Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri has been shortlisted for the 2024 Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award. Mehri was selected for her debut poetry collection Bad Diaspora Poems published last year.

Founded in 1991 and sponsored by the Charlotte Aitken Trust since 2021, the award is given annually to the best work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish author of 35 or under. The prize winner will receive £10,000 with each shortlistee receiving £1,000. Known as the most influential prize for young writers in the UK and Ireland, the prize has a talented alumni list including Zadie Smith and Caryl Phillips, among others.

The judging panel includes chair of judges Johanna Thomas-Corr, Booker-winning writer and novelist Anne Enright, novelist and critic Mendez, author and critic James McConnachie, poet Daljit Nagra, and novelist Catriona Ward.

The shortlist was described by judge James McConnachie as four “books that believe in the possibility of change.” While Thomas-Corr remarked that these fourwriters “are injecting real energy and vitality into the literary scene”, Mendez said “these four outstanding books highlight the varied excellence of new British writing.”

Mehri’s debut poetry collection Bad Diaspora Poems is told in lyric, prose and text messages, and confronts ideas around diaspora, migration and home. The book won an Eric Gregory Award and the 2023 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

Momtaza Mehri is an award-winning poet and essayist. She is a former Young People’s Poet Laureate for London and winner of the 2019 Manchester Writing Prize. Her writing has featured in the Guardian, POETRY, Granta, Wasafiri, Bidoun, The White Review and on BBC Radio 4.

The other shortlisted authors include Tom Crewe for The New Life, Michael Magee for his debut novel Close to Home, and Noreen Masud for her autobiography A Flat Place.

This year, the shadow panel of judges has been reinstated for the first time since 2020. Together, four influential book bloggers will read discuss each of the titles, deciding on their own winner ahead of the announcement.

The winner will be announced in a ceremony at Canova Hall, Brixton on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. Good luck to Mehri!