Relaunched Wigtown Poetry Prize Celebrates Scotland’s Richness of Languages

Relaunched Wigtown Poetry Prize
  • Prize marks United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages
  • New pamphlet prize reflecting the life of poet Alistair Reid
  • New association with StAnza Festival

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 £1,500 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’s 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.”

This year’s competition takes place in association with:

  • The Gaelic Books Council
  • Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre
  • Saltire Society
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Scottish Review of Books
  • StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival

Mairi Kidd, Creative Scotland Interim Head of Literature, Languages & Publishing said: “Wigtown Book Festival’s Poetry prizes offer a hugely valuable range of opportunities for writers, delivered in partnership with an ever stronger network of supporters across the Scottish literature world.

“In the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages, it’s particularly encouraging to see the commitment of the team at Wigtown to writing in Scotland’s indigenous languages, and great to see pamphlet publishing – an important means of connecting poets with readers – included for the first time.”

  • Entries for the competition close on 7 June 2019.

About the judges

The competition has a distinguished line-up of judges including John Burnside, Gerda Stevenson and Kevin MacNeil.

John Burnside: Prolific poet and prose-writer John Burnside was born in Dunfermline. Burnside first started publishing poetry in the 1980s and has since brought out 15 full collections. He has won multiple awards including the Whitbread Poetry Award in 2000 for The Asylum Dance and a Cholmondeley Award in 2008. Black Cat Bone won both the Forward and the T.S. Eliot prizes in 2012. His most recent collection, Still Life with Feeding Snake, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2017. He writes a regular Nature column for The New Statesman and has also published eight novels, three short story collections and two memoirs. Formerly writer-in-residence at Dundee University, he now teaches at the University of St Andrews. He is married with two sons.

Gerda Stevenson: A writer/actor/director/singer/songwriter, Gerda works in theatre, television, radio, film, and opera, throughout Britain and abroad. Her poetry, drama and prose have been widely published, staged and broadcast, including plays for BBC Radio 4. Gerda has been nominated for a range of awards, and won a BAFTA Best Film Actress award for Margaret Tait’s feature film, Blue Black Permanent. In 2017 Gerda was commissioned by University of Edinburgh to write an opera libretto, with composer Dee Isaacs, based on Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Her first poetry collection, If This Were Real, came out in 2013, and her second, Quines: Poems in Tribute to Women of Scotland, was published in 2018 to wide critical acclaim. Inside & Out: The Art of Christian Small, with an introduction and poems by Gerda, is being republished by Scotland Street Press this year.

Kevin MacNeil: Born and raised in the Outer Hebrides, Kevin is a multi-award winning author. He is a novelist, screenwriter, poet, editor and playwright, whose books include The Brilliant & Forever (shortlisted for the Saltire Fiction of the Year Award), Love and Zen in the Outer Hebrides (winner of the Tivoli Europa Giovani International Poetry prize) and The Stornoway Way (currently being adapted for the stage, touring theatres in Autumn 2019). He wrote the acclaimed biopic of Hamish Henderson Hamish: The Movie and is currently writing an animated feature film for kids and a book on the form of cooking he invented, Hai Cookery. MacNeil teaches creative writing at the University of Stirling and is a practising Buddhist whose interests include cycling, running and looking after his greyhound, Molly.

The 2019 Prizes:

  • Wigtown Prize: £1,500, runner-up £200
  • Wigtown Scots Prize: £500, runner-up £200 (supported by the Saltire Society)
  • Wigtown Scottish Gaelic Prize: £500, runner-up £200 (supported by The Gaelic Books Council)
  • Dumfries & Galloway Fresh Voice Award: A package of professional support including a residency at Moniack Mhor creative writing centre.
  • Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize, 30 copies of a pamphlet of your work set by Gerry Cambridge.

Those entering Wigtown Scottish Gaelic and Wigtown Scots categories can also submit their poems to be considered for the Wigtown Prize free of charge.

  • See wigtownpoetryprize.com/poetry-competition. Telephone: 01988 402 036
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  • Wigtown Festival Company Ltd is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Scottish Charity No. SCO37984

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