His poetry has won the Forward Prize, the Costa Poetry Prize and the Whitbread Poetry Award, and been shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize and the T.S. Eliot Prize. He has received major awards from the Arts Council and the Society of Authors. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and of the English Association.
His continuing collaboration with composer James MacMillan has led to two BBC Proms choral commissions, song cycles, music theatre works and operas for the Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and Welsh National Opera. Their WNO commission – The Sacrifice – won the RPS Award for opera, and their Royal Opera House / Scottish Opera commission – Clemency – was nominated for an Olivier Award.
His broadcast work includes the BBC4 verse film Men Who Sleep in Cars – described by the Observer as “a work of genius”, A Fearful Symmetry – for Radio 4 – which won the Sandford St Martin Prize, and Last Words commissioned by Radio 4 to mark the first anniversary of 9/11.
He has published two novels, and is Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University.
His 8th poetry collection – Ransom – was published by Cape in March 2021.