Eric Gregory Award for Poetry
Costa Poetry Award
Seamus Heaney Centre Prize
Winner of the Seamus Heaney First Collection Poetry Prize
Richard Osmond's debut collection Useful Verses follows in the tradition of the best nature writing, being as much about the human world as the natural, the present as the past: Osmond, a professional forager, has a deep knowledge of flora and fauna as they appear in both natural and human history, as they are depicted in both folklore and herbal - but he views them through a wholly contemporary lens.
Chamomile is discussed through quantum physics, ants through social media, wood sorrel through online gambling, and mugwort through a traffic cone. In each case, Osmond offers an arresting and new perspective, and makes that hidden world that lives and breathes beside us vividly part of our own. This is a fiercely inventive, darkly witty and brilliantly observed debut from a voice unlike any other you have read before - and as far from any quaint and conservative notion of 'nature poetry' as it is possible to get.
Useful Verses is a remarkable first collection: great precision of language married to a uniquely informed and focused view of the natural world.
Osmond's job as a wild-food forager makes it unsurprising that his debut collection, Useful Verses, should be such a treasure trove of information. But what gives his poems energy is not just that they exhibit a deft authority on plants and poisons, remedies and road-kill, but that they are equally attuned to human and digital environments. The result is a work that reveals much about the world, both ancient and modern.
‘Useful Verses is a wonderfully original collection, which relishes and renews everything that poetry can do with language. It’s also a challenging vision of our relations with the natural world.’
Professor Edna Longley, Chair of the judging panel for The Seamus Heaney Centre: First Collection Poetry Prize 2018