British-Cypriot poet, Anthony Anaxagorou has been awarded the Ondaatje Prize for his poetry collection “Heritage Aesthetics” which addresses the legacy of colonialism.
Judges lauded the poetry collection as a work “that pushes the confines of form and language to locate a new aesthetic with which to address the legacies of colonisation”.
Presented annually by the Royal Society of Literature, the Ondaatje Prize, worth £10,000, celebrates exceptional works of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry that evoke a profound sense of place.
Anaxagorou’s winning entry, “Heritage Aesthetics,” delves into the intricacies of time and space while exploring the legacy of British imperial history and confronting contemporary manifestations of racism.
The chair of judges, journalist Samira Ahmed, said Anaxagorou’s poetry “is beautiful, but does not sugarcoat. The arsenic of historical imperial arrogance permeates the Britain he explores in his writing. And the joy of this collection comes from his strength, knowledge, maturity, but also from deeply felt love.”
Anaxagorou’s work is shaped by his family’s migratory journey between Cyprus and the UK. As the poet Mary Jean Chan wrote in the Guardian, “Heritage Aesthetics” demonstrates an engaging intertextuality, with fragments from books and magazines skillfully integrated throughout the poems, pushing the boundaries of experimentation.
Poet Roger Robinson who was also on the judging panel said Anaxagorou “lets the narrative of the poems fracture as if somehow there has been a traumatic event, and that fracture became a form by deconstruction of texts and literatures to make comment not only on them but also on the fact that Cyprus has been shaped by 2,000 years of colonial rule”.
Anaxagorou is the driving force behind Out-Spoken, a popular monthly poetry and music event held at London’s iconic Southbank Centre. In 2015, he founded Out-Spoken Press, a publishing venture dedicated to amplifying the voices of underrepresented individuals in the literary realm. Anaxagorou’s second collection, “After the Formalities,” was shortlisted for the prestigious TS Eliot prize in 2019. Moreover, in 2020, he published “How to Write It,” a literary guide encompassing the realms of fiction and poetry, through Stormzy’s renowned publishing imprint, #Merky Books.