Twitter poet shortlisted for major literary prize

By Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

A debut novel by “the poet laureate of Twitter” has been shortlisted for a major literary prize.

Brian Bilston, 49, has more than 68,000 followers on the social media platform, where he posts his poems.

Diary Of A Somebody, about a man convinced that his New Year’s resolution, to write a poem every day, will change his life, has been shortlisted for a Costa Book Award.

Bilston “accidentally” notched up a career as a social media poet after crafting a “play on words” on Twitter into the 140-character constraint.

He “never intended” to be a poet, previously telling the BBC: “A poet to my mind was someone of intensity, a serious type, the kind of person you wouldn’t want to get trapped in a kitchen with at a party”.

Judges said his first novel “gently pokes fun at the everyday, from bin collections to the cut and thrust of the poetry world. Warm, comic and original.”

His book is in the running in the first novel category of the Costa Book Awards alongside Queenie, by bestselling debut author Candice Carty-Williams.

The 2019 awards also gives prizes for novel, biography, poetry and children’s book.

Diary Of A Somebody by Brian Bilston (Costa Book Awards)

The poetry shortlist features an analysis of the New Cross Fire of 1981, a house fire at a birthday party in south London in which 13 young black people died.

The Metropolitan Police were accused of lacking urgency in their investigation.

Surge, by film programmer and archivist Jay Bernard, is described as “fearless, original and moving”.

Jay Bernard (Costa Book Awards)

Authors Jonathan Coe, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Sophie Hardach and Joseph O’Connor are shortlisted in the novel award category.

This year’s Costa Book Awards attracted 701 entries, the most received in one year to date.

As well as category winners, the overall winner of the 2019 Costa Book Of The Year receives £30,000.

The winners are announced in January.


First Novel:
Diary Of A Somebody by Brian Bilston
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
The Confessions Of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
The Other Half Of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen

Middle England by Jonathan Coe
Confession With Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach
Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor

Surge by Jay Bernard (Costa Book Awards)

On Chapel Sands: My Mother And Other Missing Persons by Laura Cumming
The Volunteer: The True Story Of The Resistance Hero Who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather
In Extremis: The Life Of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum
The Making Of Poetry: Coleridge, The Wordsworths And Their Year of Marvels by Adam Nicolson

Surge by Jay Bernard
Fleche by Mary Jean Chan
The Mizzy by Paul Farley
Reckless Paper Birds by John McCullough

Asha & the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan
Crossfire by Malorie Blackman
In The Shadow Of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling
Furious Thing by Jenny Downham