A Portable Paradise wins the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020!

British-Trinidadian poet Roger Robinson has won the RSL Ondaatje Prize for his collection A Portable Paradise . The £10,000 prize, organised by the Royal Society of Literature, rewards fiction, non-fiction or poetry which evokes the spirit of a place.

Roger said of the win, "Winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize is great on many levels. Gaining wider recognition for the political issues that are raised in A Portable Paradise is one of the most important things for me, alongside more people reading about the struggles of black communities in Britain which hopefully creates some deeper resonating empathy."

Peepal Tree's Managing Editor Jeremy Poynting said, "Roger has the gift of saying profound things both plainly and imaginatively, in ways that connect with the deepest hopes and fears of many readers. His work will live long beyond them, but he's undoubtedly the poet we needed for these times."

Judge Pascale Petit said, "The spirit of place in this outstanding collection is the portable paradise of Trinidad in London. Roger Robinson’s profoundly moving book manages to balance anger and love, rage and craft. Every poem surprises with its imagery, emotional intensity and lyric power, whether dealing with Grenfell, Windrush, or a son’s difficult birth, which is also a tribute to a Jamaican nurse. This is a healing book, enabling us to conjure our own portable paradises."

Judge Peter Frankopan said, "A fabulous and ingenious work that seethes in its condemnation of injustices but sparkles in its tenderness and subtlety and revels in celebration at the things that make us all unique. It made me laugh and cry."

Judge Evie Wyld said, "Roger Robinson’s images keep me up at night. The tiny details, the complexity and horror of what he writes about and the clarity he manages to come out the other side with is quite astounding."

In the book, Roger explores place as something you carry inside you, but London as a city is also woven throughout poems on Grenfell and the Black British experience. Roger explains he "wanted to provide a cohesive world in exploring different parts and aspects of place that I live, and that other British people of colour live in at particular times."

Speaking to The Telegraph recently, Roger Robinson said, "It’s often touted that it’s the people that make a place, but I think it’s much more than that. It’s the architecture, living conditions, opportunity to make a living, a feeling of being safe; but adverse conditions can be overcome if there’s an opportunity for people in a place to share their sacred moments. The moments that define their living. That’s where the poets and writers of place become important."

A Portable Paradise was launched at an event at Tate Modern on 28 June 2019, and published on 11 July 2019. The collection also won the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize earlier this year.

Excerpts from the six shortlisted books were recently published in The Telegraph . The Royal Society of Literature has also published an animation of the six shortlisted works on YouTube .