The Wigtown Poetry Prize, an annual celebration of poets and poems in the country’s three indigenous languages, has had its first ever digital launch.
The decision follows the success of last year’s online prizegiving ceremony (which was part of the Wigtown Book Festival) in reaching a larger, worldwide audience.
It is hoped there will be widespread interest in the competition, which is now among the best-established in the UK – attracting over 1,020 entries last year (up 30% on 2019).
This year’s judges are William Letford, Robert Alan Jamieson and Sandy NicDhòmhnaill Jonesy.
Wigtown Festival Company chair Marjorie Lotfi said: ‘The competition is thriving with entries and interest coming from a multitude of countries on just about every continent – and a digital launch is the ideal way to engage as many people in as many places as possible.
‘We very much hope that at a time when international travel, and all forms of social contact, have been so severely restricted that poetry will help bring us together.’
The competition has a whole series of categories and is open to poets wherever they live and work – past winners have been based as far afield as Canada and China.
The winner of the Wigtown Prize (which is open to entries in English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic) receives £1,500 and the runner up £200. There are other categories specifically for Scots and Scottish Gaelic.
There is also the Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize, named in memory of one of Scotland’s foremost literary talents and which recognises a pamphlet of work rather than individual poems.
And there is the Dumfries and Galloway Fresh Voice Award, for poets living in, or from, the region who have never professionally published a full length collection.
The Wigtown Poetry Prize is organised by the Wigtown Festival Company in association with The Gaelic Books Council, Moniack Mhor Writers Centre, Saltire Society, Scottish Poetry Library, and StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival.
Alison Lang, director of the Scottish Books Council, said: ‘Once again, we are delighted to be supporting this prestigious prize. We are always encouraged by the response from Gaelic poets to the Wigtown Poetry Competition, and we hope that this year the standard of entries will continue to impress the judges.’
Sarah Mason, Director of the Saltire Society, said: ‘The Saltire Society is pleased to be sponsoring the Wigtown Scots Poetry Competition in 2021. The strength and importance of Scotland’s languages is weel kent and, through awards and projects such as this, the community can ensure they continue to flourish.’
Last year’s digital prizegiving event reached an audience of around 500 with all winners in attendance including Jane Frank, runner up of the Wigtown Prize who is based in Brisbane. Jane has been selected to take part in StAnza 2021 and will be performing on the Poetry Centre Stage on Sunday, 14 March at 4pm. This is a free online event.
The Wigtown Poetry Prize is organised by the Wigtown Festival Company. Those entering Wigtown Scottish Gaelic and Wigtown Scots categories can also submit their poems to be considered for the Wigtown Prize free-of-charge.
The competition is open for entries and details can be found at www.wigtownpoetryprize.com. The competition closes on 31 May, with a prizegiving at Wigtown Book Festival in the autumn.