Durham University Festival Laureate

Each year Durham Book Festival works in partnership with Durham University to invite an acclaimed poet to become the Festival Laureate. As well as presenting a newly commissioned poem at the festival, the laureate takes part in a special event for Durham University students.

This year’s Festival Laureate is the award-winning poet Zaffar Kunial.

Zaffar Kunial is the author of Us (2018), which was shortlisted for both the Costa Poetry Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize. In 2021, he was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize for Poetry. His new collection of poetry, England’s Green, was published by Faber in September 2022.

As part of his laureateship, Zaffar appeared at the festival on Friday 13 October, where he read from his work and presented a newly commissioned poem, inspired by Durham.

Listen to the poem

Previous Laureates

  • Hannah Lowe

    Hannah Lowe is an award-winning poet and writer, whose latest collection The Kids, inspired by her career as a teacher, won the Costa Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2021.

    Hannah Lowe is the author of three poetry collections. Her 2015 family memoir Long Time, No See, explored her relationship with her Jamaican-Chinese father and was a Radio 4 Book of the Week.

    As part of her laureateship, Hannah wrote the newly commissioned Northern Soul: Sonnets for the Newton Aycliffe Youth Centre, and took part in a special event for Durham University students. You can watch her perform the poems here.

  • Fiona Benson

    Fiona Benson’s collections have been twice shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. Vertigo and Ghost was shortlisted for the 2019 Rathbones Folio Prize and won both the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Forward Prize for Best Collection. Her most recent collection is Ephemeron which was shortlisted for the 2021 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

    Fiona’s commissioned sequence of poems, The Durham Witch Project, was inspired by the history of witchcraft in Durham.

    Read the poems here.

  • Raymond Antrobus

    Raymond Antrobus was born in London, Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father, he is the author of Shapes & DisfigurementsTo Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance. In 2019 he became the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre. Other accolades include the Ted Hughes Award, PBS Winter Choice, A Sunday Times & The Guardian Poetry Book Of The Year 2018, as well as a shortlist for the Griffin Prize and Forward Prize. In 2018 he was awarded ‘The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize’, (Judged by Ocean Vuong), for his poem ‘Sound Machine’. Also in 2019, his poem ‘Jamaican British’ was added to the GCSE syllabus.

    Read Raymond’s commissioned poem here

  • Jacob Polley

    Jacob Polley was born and grew up in Cumbria. His fourth book of poems, Jackself, won the 2016 T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry, the judges describing it as ‘a firework of a book; inventive, exciting and outstanding in its imaginative range and depth of feeling.’

  • Andrew McMillan

    Andrew McMillan’s debut, physical, was the first poetry collection to win the Guardian First Book Award; it also won a Somerset Maugham Award, an Eric Gregory Award, a Northern Writers’ Award and the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.

    Read Andrew’s commissioned poem here

  • Helen Mort

    Helen Mort was born in Sheffield. She joined the Department of English at Manchester Metropolitan University as Lecturer in Creative Writing in September 2016, having previously been Derbyshire Poet Laureate, Wordsworth Trust Poet in Residence and a Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at The University of Leeds.

    Read Helen’s commissioned poem here

  • Sinéad Morrissey

    Sinéad Morrissey was born in 1972 and grew up in Belfast. She read English and German at Trinity College, Dublin, from which she took her PhD in 2003. She has been a contributor to PN Review since 1994. She won the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award in 1990.

    Read Sinéad’s commissioned poem here

  • Paul Farley

    Paul Farley was born in Liverpool in 1965 and studied at the Chelsea School of Art. He has published four poetry books with Picador including The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You (which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Award and a Forward Prize in 1998)

    Read Paul’s commissioned poem here

  • Paul Muldoon

    Paul Muldoon is an Irish poet and professor of poetry, as well as an editor, critic, playwright, lyricist and translator. Muldoon is the author of twelve major collections of poetry, including One Thousand Things Worth Knowing (2015), Maggot (2010), Horse Latitudes (2006), Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), Hay (1998), The Annals of Chile (1994), Madoc: A Mystery (1990), Meeting the British (1987), Quoof (1983), Why Brownlee Left (1980), Mules (1977) and New Weather (1973).

    Read Paul’s commissioned poem here

  • Lorna Goodison

    Lorna Goodison is the Poet Laureate of Jamaica, and a major figure in world literature. She is the author of nine collections of poetry, three collections of short stories and an award-winning memoir, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People.

    Read Lorna’s commissioned poem here

  • Don Paterson

    Don Paterson was born in Dundee in 1963, and now lives in Edinburgh. His previous poetry collections include Nil Nil, God’s Gift to Women, Landing Light and Rain. He has also published two books of aphorism, as well as translations of Antonio Machado and Rainer Maria Rilke.

  • Simon Armitage

    Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in the village of Marsden and lives in West Yorkshire. He has received numerous awards for his poetry including the Sunday Times Young Author of the Year, one of the first Forward Prizes, a Lannan Award and the Keats- Shelley Poetry Prize. Zoom! (1989) was a Poetry Book Society Choice.

    Read Simon’s commissioned poem here