You can’t win it if you aren’t in it – poets around the world have been urged to enter the Wigtown Poetry Prizes by one of 2023’s highly-praised winners.
Edinburgh-based Stephanie Green was overwhelmed when she was awarded the Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize and was also shortlisted for the £1,500 Wigtown International Prize.
She said: “I had always wanted to win one of the Wigtown Poetry Prizes – they are among the most prestigious in the UK and I have been entering my work ever since I came to live in Scotland.
“I really would encourage people to enter. After all, you can’t win it if you aren’t in it. Competitions are wonderful for your poetry. They force you to edit your work to within an inch of its life, make it the very best it can be. So, whether you win or not, it’s very good for your work. I wasn’t sure I wanted to let loose my sea-monster poems on the world, they are so dark but these were what came out when I dug deep. It’s important to be true to one self.
“And poetry is about communication. You should get your work out there.”
Stephanie, an accomplished poet and writer, originally from London, lived in Wales for 13 years then moved to Scotland in 2000. She began writing poetry in her 20s and it became a serious pursuit when she was in her 40s.
Her Wigtown winner was a collection entitled Ortelius’ Sea Monsters, which came about after a trip to Iceland where she saw the remarkable late 16th-century map of the country by Abraham Ortelius – its seas filled with huge, bizarre and ferocious creatures. These became the basis of a collection that explores a multitude of nightmares and fears, delving deep into some of the darkest corners of human experience.
The Wigtown Poetry Prizes date back to 2005 and are Scotland’s international poetry awards. They celebrate the country’s three indigenous languages – English, Gaelic and Scots.
Entries for the 2024 are open from now until 6 May.
Nicholas Walker, Wigtown Poetry Prize Group Chair, said: “The Wigtown Poetry Prizes are as much about nurturing poetry as about rewarding excellence.
“They are also here to provide a showcase for poetry in the three languages that are so much at the heart of Scottish history, culture and creativity.
“Each year we get hundreds of entries from Scotland, elsewhere in the UK and from every part of the world – including North and South America, Australia, China and Japan.
“This underlines how prestigious the prizes have become and the immense enthusiasm that exists for awards that encourage creative expression in all our indigenous languages.”
Each year the awards are given at a special event during the Wigtown Book Festival, which takes place from 27 September to 6 October in Scotland’s National Book Town.
The Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize was named in memory of one of Scotland’s foremost literary talents.
The 2023 judge was Donald S Murray, who said: “Ortelius’ Sea-Monsters is outstanding in terms of its source of inspiration and the varied ways in which the writer examines the fantastical beings to which the reader is introduced within its pages.
“I relished each encounter, fascinated by the different ways in which each creature is described. This is a work which is a triumph both for the writer’s imagination and their wide and surprising range of poetic skills.”
The 2024 awards
Wigtown International Prize
- Winner: £1,500
- Runner-up: £200
Wigtown Scots Prize
- Winner: £500
- Runner-up: £200
Supported by Saltire Society
Wigtown Scottish Gaelic Prize
- Winner: £500
- Runner-up: £200
Supported by The Gaelic Books Council
Dumfries & Galloway Fresh Voice Award
Professional support including mentoring by Wigtown Festival Company and a retreat at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre.
Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize
- Winner: Thirty copies of a pamphlet of the work, set by Gerry Cambridge.
Plus – a winner of one or more categories will be selected at the discretion of StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival and Wigtown Festival Company to read their work at the StAnza.
- Full details at www.wigtownpoetryprize.com
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Notes to editors
About the Wigtown Poetry Prize
Founded in 2005 and refreshed and rebranded in 2019, Wigtown Poetry Prize welcomes entries from poets writing in English wherever they may live. Separate categories celebrate the best of Scottish Gaelic and Scots language poetry, a special category acknowledges a rising talent in Dumfries & Galloway, and a pamphlet prize is named in memory of Alastair Reid – local poet and one of Scotland’s foremost literary figures.
- Website: www.wigtownpoetryprize.com
- Email: [email protected]
- This year’s competition takes place in association with:
- The Gaelic Books Council https://www.gaelicbooks.org
- Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre https://www.moniackmhor.org.uk
- Saltire Society https://www.saltiresociety.org.uk
- Scottish Poetry Library https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk
- StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival http://www.stanzapoetry.org
About Stephanie Green
- Stephanie was born in Sussex, with an English father and Irish mother. She has a BA from Trinity College, Dublin (1970) and a Masters in Modernism in English Literature and Fine Art at Kent University (1978). In 2004 she graduated with an MPhil in Creative Writing from Glasgow University where her supervisor was Liz Lochead.
- Her love of poetry began as a 15-year-old and she began writing love poems in her 20s, with becoming a “serious” poetry writer while living in Wales in her 40s.
- As a young woman she worked at The Tower Bookshop in London which was frequented by many leading poets of the time.
- She was the recipient of a New Writer Award 2007, several Creative Scotland Awards (2010-15), and was selected for Best Poems published in Scotland (2004/5).
- Her poem The Child of Breckon Sands was set to music for voice and piano by Marisa Sharon Hartanto and performed by mezzo-soprano, Alison Wells at the St Magnus Festival, Orkney, 2013
- The poem Light was part of an installation in Dumfries, 2015.
- Stephanie’s poem Ayre inspired a dance piece choreographed by Matthew Hawkins and performed by Platinum Dance at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 2015.
- Rewilding: Brodgar Poetry/Sound Walk appeared as part of the Orkney Nature Festival, 2023 but is also available online.
- Since 2020 she has co-curated PoetryLit, a popular monthly online poetry reading event with a global reach.
- Find out more about Stephanie at https://www.stephaniegreen.org.uk.
About The Gaelic Books Council
Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (The Gaelic Books Council) is the lead organisation with responsibility for supporting Scottish Gaelic authors and publishers, and for raising the profile and reach of Scottish Gaelic books in Scotland and internationally. Established in 1968, Comhairle nan Leabhraichean is a registered charity and receives support from Creative Scotland and from Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
About The Saltire Society
The Saltire Society seeks to encourage everything that might improve the quality of life in Scotland. It works to preserve all that is best in Scottish traditions and to encourage new developments which can strengthen and enrich the country’s cultural life. It acts as a catalyst, celebrant and commentator through an annual programme of awards, lectures, debates and projects. Founded in 1936 is a non-political independent charity with membership branches throughout Scotland.
StAnza’s mission is to celebrate poetry, to bring poetry to audiences and to enable encounters with poetry. The organisation works all year round to deliver poetry events and projects in Scotland and beyond. Its main focus is the annual festival in St Andrews each spring and it is recognised as one of the leading poetry festivals in the UK and Europe. StAnza also actively promotes readings in foreign or minority languages and has featured poets reading in many of the national languages of Europe, as well as in regional languages and dialects. We regularly include Gaelic and Scots language poets.
For media information and interview requests contact Matthew Shelley on 07786 704299 or [email protected]