Big change for the Wigtown Poetry Prize

Wigtown’s international poetry prize has announced major changes designed to celebrate the richness of Scotland’s three national languages.

For the first time the £1500 prize will be open to English, Scottish Gaelic and Scots language poems, with entries invited from around the globe.

The change marks the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019.

As in previous years there will also be dedicated categories, with top prizes of £500, for the best Scots and Scottish Gaelic poems.

A new pamphlet award has also been introduced commemorating Alastair Reid, who was born in Whithorn in 1926, and became one of the country’s foremost literary figures.

For the second year there will be a Dumfries and Galloway Fresh Voice Award to help nurture emerging poets based in, or from, the region.

This year the competition has new partnerships, including with StAnza, and is building on its established relationships with the Gaelic Books Council, the Saltire Society, The Scottish Poetry Library and others.

Marjorie Lotfi Gill, who chairs the Wigtown Book Festival Board of Trustees, said: ‘The Wigtown Poetry Prize has developed into one of the UK’s best-established writing competitions and has been a launchpad for many writers’ careers.

‘With 2019 being the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages it seemed like the ideal moment to look at what more we could do to support and promote poetry in Scots and Scottish Gaelic.

‘We are excited to be able to consider poetry in all three languages for the overall prize.

‘We are also delighted to be introducing a pamphlet category which commemorates Alastair Reid and that will celebrate not just terrific individual poems but short collections of work.’

The competition, which is organised by the Wigtown Festival Company, is now working with an even broader group of partners and supporters.

One benefit is that the winner of the Fresh Voice Award will have a free residency at the Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre.

The pamphlet category winner will have 30 copies of their work set by Gerry Cambridge and copies will be distributed to those attending the awards ceremony, at The Wigtown Book Festival this autumn (27 September to 6 October).

Asif Khan, director of the Scottish Poetry Library, said: ‘It is pleasing to see The Wigtown Book Festival mainstreaming our indigenous languages within the overall poetry prize.

‘The Alistair Reid Pamphlet Prize is a welcome addition too as the pamphlet form is a good medium for innovation in form, design and aesthetic.

‘It is arguable that poetry has never been so popular and prizes such as Wigtown’s provide a platform for emerging writers to establish a profile with the growing number of readers and publishers.’

Sarah Mason, programme director of the Saltire Society said: ‘Championing Scotland’s culture and languages, Wigtown’s Poetry Prize sees Scots and Gaelic being recognised and celebrated on an international level. The Saltire Society is pleased to be continuing its partnership with this important prize and its development.’

‘As one of our new partners for 2019, the StAnza international poetry festival is looking forward to inviting prize winners to read at next year’s event.’

Eleanor Livingstone, StAnza Festival director, added: ‘Poetry can be very powerful. It enables us to communicate and share things beyond our differences, something we really need right now. One of this year’s festival poets, George Mario Angel Quintero from Colombia said to us: “Poetry will not change or save the world. But it will always be on the side of resistance to hate. ”

‘We are especially pleased to be working with Wigtown in their development of recognition of all the languages of Scotland, something which has been of key importance to us from our earliest festivals.’

Alison Lang, The Gaelic Books Council, said: ‘As a long-term supporter of the Wigtown Book Festival, Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (The Gaelic Books Council) is proud to be partnering with the festival again this year and we hope that many Gaelic poets will submit their work not only in the Gaelic category but also for the overall Wigtown Poetry Prize.

‘The UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages gives us an opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s languages, and we look forward to discovering new Gaelic poems and poets through this year’s competition.’

Entries for the competition close on 7 June.

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