An Epic Episode of Word N Sound

-Reviewed by Rabbie Wrote

There is a point where tempered logic and emotion meet…Word N Sound (WNS) brings such a point to Johannesburg audiences every first Saturday of the month at The Market Theatre Laboratory in the city. About twenty of Joburg’s eager slam poets compete for the title of WNS King/Queen of the Mic title at their #PoetryLeague. The league is not merely just a monthly poetry competition, it is an actual league where every month points are tallied. And by the end of the year the top five poets with most points compete at the WNS international youth poetry festival to be crowned that years champion.

And so the episode that took place on the 1st of July, was by far “the most epic episode” yet. The show featured an all star line up with some of the biggest names in South African poetry like Lebo Mashile, Myesha Jenkins, Quaz Roodt and Lati Matjeni with some live music from Scotty Lloyd and Showcase, and to close off the show, myself, Rabbie Wrote.

From March to July, during every second half of the show, one of the five poets who competed at the youth poetry festival the previous year gets to showcase their work. And on July 1st it was my turn to flex my skills, and man did I choose the best day to do it. The show kickstarted with moving poems from Lebogang Manoko and Thobani Mntambo. There is something mind blowing about how someone can get on stage and use a unique way to speak about issues that affect us all. In a country where most of the communication is in English, when that person is able to articulate themselves fluently in their mother tongue, it makes the experience of listening to them even sweeter. Poets like Abospitter and Siyabonga put me in a trance with their praise-like Xhosa poems on the day. I didn’t understand 90 percent of their poems, but I knew they were good because they reached deep inside of me and set my joy molecules alight. Sometimes you don’t need to understand the language to feel the poetry.

The second half of the show began with trading from newly published anthology titled To Breathe Into Another Voice, a poetry and jazz anthology edited by Myesha Jenkins. When the poetry and jazz eased up a little, Scotty Lloyd took to the stage with some melodies before Lebo Mashile got the audience in a frenzy by just walking onto stage.

Mashile performed a few poems from her new album, Moya. When I was backstage, I remember hearing a line that hit me. The line went something like, “how many times did you keep it together while your insides were unraveling?”. I just don’t remember from which poem it was, except only how nervous it made me feel especially since I was next on stage after her. I remember not even being able to hear Mashile properly, because the audience was so loud in their screams. I was not sure if she was done and I should get ready to go on stage. I remember thinking, “shouldn’t she be closing the show?”.

But then I was called up. And for a month I had rehearsed. My performance was well received. I had never hugged so many people and said ‘thank you’ in one evening. The following day Twitter was still abuzz about the show that was. It is heartwarming when compliments don’t only come from the same point where tempered logic and emotion meet, but from the comfort of someone’s couch the following day after they have processed the poetry.

Introducing our new Spoken Word Editor for South Africa: Maakomele R. Manaka

We are pleased to announce that Maakomele R. Manaka has joined the Sabotage Reviews team as the Spoken Word Editor for South Africa. He is our first international Spoken Word Editor, and hopefully not the last! Here is a little bit about him:

Maakomele R. Manaka is a Soweto born poet with a strong artistic heritage. Mak, as he is widely known, has published three collections of poetry: If OnlyIn Time and Flowers Of A Broken Smile, many of Manaka’s poems have been translated into Italian and German. His writings have appeared in literary journals and newspapers around the country, Mail & Guardian, Aerodrome, New Coin, Botsotso, Kotaz, The Chronic and Poetry Potion. He also recorded a dub-poetry album titled, Word Sound Power. Manaka has been invited to perform his poetry at various literary festivals locally and abroad, from Soweto to Spain, Cuba, Jamaica, Lesotho, Botswana, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, and at the inauguration of former president Thabo Mbeki, he also performed for the late Nelson Mandela. He has been nominated for The Daimler Chrysler Poet Of The Year 2005 Award, and has represented South Africa at the closing ceremony of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Manaka runs creative writing classes in and around South Africa, and he holds a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Rhodes University.

