Judge George Szirtes reveals the 1st, 2nd, 3rd & runners up
In Ambit’s fourth Annual Poetry Competition, first prize goes to James Dufficy for his poem The Invaders, second prize goes to Mark Wynne for The History of England, third prize goes to Marvin Thompson for Interviewee: “Egypt was an amazing civilisation. It was not created by Black Africans. I’m sorry.”
Runners up (in alphabetical order) are Stephen Capus for his translation of Anna Akhmatova’s Requiem, Epilogue 2, Millie Guille for Onions, Johan Huybrets for The Hearts of Darkness, Fokkina McDonell for Cellar. Aaron Poochigian for Ultrasound or DopplerRadar, Xiao Yue Shan for When I was 4 year’s old my parents took me to Tianamen Square and Pnina Shinebourne for The Trial of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore.
All winning entries will be published in Issue 230 of Ambit, out at the end of October. The competition ran from April to July and was judged anonymously. Winners receive £500 for 1st, £250 for 2nd and £150 for 3rd prize, along with publication in the magazine. The winners and runners up represent an international crowd with writers and poets from the UK, Ireland, China and USA.
There is an open invitation to a celebratory event with readings by the winners, on Tuesday, 24 October at 7pm at The Sun and 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pulteney St, London W1F 9NG. Entrance is free with a purchase of the magazine or £5 and the cash bar will stay open until late.
Statement from judge George Szirties:
“Having judged two very large book prizes in a year I thought it would be relatively easy to judge a few hundred individual poems for Ambit. Not so. The trouble is you keep reading the same poems again and again and keep changing your mind. This is not because your criteria change in the process – you don’t have conscious criteria bar the two given by Ambit, that the poems should have something to do with resistance and that they should be forty lines or under – but because you keep seeing different qualities in the poems. There is a further problem in that there are some very good poems that don’t fit the criteria in that they are too long or because their connection to the ‘resistance’ theme seems tenuous. Besides, tenuous connections can be a very good thing in presenting the reader with something complex, with more dimensions than a poem that is rhetorically direct. In the event the poems I have chosen are relatively but – apart from the fine poem about the interviewee’s answer about Egypt and Black Africans, – not mysteriously tenuous, just half way so. It was a very hard choice between the top two, The History of England and The Invaders, both brief, fully loaded yet simple, one (probably) about post-colonial guilt, the other about revolution. It was the freshness of The Invaders that just about swung it. I did not think it would be possible to end a poem with the line ‘Power to the people!’ That took humour, cheek, and a genuinely revolutionary brio. But then again, if I can’t fully explain my reason for choosing it that is because I don’t fully know the reason. Lack of exhaustive criteria, you see. Poems are not very good at satisfying criteria. That’s what makes them poems.”