Ann Gray, Christopher North & Madeleine Wurzburger among winners of Poetry Business Competition

Congratulations to the winners of the Poetry Business International Book & Pamphlet Competition, judged by Liz Berry & David Constantine, including Poetry Society Members Ann Gray, Christopher North and Madeleine Wurzburger.

The four winners are:

  • Rebecca Cullen (Nottingham) for her collection Majid Sits in a Tree and Sings
  • Ann Gray (Cornwall) for her collection I Wish I Had More Mothers
  • Christopher North (Alicante, Spain) for his collection From An Armchair
  • Madeleine Wurzburger (London) for her collection Sleeve Catching Fire at Dawn

These collections will be published by Smith|Doorstop books, an imprint of The Poetry Business, and launched on 22nd September at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. The winners will each receive a share of £2,000 cash as well as publication in The North magazine.

Judge’s Comments

It was heartening to note that almost all the poets in contention did in their different ways and with different emphases address the common central facts of human existence: love, death, grief and the will to happiness. It reinforces one’s faith in the whole endeavour of poetry to see those essential things being written about in the real context of our own day and age. Poets want to say what it is like now. Taking all the pamphlets together, there was great variety of subject, poetic form and tone of voice. The scores of poems here demonstrate not just the necessity for poetry but also the life of it, the good it does.

– David Constantine, Judge

Pamphlets seem in many ways the perfect parcel for poetry – small enough to carry anywhere, brief enough to devour in a single sitting and yet so full and rich that we can return to them again and again and still find something new. They allow a poet to introduce themselves, to tell a story or to take an image, a tone, and let it ring through the pamphlet like a bell.

Judging the 2018 Poetry Business Pamphlet competition was a pleasure. The standards were exceptionally high and the fact that David and I shared many of the same choices is testament to the ability that fine poetry has to shine out. Many wonderful poets have begun their careers with a Poetry Business pamphlet and so it felt very exciting to be part of this early stage.

Thank you to all the shortlisted poets – you made our job a joy so take heart and keep your faith in your work – and congratulations and three cheers for this year’s wonderful winners!

– Liz Berry, Judge

Rebecca Cullen is from Nottingham. She started to write poetry after careers in teaching and the civil service, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. She is in the final stages of her PhD ‘Mastering Time: Time and Temporality in Contemporary Poetry’ at NTU, funded by Midlands3Cities DTP and the AHRC. In 2016 she was the second poet-in-residence at Newstead Abbey, ancestral home of George Gordon, Lord Byron. Her poetry has been published in ‘The North’, ‘New Walk’ and New Poetries VII.

 This is a pamphlet of poems which shine and crackle with their own dark electricity. Finely wrought, precise and wide ranging in their themes, they carry a pleasing shiver of wildness in their hearts. – Liz Berry on Rebecca’s collection,’Majid Sits in a Tree and Sings’

Ann Gray has a Creative writing MA from the University of Plymouth. Her most recent collection was At The Gate (Headland, 2008) Her poems have been selected for the Forward Prize Anthology, commended for the National Poetry Competition, won the Ballymaloe poetry prize and shortlisted for the Forward prizes best single poem in 2015.

Poet in residence at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens for the Thresholds University Museums Project, curated by the Poet Laureate in 2013, she is co-director of the Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival, now in its 7th year. She lives in Cornwall where she cares for people with dementia.

 We both loved this moving, tender collection of poems which explores what it means to have and to lose a mother. The poems in this pamphlet are lyrical, carefully crafted with a lightness of touch and, so importantly, “unafraid to be kind”. At once a joyful and aching read. – Liz Berry on Ann’s Collection, ‘I Wish I Had More Mothers’

Christopher North’s first collection ‘A Mesh of Wires’ published by Smith Doorstop was short-listed for the Forward Prize in 1999. He has published two full collections since: ‘Explaining the Circumstances’ (2010), ‘The Night Surveyor’ (2014) and a joint , bilingual collection ‘Al Otro Lado del Aguilar’ (2011) with Terry Gifford – all with Oversteps Books. His most recent pamphlet collection is ‘Wolves Recently Sighted’ Templar Poetry 2014. Since 2002, with his wife Marisa, he has facilitated poetry writing retreats and courses at, Almassera Vella in Relleu, Alicante Spain. He chairs ‘Stanza Alacant’ now in its eleventh year. He is a strong advocate of Peter Redgrove’s incubation process.

 A large and various cast of strange, sad, joyous, repellent and poignant characters. A sort of travelogue or bestiary. I liked its oddity, gusto – and unemphatic pathos. – David Constantine on Christopher’s collection ‘From an Armchair’

Madeleine Wurzburger was born in Kingston-upon-Thames, UK and currently lives in Richmond, Surrey where she works as a private EFL teacher. Her poems have been published in The Rialto, Long Poem Magazine and included in the 2012 Flarestack Poets Pamphlet anthology. She was also a shortlisted poet in the 2015 Bridport Prize.

An extraordinarily precise and effective deployment of sometimes quite arcane knowledge. There’s the shock of originality, followed by the more important realization that things that matter are being said. – David Constantine on Madeleine’s collection, ‘Sleeve Catching Fire at Dawn’

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12 June 2018