If you would like to get in touch with him, his email is [email protected]

Saboteur Awards 2017: Editor’s choice

This year we piloted a new initiative at the Saboteur Awards, which was to include an ‘Editor’s choice’ for each shortlist. In each case, an editor at Sabotage Reviews was asked to select a work or person that they felt merited to be included, and might not be otherwise. Now that the awards are a month behind us, we feel it’s safe for our editors to reveal the reasons behind their selection, without fear of influencing the voting!

Best Magazine

Editor’s choice: Butcher’s Dog.
Editor who picked it: Karen Goodwin, Poetry Editor

In the ‘best magazine’ category, Butcher’s Dog distinguished itself as editorially crisp and varied. Beautifully produced, with an appealing immediacy that tended less towards polite chat, and more to presenting page after page of addictively good poetry.

Best Spoken Word Performer

Editor’s Choice: Caleb Femi
Editor who picked it: James Webster, Poetry Editor (South East)

When it came to nominating someone for Best Spoken Word Performer, I was, of course, faced with a huge choice of dazzling spoken word artists. In the end, I had to go with the poet whose intense-but-understated performance stuck with me the longest and whose incredible language I still find rattling round my brain now and again. And that has to Caleb Femi, whose performance at the Hammer and Tongue National Final put shivers down my spine and whose turns of phrase continue to haunt me. A cracking poet that left me heart-eyed.

Best Reviewer

Editor’s Choice: Jessica Traynor
Editor who picked it: Becky Varley-Winter, Poetry Editor

We have lots of lovely reviewers who generously volunteer for us at Sabotage, and we’re really grateful for their time and talents. It was good to have the chance to nominate one of them. Jess’s reviews stood out for me because they are always beautifully written, sensitive and attentive to the subtleties of the work she reads. It’s always a pleasure to receive reviews that barely need an editor.

Best Novella

Editor’s Choice: Zombies Ate My Library by Tony White
Editor who picked it: Richard T. Watson, Fiction Editor

Tony White’s Zombies Ate My Library is part of a commendable project all around reaching new audiences with digital technology, and using digital tech to tell stories in different ways, but also revitalising public libraries, which I’m all for (plus, it’s mostly involved libraries in the West Midlands, which is my home turf, so there’s that in its favour too).

Best regular spoken word show

Editor’s Choice: WORD! at Y Theatre, Leicester
Editor who picked it: Sally Jack, Spoken Word Editor (Midlands)

Now in its seventeenth year, WORD! is the Midlands’ longest running spoken word show, and for a long time, the only spoken word night in Leicester. Tirelessly and enthusiastically compered by Lydia Towsey and Pam Thompson, the first Tuesday of every month is WORD! night, and operates a 16 open mics, two headliners, one interval (and raffle) format. In recent years, pre-show writing and performance workshops and performance masterclasses are available with one of the headliners – an impressive line up including Penelope Shuttle, Rosie Garland and Mark Pajak.  WORD! is a warm, inclusive and vital part of Midlands’ word culture.

Best Collaborative Work

Editor’s Choice: Poetry on the Picket Line
Editor who picked it: James Webster, Poetry Editor (South East)

Best Collaborative Work was a tricky one to choose and elicited quite a lot of debate with regards to eligibility. I was torn between two fantastic collaborations: Poetry on the Picket Line, and Lustful Feminist Killjoys  by Anna Percy and Rebecca Audra Smith. In the end, I decided on Poetry on the Picket Line for the great work they do in bringing poetry to protests, which not only introduces poetry to new audiences, but also adds a new dimension of support to these necessary protests. In a time when governments around the world are trying to squash the voices of the masses, it’s great to see poetry standing at the frontline here, reminding us that art doesn’t just reflect the world but can change it too.

Best Wildcard

Editor’s Choice: The Gathering Cloud by J.R. Carpenter
Editor who picked it: Claire Trévien, founder.

Digital writing doesn’t tend to perform well on the Saboteur Awards shortlists, so I was keen to use my choice to bring something a little different to the table. I had read J.R. Carpenter’s The Gathering Cloud some months before and thought it would be the perfect example to bring to a wider audience: it’s a witty web collage which also brings to light the big environmental impact of Cloud storage, something many people aren’t aware of.

