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Shortlist for Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets announced | 18-May-10

Shortlist for Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets announced

The art of poetry - a compact universe in a pamphlet
Michael Marks Poetry Award

Poetry pamphlet shortlist:
The Terrors, Tom Chivers (Nine Arches Press). Eighteenth century hangman narratives ... conducted by email.
The Titanic Café closes its doors and hits the rocks, David Hart (Nine Arches Press). An elegy to a café in Birmingham that no longer exists, this single poem is collage, song, and paean in one.
Advice on Wearing Animal Prints, Selima Hill (Flarestack Poets). A disconcerting tragicomedy told across the letters of the alphabet - this story follows the life of its idiosyncratic heroine Agatha.
Devorgilla's Bridge, Hugh McMillan (Roncadora Press). This single fold-out poem, beautifully complemented by a linocut by Hugh Bryden, is devoted to what is said to be Scotland's oldest bridge: 'an astronaut in stone'.
The Reluctant Vegetarian, Richard Moorhead (Oystercatcher Press). This pamphlet is a wry and sensual cross between a medieval herbal, a farmer?s calendar and an English dictionary.
ballast: a remix, Nii Ayikwei Parkes (tall-lighthouse). A breathtaking account of slavery told through near sci-fi effects: imagine the slave trade had operated through hot air balloons rather than ships.

The shortlist was judged by novelist Ali Smith, poet Jo Shapcott and Richard Price, poet and Head of Modern British Collections at the British Library, for an outstanding work of poetry published in pamphlet form in the UK during 2009.

Ali Smith, Chair of the judges, said:
"We really locked horns over 150 pamphlets to arrive at this shortlist. In their range of voice and form, their sheer energy and shape-shifting design, the shortlisted poets reveal exactly why the pamphlet can be said to be one of the most exciting forms - a place where spontaneity, imagination and design come together to produce something completely fresh and lasting."

Michael Marks Publishers' Award
Books of 36 pages or less are where new poetry often first meets its audience - slim volumes allow readers to savour a concentrated gathering or carefully paced sequence of poems. Poetry pamphlets can be exquisitely designed, with striking visual qualities that form a strong part of the meaning of the book as a whole.

Small press publishers have been at the forefront of developing new audiences for poetry through such attractive and innovative publications. The British Library and Poetry Book Society also announce an award for a UK publisher of poetry in pamphlet form, on the basis of their publishing programme in 2009.

Publishers' shortlist
HappenStance Press
Oystercatcher Press
Templar Poetry

Richard Price, Head of Modern British Collections at the British Library, commented:
"Pamphlets are the real thermometer of new poetry - these are the only UK-wide awards of their kind and this shortlist shows us the great range of approaches and ambition of modern poetry in Britain. If there's a theme this year it's the remix, the mash-up of history, time and place - like Bladerunner or Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, there's a retro futurism in many of these which opens the door to non-poetry audiences without giving up any of the poetry. The shortlisted poets have all risen to the challenge of what a pamphlet can be, fusing both physical and visual form with poetry."

The winners of the two Awards will be announced and presented with cheques for £5,000 at a Readings and Awards Ceremony at the British Library from 6.30pm on 16 June 2010. The shortlisted poets will read from their work, the winners will be announced and the Award Ceremony will be followed by a reception to which the audience is invited.

For more information on the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets and to buy any of the shortlisted pamphlets, go to

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