Hannah Lowe has won this year’s Costa Book of the Year award for her book of sonnets, The Kids, from publisher Bloodaxe Books. This collection of 66 poems recalls her time teaching A-level English at an inner-city London school. She weaves together portraits of some of her past students with her own coming-of-age memories, breathing new life into the form of sonnets.
The Kids is divided into three parts, the first dealing primarily with teaching, the second with Lowe’s experiences growing up, and the third reflecting on motherhood and failed relationships.
Reeta Chakrabarti, the chair of Costa Book Award judges, describes Lowe’s work as “a joy to read” and like nothing she has ever read before. “You just feel like she’s speaking to you.”
Lowe chose sonnets as her form of choice for the book because of the way the poetic constraints force you to “[push] your imagination to a new place” and “go beyond the memory and beyond the documentary truth,” to produce something striking.
Each year, the Costa Book Awards selects a top publication of the year from British and Irish writers in five categories: best novel, best debut novel, best children’s book, best book of poetry, and best biography. Out of these five, one is ultimately chosen as the Costa Book of the Year. Lowe has received a total of £35,000 in prize money ($47,500 USD).
Lowe joins a rich tradition of other writers who have won the prize in previous years, including Colm Tóibín for Brooklyn, Sally Rooney for Normal People, and Salman Rushdie for both The Satanic Verses and The Moor’s Last Sigh. The Kids is Lowe’s third published collection of poetry.