Best Poetry Pamphlet

Editor’s Choice: Emma Hammond’s Waves on a boring beach
Editor who picked it: Becky Varley-Winter, Poetry Editor

I was a bit daunted at first: had I read enough to choose well? First of all, I ruled out works that had already received a prize, as I wanted to pick something that hadn’t already been awarded. I then went to the Poetry Library and read as many pamphlets from the past year as I could, as well as considering those that I had already read.

Every pamphlet I picked up was well-written, but I’d especially like to mention the New Generation African Poets Chapbook Box Set (ed. by Kwame Dawes & Chris Abani), Rebecca Tamas’ Savage, Rowena Knight’s All the footprints I left were red, Lila Matsumoto’s Soft Troika, Chloe Stopa-Hunt’s White Hills, Julia Rose Lewis’s Zeroing Event, and Peter Manson’s Factitious Airs, which were all vivid in various ways.

However, when it came to choosing just one work, I found myself returning to Emma Hammond’s Waves on a boring beach. It wasn’t a calculated choice at all. I was drawn to her knack for surprisingly-perfect descriptions, often making me nod, startled. She moves from apparently pedestrian settings into dreamlike flights with agility and unforced humour. Beyond that, her pamphlet moved me strongly. I’m often drawn to works that feel organised by life, rather than having a firmly-imposed theme: by attending to a particular location with a warm gaze, this pamphlet reflected, in a tender way, the pattern of the year. Particular poems stayed strongly in my memory: the final poem, inspired by ‘The Frog Prince’, became a quietly hypnotic tour de force.

Most Innovative Publisher

Editor’s Choice: zimZalla
Editor who picked it: Claire Trévien, founder

When I first launched the Saboteur Awards in their current form, I felt sure that the category of Most Innovative Publisher would attract the likes of zimZalla, but it hasn’t always worked that way (which is of course the great thing about democracy!) However, when given the opportunity to pick one for this category, I couldn’t resist bringing them into the mix. zimZalla are a publisher of objects, they are innovative in the way they present poetry and turn it into something to be interacted with, whether as a game, teabags, and the occasional pamphlet, such as Emma Hammond’s which, by complete coincidence, was also an editor’s choice. Something in the air?

Best spoken word show:

Editor’s Choice: Fat Girls Don’t Dance by Maria Ferguson
Editor who picked it: Sally Jack, Spoken Word Editor (Midlands)

Maria blends spoken word, storytelling and dance in her debut show, and made a big impact at festivals and venues around the country during 2016, including a good run at the Edinburgh Fringe.  Tackling the weighty issues of body image and eating disorders in a fresh and original way, Maria explores her relationship with the F word (food) in a funny, moving and accessible way. A charismatic and powerful performance.

Best Anthology

Editor’s Choice: An Unreliable Guide to London (Influx Press)
Editor who picked it: Claire Trévien, founder

This was a difficult one to choose, and I was particularly torn between Iraq +100 (Comma Press) and An Unreliable Guide to London (Influx Press). In this climate, the jostling viewpoints of An Unreliable Guide to London felt like an antidote I’d like more people to have access to.

Best Short Story Collection

Editor’s Choice: Chump by Duncan P Bradshaw
Editor who picked it: Richard T. Watson, Fiction Editor

This is fun and I enjoy a compilation of stories covering the same theme or set of events from different angles. Yes, I am belatedly aware that both of my Editor’s Choice selections feature the brain-munching undead, but I promise that that’s purely coincidental.

“Everything is within the context of the paper”: In Conversation with Joseph Makkos

-In Conversation with Claire Trévien

I was lucky enough to attend and review the second New Orleans Poetry Festival last month, and found myself drawn to Joseph Makkos’ stand at its independent publishers’ book fair. His stall included a poetry drinking game, cassette tapes, chapbooks, notebooks, and more (see photo below).

