We’re delighted to announce that Melissa Lee-Houghton has won the 2017 Somerset Maugham Award for her third collection, Sunshine.
The prize honours published authors under the age of 35, and was awarded to Melissa and two other writers by the Society of Authors on Tuesday 20 June 2017. This continues to mark the incredible success of Sunshine, which was also shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award and the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, as well as ‘i am very precious’ appearing on the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.
The prize fund was set up by W. Somerset Maugham in 1947 to enable young writers to enrich their work by gaining experience of foreign countries. The awards are given for a published work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry and the £5,000 prize money is to be spent on foreign travel.
Sunshine is Melissa Lee-Houghton’s third book (all with Penned in the Margins) and combines acute social observation with a dark, surreal humour born of first-hand experience. Abuse, addiction and mental health are all subject to Lee-Houghton’s poetic eye. But these are also poems of extravagance, hope and desire, that stake new ground for the Romantic lyric in an age of social media and internet pornography. Born in Wythenshawe, Manchester in 1982, Melissa’s second book, Beautiful Girls, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and in 2014 she was selected as a Next Generation Poet. A survivor of multiple psychiatric admissions, Melissa has written powerfully about her experiences of the mental health system in a recent Guardian article.
The 2017 Somerset Maugham Award was also given to novelist Martin MacInnes and non-fiction writer Edmund Gordon. It was judged by Jen Campbell, Philip Hensher and Joanna Kavenna.