Heidi Williamson wins Plough Prize

Heidi Williamson

Congratulations to Poetry Society Member Heidi Williamson, this year’s winner of the 2019 Plough International Poetry Prize, judged by Greta Stoddart. Greta chose Heidi’s poem ‘With a rootless lily held in front of him’.

Heidi runs Poetry Surgeries by Skype on behalf of The Poetry Society, offering feedback on your poems-in-progress. In her twenties she was part of a Scottish community that suffered an inconceivable tragedy, the Dunblane Primary School shooting. Those years living in the town form the focus of her third poetry collection Return by Minor Road, out now with Bloodaxe. heidiwilliamsonpoet.com


“What I love most about this poem is what it doesn’t say. Although there is great clarity in the language – the syntax is sure and measured, the diction restrained – there is at the heart of the poem a mystery: who is this man? why is he holding the lily? what does the lily signify?

The scene is simply and vividly evoked and the controlled tone creates a powerful tension that lends itself brilliantly to the unexplained central image. An image that seems to resonate in my mind offering up powerful themes of identity, punishment, humiliation, sanctitude.

The poem has had the courage to leave out the basic tenets of explication – the who, where, when and why – but has responded fully to the important question of what. So the what – this strange and lonely procession – is beautifully described, allowing the reader space in which to watch and wonder. The lines in their subtle directness hint and suggest but ultimately do not explain. In this way the poem becomes larger than the single event it appears to be describing and touches on, and takes in, other moments in our history.”

In second and third place were Claudine Toutoungi and Sara Backer.

Plenty of Poetry Society Members on the shortlist: Anne Ballard, Mara Bergman, Alison Binney, Sharon Black, Anne Casey, Ian Royce Chamberlain, Scott Elder, Mark Fiddes, Mary Gilonne, Gabriel Griffin, Mary Mulholland, David Punter, and Lesley Saunders.

The Plough Arts Centre in Devon provides exciting opportunities for all people to experience a wide and vibrant range of high quality arts events both as audience and participants. Through creative partnerships the Plough Arts Centre is a welcoming and dynamic venue for artistic expression and education, responsive to the needs of the local community and a beacon for the arts across North Devon – visible and valued throughout the South West. They offer a varied and exciting programme of arts events and activities.

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13 May 2020