Makkos’ stand at the New Orleans Poetry Festival

Makkos kindly invited me to his studio to look at the work he’s created over the last few decades and chat about ephemeral publishing. The morning of my visit, he was recovering from the New Orleans Poetry Festival secret after-party he hosted here: “You’re seeing the wreckage of the party last night, I didn’t clean it up because I thought it’d be a good landscape to photograph things on.” [It was]

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The front room of his studio is full of salvaged technology which Makkos has been gathering over the years. There’s a curated section, where he puts together an office situation per era, one for instance features a “Late 50s IBM typewriter, I have a new ribbon for it, with vintage paper from the same era, desk from the same era, along with some jokey stuff to go with it, like Dr Strangelove here – somehow it works. It all fits in as a look.”

“I’ve collected this stuff for ten years, since I came to New Orleans from Cleveland. I really focus my searches these days, these are just things that came my way. Typers have gone up in price, particularly mobile ones, the ones with a little suitcase. I like these ones [indicates curated section] because they’re more officey/vintage/mod era. I am going to do an exhibition at some point.”

At this stage we are briefly interrupted by the appearance of Joseph Bienvenu, a long-time collaborator of Makkos, whose name will crop up time and time again when riffling through Makkos’ back-catalogue. While Makkos suggests places for them to grab lunch, I am allowed to look through the cassettes and CDs, which includes Bienvenu’s translations of Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell, accompanied by Jeff Pagano’s music.

As Makkos returns, I wonder if enough people still own the technology to play cassette tapes with, but he says the format is still popular. “There’s lots of different scenes of people that I’m in the circle with, and this is their chapbook. They sell them at gigs. When I do a tape for somebody, I make 60 or 100 and I keep 5 or 10 for when I do events or have a table at a fair. It’s all small run, small market. It’s not a huge mass production thing.” Creating ephemeral objects for events is something Makkos specializes in. For Noize Fest, he also made t-shirts on the spot for punters. “They were designed and printed at the event which they can take home with them and put it in the dryer so that the ink sets in.”

Makkos cracks open a box of Cocktail Poems, which I’d be eyeing up on the stand already. “It’s a drinking game”, he explains, “We had the idea of let’s do something more interactive. It all started with this poem of [Bienvenu’s] that I read, and it was really playful. So I read his poem and thought it was a drinking game. I had originally planned another game which was going to be a broadside you had to cut the pieces out of – we kicked that around for a bit, there was going to be rules, cards to cut out, and a game board and square pieces. We decided on this card format in the end, because we thought we could do expansion packs. We are still doing that, and have narrowed it down to a couple of people, and maybe do a poet every year so that it can keep growing.”

 

As he continues to share objects he’s created, such as the accordion-shaped False Film intended to work as the score for his 10 minute poetry reading, I have to ask: what unifies all of these different projects? “It’s really about paper. This all came out of wanting to create beautiful art objects, but doing it with people’s work. How do we turn these works into an object that makes people go “wow what’s that?” and do it in a cool way and present it in a way outside of the whole digi-packed, shrink-wrapped world of faux-gloss printing?”

“Sometimes I compose a project through the paper. I try to dream up something to make with this paper, rather than dreaming up an idea and figuring out how to print it. Like this one started with these mail envelopes. I found these envelopes and turned them into enclosures.”

He lays out a series of chapsides he made, which also started with paper: “This is a pure example of starting with paper and working my way through. Someone gave me this giant stack of super beautiful thick 100 pound speckled paper. 8 ½ by 14 – this was given by a dye cutter who had extra paper. Everything is within the context of the paper, and its size. It’s all very delicately designed, and it’s from the era when I was transitioning out of Cleveland. This aesthetic fits together – for me as an artist, it’s working through a process with different artists and helping them achieve their vision of what they’d like to put together and what they’d like to achieve.”

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The papers he chooses also alter the very objects they make, as with the stencil paper used for the The Red Human-Headed Bull, whose red transfers on paper as the book is read, infecting and modifying it.

The names of his presses are all individually poetic and imaginative: Hobby Horse, Language Foundry, Makeshift, Sub-house, Variable Compass, Borrowed Time and Ink. “I keep them organized in my mind somehow. It’s the name I feel like putting on a project at the time.”

