The Wigtown Poetry Prize Winner Announcement

2 October 2022
Wigtown Book Festival Poetry Prize winner 2022 Julie Laing. She stands in front of the green and white Wigtown Book Festival logo.

The winners of Scotland’s international three-language poetry prize were revealed yesterday at a special event at Wigtown Book Festival. Each year The Wigtown Poetry Prize attracts entries from around the world in English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic.

It consists of The Wigtown Prize plus separate awards for poems in Scots and Gaelic, the Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize and 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 winner of the £1,500 Wigtown Prize for 2022 was Julie Laing from Glasgow for her poem Calving and the runner up was To Naesayers O Life And Leid by William Hershaw from Lochgelly.

The £500 Gaelic Prize went to Martin MacIntyre from Edinburgh for Dithis Bhoireannach air Trèan and the runner up was Rody Gorman from Skye with Triall.

For the £500 Scots award the winner was Irene Howat from Ayr for The Lintie and the runner up was Joan Fraser, from Brae, for Here aalwiss.

Andrew Murray from Cummertrees received the Fresh Voice Award Gwen Dupre from Lockerbie was the runner up. Sarah Leavesley from Droitwich received the Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize the runner up was Bridget Khursheed from Melrose.

Vahni Capildeo, who judged the Wigtown Prize and the Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize, said: “The voicing of diverse kinds of interconnexion came across throughout the Wigtown Prize entries through plain and daring forms, as technique or texture as well as theme – a great development in poetics. Intensity, in the best sense, is finding fresh expression. The entirety of the prize entries made for a gripping and fabulous journey through the state of the art, with not a single one I’d have passed up reading.

Calving compelled me to return to it, surprising me with depths beyond its obvious visual appeal. Glacier-like, words split, melt, and splash on the page. Conceptually, science animates the poem; skill in wordcraft that seems like cool, neutral, even natural movement. This visual display of controlled language coexists and contrasts with the urgency and terror of the event’s implications. There's something lovely in how the poet’s imagination works both in and despite ecological crisis.

“With William Hershaw’s poem, the energy and joy that thrills and trills stayed in my ear. It was one of many excellent entries that invoke birds or engage with birdsong in ways that go beyond sheerly descriptive or romantic ‘nature writing’. Here the hopeful note, and commentary on language itself, arises easily, as our thoughts can switch between soundmaking creatures (human poet, singing bird) in growing awareness of our interconnectedness.”

Commenting on Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize, Vahni added “The quality and range was astonishingly high.

Rainfall’s deliberately delicate and pretty language charts flux and destruction. This is the individual lyric’s ability to sing, lovingly attuned to our common home, turning into collective lament. The techniques match the preoccupations: pleasing, quietly alarming repetitions and re-cyclings in forms that have been crafted as fixed, while the voice continues flowing as if free.”

Brian Holton, who judged the Scots prize, said: “I was impressed by the standard of many of the entries, which showed both a mastery of the language and control of the versification. There were only a few examples of the sort of clodhopping crambo-clink that deserves to be strangled with a copy of the Sunday Post, a few mawkishly sentimental pieces in English with the odd Scots word shoehorned in, and, surprisingly, a couple in English pur sang.

“So the number and the quality of the entries made it quite difficult to make up a short leet. There were fine poems from the Doric, Shetlandic, Central Belt Scots and elsewhere, a translation, some sharply-observed nature poems and meditations on historical events which caught my imagination.

“All in all, a good harvest of some six dozen poems. The Mither Tongue’s in good heart still, it seems.”

“A wis fair taen on wi hou guid sae monie o the poems wir, shawin a guid grip o the leid an a skeillie owrance o the versifeein. There wisna that monie plowterin screeds o crambo-clink needin ti be thrapplt wi a blaud o the Sunday Post, a wee pickle sub-Kailyaird craiturs in English wi a wheen Scots words knidgit intil them, an, for a ferlie, a twa-three in the English itsel.

“Sae the nummer an the brawity o the entries made it no an easy darg ti mak a short leet. But there wis guid wark in the Doric, in Shetlandic, an Central Belt Scots an frae ither airts forbye, yin owresettin, monie tentie observes o the naitral warld an pensefu thochts on historical events at kittlt uis up wi pleisur.

“Aa an haill, a no bad hairst o sax dizzen-odd poems. The leid’s in guid hairt yit, seeminlie.”

Hugh McMillan, who judged the Fresh Voice Award, said: “The winning poet Andy Murray had a natural flair for language and great range. Each of the shortlisted poets in this category deserve great praise for technique and passion in their craft. Dumfries and Galloway writing is alive and kicking.”

The Wigtown Poetry Prize takes place in association with The Gaelic Books Council, Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre, The Saltire Society, The Scottish Poetry Library and StAnza (Scotland's International Poetry Festival).

Alison Lang, Director of the Gaelic Books Council which sponsors the Gaelic prize, said: Meal a naidheachd do Mhàrtainn air an duais seo, agus Rody. Tha sinn taingeil don a h-uile bàrd a chuir an obair aca a-steach am-bliadhna, agus don bhritheamh, Anna Frater agus sgioba Baile na h-Ùige air fad. Tha an duais seo cho cudromach airson litreachas na Gàidhlig, agus tha e a’ toirt togail dhuinn a bhith a’ faicinn cho math ’s a tha an sgrìobhadh a-rithist am-bliadhna.”

“Our congratulations to Martin on this prize, and also to Rody. We are grateful to all the poets who submitted their work this year, and also to the Gaelic judge, Anna Frater, and to the whole Wigtown team. This is such an important prize for Gaelic literature, and it is hugely encouraging to see how high the quality of writing is again this year.”