Grief is the Thing with Feathers wins £30,000 International Dylan Thomas Prize in partnership with Swansea University

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter is today, Saturday 14 May, named as the winner of the 10th International Dylan Thomas Prize, in partnership with Swansea University.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers, published by Faber & Faber, is the debut book – part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief – by Max Porter, a senior editor at Granta and Portobello Books.

Chair of judges Professor Dai Smith (Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University) said: “Max Porter, the judges felt, takes the common place of grief, the pall of death, the loss of loved ones, the things that we will all experience and transforms the ordinary through an extraordinary feat of imaginative prose, but prose that slips in to poetry and out again.

"The way it plays with the archetypal figure of Ted Hughes’ Crow is both astonishing and beguiling. It is funny, it is deeply moving and it is a book that the judges are proud to see as the winner of the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize, in partnership with Swansea University.”

Max Porter ‌‌Max Porter, winner of the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize

Inspired by Crow, the collection of poems by Ted Hughes, Grief is the Thing with Feathers is the story of two young boys who face the unbearable sadness of their mother's sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness. In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow - antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and the pain of loss gives way to memories, the little unit of three starts to heal. 

The £30,000 prize was presented to Max Porter at a gala ceremony in Swansea University’s Great Hall on its new Bay Campus.

On receiving his award, Max said: "It's very great honour. I'd like to thank the Prize and the judges and my publishers Faber and Faber. I'd like to dedicate this Prize to my dad and my grandmother, both Welsh; this would mean an enormous amount to them."

Dylan Thomas Today, 14 May, is also International Dylan Day, an annual celebration of the life and work of Dylan Thomas, marking the date Under Milk Wood was first read on stage at 92Y The Poetry Center, New York in 1953.

‌‌‌2016 is the 10th anniversary of the prize, which supports and nurtures young writing talent from around the world. One of the richest awards available for young fiction writers, the £30,000 International Dylan Thomas Prize is awarded to the best published literary work of fiction in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under. Eligible works include poetry, novels, short stories and drama.

The prize is named after Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. One of the most influential, internationally-renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, the prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow. 

Together with Professor Dai Smith, this year’s judges were Sarah Hall (author), Professor Kurt Heinzelman (poet), Phyllida Lloyd (film and theatre director), Kamila Shamsie (author), and Professor Owen Sheers (novelist, poet and playwright).

This year’s shortlist combined poetry and prose. Alongside Max Porter, the five other shortlisted writers were Claire-Louise Bennett (UK), Pond, Fitzcarraldo Editions; Tania James (USA), The Tusk that Did the Damage, Harvill Secker [UK] / Alfred A. Knopf [US]; Frances Leviston (UK), Disinformation, Picador; Andrew McMillan (UK), Physical, Jonathan Cape and Sunjeev Sahota (UK), The Year of the Runaways, Picador.