I have to ask about his podcast series No Good Poetry, hosted alongside Bienvenu, which they recorded during the festival too. “Joseph and I conceptualised the idea of doing a podcast that tackles other topics to poetry, like we reviewed this movie Patterson, we did political poetry, and now we’re doing a DADA poetry one, there’s a New Orleans Poetry Festival episode. We have a dozen figured out, then we’ll take a survey of what worked and change it up for the next dozen. We’ve done some recordings on poetry and architecture and how it affects visual poetry, we talked to a video game designer about how poetry and video games are similar. We’re interested in things like that. This is stuff that other people will listen to who aren’t necessarily interested in poetry.”

Makkos’ Zaum Cloud project

Finally, how would he describe the New Orleans Poetry Scene? “There’s a lot of different things going on, there’s a slam poetry scene, there’s an academic poetry scene, a silly poetry scene. You saw a few of those elements interact at the poetry fest this year, maybe 3 or 4, and there’s around 7 elements of poetry here. To put on a festival that permeates every corner of a poetry scene in a city is really hard. So the scene is quite expansive and has different identities, from youth poetry all the way up to Poet Laureate of Louisiana. I interact with it semi-regularly, I go to readings maybe every other weeks. The Cleveland scene was pretty tight-knit, you knew which readings to go to every week. You knew who you would see at each reading.”

Saboteur Awards 2017 – The Results

It’s been another incredible year, with nearly 4,300 people voting in the second round in the hopes that their favourite indie literature would win. As always, the shortlist has had a huge amount variety, but as we saw at Abi Palmer’s special preview night, there is far more that unites them than divides them. They represent literature at its most activist, fierce, and tender, and I hope you will go forth and discover each and everyone one of them. Each category header is hyperlinked to the spotlight so that you can discover the shortlist for each in full.

Thank you

It’s also important to thank those who have made this year’s awards happen. Sophie and Jain at Vout-O-Reenees of course, for their generosity with the venue, Danielle Nearey at Sacred Gin for the prize donations, and Literature Wales, as part of International Dylan Thomas Day for sponsoring the Best Wildcard category.

Outside of sponsors, a special thanks to Anna Jamieson, Marianne Tatepo, and Tori Truslow for their help in organizing these awards. Abi Palmer deserves a medal also for organizing a wonderful preview of the awards, as well as performing ‘Nobel’ all night at the awards. Huge thanks to Lucy Ayrton for emceeing last night’s awards, and also to Heidi James, Kathy Pimlott, Karen Goodwin, Paul Davidson, and Rachel Buchanan for their support on the night and in the run up. Finally, a huge thank you to the supporters of Sabotage Reviews, without whose kind donations, these awards would not have happened – you can find their names here (and why not join the gang?)

The results

Without further delay, here are the results of the Saboteur Awards:

Best Wildcard  – this category is supported by Literature Wales, as part of International Dylan Thomas Day

Winner: Women Aloud NI
Runner up: I am not a silent poet

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • Border-crossing, trans-gendering, genre-busting, ego-eroding mass-participating revolution in women’s voicing in the making.
  • A women’s group who from a standing start have reached over 200 members in one year, going on to produce events in every county of Northern Ireland and forging precious links across the border when they are most needed.
  • Because they are amazing! They have brought together people from all parts of NI, including many writers who felt very isolated before, and created a vibrant community. They have given women writer’s a voice and platform in Northern Ireland – and further afield that simply wasn’t there before. And they have created community links across both communities, something that is often hard to do. I’ve seen posts in Gaelic and Ullans/Ulster Scots, and people reading everything using Google Translate if need be, and commenting. I’ve found a voice through it, and found support in submitting poetry and advice on how to do that. It’s just amazing – sorry to repeat myself, but coming from NI, to have done all of this in such a short time is brilliant and life affirming and should encourage other areas to do the same.

