year’s 25th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, plus a unique week’s paid protected writing time on the inspirational East Suffolk coast. No other poetry prize makes such an investment in new talent.
For further information, contact Tina Neill, 01986 835950 or email


Poem from Exactly My Own Length

At the Door

At the door of this house
We need a box in which
To post our troubles as we arrive.

Troubles must not enter this house
Only lightness and smooth cheer
Bunches of gerberas and jokes.

If we’re to keep up the walls of this house
Small things must not be made big
Big things must be made small.

The ticking bomb of this house
Is guarded by a sentry who may shout
To cover his deafness.

We who open the door of this house
Must enter stripped of clocks or watches –
Although you know what time it is.

At the door of this house
We need a box in which
To post our troubles as we leave.

Olivia McCannon picture