The 2021 winners of the Wigtown Poetry Prize, Scotland’s annual international awards for poems in the nation’s three indigenous languages, have been revealed.
A mark of its success is that entry numbers continue to rise. After topping 1,000 last year they are up again by around 14% with a total of 1135.
Entries have come from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, USA – underlining the worldwide appeal of the awards.
Basil du Toit, who was born in Cape Town but has lived in Edinburgh since 1980, has been named as the winner of the £1,500 Wigtown Prize for his poem Mermaid Indoors.
Basil said: ‘Winning the Wigtown Poetry Prize has been a total joy to me, and is one of the outstanding events of my writing career. It is wonderful, and humbling, to be joining all of the excellent poets who have won Wigtown prizes over the years, in all of the categories.
‘In recent years I have developed a special attachment to Dumfries and Galloway through holidaying at Carrick Shore and admiring the tidal fluxes of the Solway Firth – helping to give focus to a number of sea-related themes in my writing; in addition I am conscious of my debt to Southlight magazine for publishing several of my poems; this award has augmented my gratitude to the region.’
The runner-up is Mark Gallacher for Byne Hill. Mark lives in Denmark and his poem is dedicated to his brother-in-law Greig Campbell who was born and bred in Newton Stewart and who died unexpectedly in May.
Mark said: ‘When I learned that my poem had been chosen for the runner-up prize, it brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. The poem is shaped by landscape, loss, and memory the distillation of many feelings and experiences.
‘Most of all, it felt like I had managed to get back to my hometown of Girvan and to share a last run with my brother-in-law and pay him fitting tribute. I am very grateful that it resonated with the competition judge.’
The winner of the Wigtown Scots Prize is Robert Duncan for Peeweep and the runner up is Lynn Valentine for Thi Loast Bairn.
Robert said: ‘My poem was enspirit by the Peeweep Pit in Lumphinnans, whaur I grew up. I loved the thocht that a pit was cried efter a bird. The miners would traik mair than a mile fae the village tae the pit in aa weathers. For me, poetry means naething gin it doesnae uplift the lifes o common fowk.’
Lynn said: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled to be runner up in the Scots category of the Wigtown Poetry Prize. I only started writing in Scots a couple of years ago although I was surrounded by it growing up so this means the world to me, a validation of my poetry in the Angus dialect of my childhood.
‘I love writing in Scots and this runner-up prize leads on from winning the Hedgehog Poetry Press’ dialect competition last year which led to the publication of my Scots/English pamphlet A Glimmer o Stars. My full collection will be out with Cinnamon Press in April 2022 with a wee seam of Scots poems running though the others.’
Eoghan Stewart has been named as the winner of the Wigtown Scottish Gaelic Prize for Dante air an C1144 agus U1207 and Gillebride MacMillan is the runner-up with Glanadh.
Eoghan said: ‘It is a tremendous honour to have won the Gaelic Prize, especially after being shortlisted for two poems this year and it was also incredibly humbling to have been a Gaelic poet shortlisted for the Main Prize alongside so many great poems in all of Scotland’s languages. Many thanks and best wishes to the judges.’
Gillebride added: ‘New Gaelic poetry and songs showcase and strengthen the precious Gaelic culture that we still enjoy today. It is a great honour to receive this award.’
The Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize has been awarded to Jane McKie (the 2011 winner of the coveted Edwin Morgan Prize) for Jawbreaker and the Dumfries & Galloway Fresh Voice Award to Carolyn Yates for Gaze.
Jane said: ‘I’m over the moon about winning the Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize. I love pamphlets and having a cycle of poems collected in this physical form is an honour and a gift. Thank you Wigtown and the Judges for this wonderful opportunity.’
Carolyn added: ‘Receiving the Dumfries and Galloway Fresh Voice award means a lot to me. I owe much of my development as a creative writer to Wigtown Book Festival, firstly because as literature development officer for the region for several years I had a front row seat in appreciating the work of the region’s writers including Tom Pow and Rab Wilson both of whom I find inspirational. Southlight magazine editor Vivien Jones encouraged me to submit my work.’
Wigtown Poetry Prize is organised by Wigtown Festival Company in association with The Gaelic Books Council, Moniack Mhor Writers Centre, Saltire Society, Scottish Poetry Library, StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival.
Marjorie Lotfi, Chair of Wigtown Festival Company, said: ‘I’m delighted to see the Wigtown Poetry Prize continue to go from strength to strength, with a terrific increase in overall number of entries this year hailing from all over the world. We’re particularly thrilled to see poems in both Gaelic and Scots on the shortlist for the Wigtown Prize this year too.’
The shortlist for this year’s Wigtown Prize included entries in English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic.
Alison Lang, director of The Gaelic Books Council, said: ‘It’s wonderful to see how the Wigtown Poetry Prize continues to inspire such excellent new Gaelic poetry, and we are delighted to be able to congratulate Eòghan Stewart and Gillebrìde MacMillan on their success this year.’
The prizegiving will take place during the Wigtown Book Festival in a special event on 2 October at Wigtown Parish Church.
A winner of one or more categories will be invited be selected at the discretion of StAnza 2022, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival.
The festival is also delighted to be hosting The StAnza Event on 1 October, which will feature poet Don Paterson in conversation with StAnza Director Lucy Burnett.
This year’s Wigtown Poetry Prize judges are: William Letford – Wigtown Prize and Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize; Robert Alan Jamieson – Wigtown Scots Prize; and Sandy NicDhòmhnaill Jones – Wigtown Scottish Gaelic Prize.
More information can be found at www.wigtownpoetryprize.com.