Best Anthology

Winner:Remembering Oluwale, ed. SJ Bradley (Valley Press)

Runner up: Half Moon: Poems about Pubs, ed. Peter A. White (OWF Press)

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • This is an important anthology about social exclusion and racism, which has important resonances with today’s society. David’s story is one that needs to keep being told, especially with the recent rise in racism and jingoism.
  • A great city of the north really owning and owning up to its diverse and difficult histories. Art and articulacy. This *is* the best of modern Britain, in the face of Brexit and all other meanness and stupidity.
  • It is timely. Bridges gap between foreignness and native through recounting a real person’s story, deploying combination of poems, fiction and nonfiction. Societies are as welcoming as oft reminded to be; as we see today in Britain, it takes a short period for native feelings to rise.
  • Remembering Oluwale is a unique and powerful anthology that brings together voices new and more experienced, from around the world, expressing a collective will to hold power and authority to account. David’s story reminds us that issues of racial segregation and violence are still very much live and the range of writers and writings in this anthology demonstrates the bravery and importance of speaking up and keeping stories like David’s alive. A significant and relevant collection.

Best Spoken Word Performer

Winner: Dominic Berry

Runner up: Hollie McNish

 Why voters thought he deserved to win:

  • A hero of spoken word! An amazing performer for adults and children alike and hugely supportive of the whole poetry scene. Dominic truly deserves to be recognised as one of the greatest spoken word artists in the country.
  • Dominic is a real talent and puts his all into everything he does. His audience range is so eclectic and within all of his work there is something for everyone! I didn’t really care for poetry before meeting Dominic and from that point forward began attending various events. Manchester is full of a vast array of talented artists, and Dominic is one of the best I have encountered! This would definitely be well deserved!
  • Dominic is the most generous, hardest-working poet out there. He puts all his energy into his performances, and always risks something of himself, making his live performances unforgettably thrilling for the audience.

Best Reviewer

Winner: Freya McClements
Runner up: Jessica Traynor

Why voters thought she deserved to win:

  • Does great work for the Irish and Northern Irish literary community. Reviews both trad. published AND self-published books [rare].
  • Freya is a writer with a true journalist’s thirst for truth coupled with an innate sensibility for the creative process. Her reviews have credibility stamped all over them.
  • Freya’s writing is exceptional , engaging the reader in a most interesting and entertaining style. She is a gifted wordsmith and reviews with great truth and compassion .
  • Her reviews are the main reason I read more. Thanks Freya.

Best Poetry Pamphlet

Winner: Glass by Elisabeth Sennitt Clough (Paper Swans Press)
Runner up: Waves on a boring beach by Emma Hammond (zimZalla)

Why voters thought it deserved to win:

  • Very accessible poems as well as striking imagery – a poignant collection with which most readers could identify. The best and most consistently rivetting poetry pamphlet I read this year.
  • I couldn’t put this book down. I even burnt the children’s dinner! Such a page-turner!
  • Strong, moving poems based around the Fenlands, reflecting on relationships and beautifully written. Sennitt Clough writes with true elegance.
  • This is by far the most riveting, engaging and well-written pamphlet I’ve read in the past twelve months. The poet deserves to win for her craft.

Best Spoken Word Show

Winner: Fat Girls Don’t Dance by Maria Ferguson
Runner up: How To Starve An Artist by Rose Condo

Why voters thought she deserved to win:

  • This show is revolutionary: it completely changed the way I think about myself, writing, poetry and my past issues around food. Maria teaches us it’s okay to be funny in a changing climate where so much poetry is focused on politics. She is an inspirational writer.
  • One of the most disciplined pieces of theatre and writing I’ve ever seen. Nothing superfluous in here, so tight, so powerful. And the performance stunning too. A masterclass in economy and exploring humanity. I don’t feel that’s overstating it. At once a deeply personal and very universal show, as old as time and yet very very contemporary, and urgent.
  • Maria Ferguson showed an ability to place words in the best possible place, filling gaps with music, dance, and silence. It was unique, yet relatable, and despite being a harrowing personal story, there was also her infectious dry humour.

