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Jen Hadfield wins Edwin Morgan International Poetry Prize

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'Disturbing' poem of childhood marks return to work for award-winning poet who went quiet

Jen Hadfield was named the winner of the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Prize 2012 in an award ceremony at Edinburgh International Book Festival on Saturday.

Her poem, The Kids, won the £5,000 first prize in the competition judged by poets Gillian Ferguson and Don Paterson. Both judges said they admired the poem for being "disturbing", though Hadfield, speaking at the event, said "it wasn't meant to be a creepy poem".

Poems are submitted anonymously for the prize, which was set up five years ago. Hadfield, the one published poet on the shortlist of five, said she was in shock, the 'jittery' kind, that she had won: 'I've gone through a phase of not writing very much for quite a long time. When I start again I find it very hard to judge just how well those poems are going. I'm really chuffed that one of these new poems is working, or at least Don and Gillian think it's working.'

The Kids improvises on the nursery rhyme "Monday's Child" to explore ideas of memory and landscape. Hadfield said it was inspired by her own memories of youth, as well as her experiences of working with children as a tutor in Devon.

A graduate of the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde, Hadfield was born in Cheshire but now lives in Shetland. In 2008 she became the youngest person to win the TS Eliot Prize for her collection Nigh-No-Place, which was inspired by her home in Shetland and her travels across Canada.

Antiquarian bookseller Mike Vallely was awarded second prize of £1,000 for his poem "Look Hameward, Now", written in Scots dialect, while artist Malcolm Watson took third prize, £500, for The Perils of Surgery, inspired by his time working as a hospital porter. The runners-up were Katherine Sowerby's poem "forest glass" and Daisy Behagg with her poem "Peach".

Over 1000 poems were submitted by 475 poets to the competition, which was opened up for the first time this year to entries in Scots. Sponsored by the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, the prize is now in its fifth year. It is named in honour of the first Scottish Makar, or national poet, Edwin Morgan, who died in 2010.

The finalists' poems can be read here.

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