Best Novella

Winner: The Night Visitors by Jenn Ashworth & Richard Hirst (Dead Ink)

Runner up: Portrait of the Artist as a Viable Alternative to Death by Ross McCleary (Maudlin House)

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • It’s really compellingly voiced, with an unpredictable, yet convincing plot, and a shocking – but brilliant! – ending. And the email-exchange is surprisingly effective as a form. It felt genuinely innovative as a ghost story.
  • Cleverly plotted, tensely written stuff. These authors deserve recognition and I’d like to buoy them into creating more like this
  • “The Night Visitors” is as intelligent and gripping as it is innovative in both style and structure. In short, a brilliantly written contribution to the current revival of the Novella.

Best Magazine

Winner: Into the Void

Runner up: Butcher’s Dog

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • Into the Void is a venue for stunning art, edgy fiction, and scrumptious poetry. The writing is clear, concise, and full of fresh imagery. I love reading the website and print issues.
  • These people care deeply about poetry and you feel you are really dealing with human beings. The process of submitting poetry can be daunting and make you feel anonymous but even their rejection letter is personal, encouraging and uplifting!
  • It is a beautiful magazine, both the work they publish and in how it is lovingly laid out. They have a spectacular feel for what is ‘right’ in literary magazines right now! Good luck!

Best Regular Spoken Word Night

Winner: Interrobang?! (Edinburgh)
Runner up: Evidently (Salford)

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • A constantly entertaining evening of great variety playing to packed houses in Edinburgh venues. Well worth the journey.
  • Interrobang is not afraid to take risks, they put on an eclectic mix of the brilliant, the strange, and the unique. It’s a fun night with a charismatic pair of hosts.
  • I have been going to this night from the very beginning. It started out small with plenty of volunteers happy to showcase their work. The calibre of acts has just got better and better and the night is made by hosts Ricky and Beth, whose own work is a delight! As a regular at this night I would say Interrobang is not only brilliant at supporting Scottish artists but it’s actually helping to promote spoken word in Edinburgh. It’s definitely a winner for me!

Best Short Story Collection

Winner: Wild Gestures by Lucy Durneen (MidnightSun Publishing)
Runner up: Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams (Influx)

Why voters thought it deserved to win:

  • Lucy’s work is nothing less than exceptional. Her words and content take my breath away. She is also a hard working full-time academic, single-mother of four, who somehow still finds the time to dream and write. This alone should be worthy of an award  
  • Lucy’s collection is a tremendous work of humanity at its best and worst, its strongest and most vulnerable. Every story is packed with beautiful, unexpected and original imagery – to the point of enabling the reader to perceive a fresh perspective on their own life predicaments. This is a rare achievement in recent times and must be recognised and commended in the wider arena.
  • Because this is one off the most exquisite short story collections ever published. It is funny, sad, tender, cheeky, insightful and so, so clever. Lucy Durneen may be a new star in the literature hall-of-fame but she is certainly there to stay.

Best Collaborative Work

Winner: WomenXBorders – Women Aloud 2017 & Irish Writers Centre
Runner up: 
Poetry on the Picket Line

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • This deserves to win because it shows the power of words and action to effect change. Women from both sides of the community joined forces to travel to Dublin on a train for events there and to speak on the train while travelling, which must be a novel idea in itself, but its the impact this cross border/cross community event has had on the women involved, creating deep friendships, offering support in what is often a lonely events that continues long after the event…
  • Dynamic. Inclusive. Daring. Wild and wonderful. We need this.
  • Collaborative work is essential on such a divided Island as Ireland. It promotes peace which is one of the greatest benefits of the creative arts.
  • Brought women together from all around the country – North and South to celebrate women and writer. The mass reading at the end of the event was incredibly powerful.

Most Innovative Publisher

Winner: Indigo Dreams Publishing
Runner up: 
Penned in the Margins

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • They should win because they totally 100% give their all to publishing poetry and they give complete support to their poets. They are generous and supportive and they listen to their poets and try to meet all their needs. They publish stunning books and that support is long lasting after the book is published. They also produce three fabulous poetry magazines, no publishers offer this many publishing opportunities to both known and unknown poets.
  • My vote is for IDP because they’re consistently good books, and Ronnie and Dawn are so endlessly supportive of their writers and readers alike.
  • Working with IDP is like becoming part of a great family. You’re welcomed, and worked with as a friend with everything worked at together. No them and us with these folk. Thanks IDP