I was thrilled to learn, less than two weeks ago, that a poem by my Via Negativa co-blogger Luisa A. Igloria had been chosen as the first-place winner of the Resurgence Poetry Prize—the world’s first major award for ecopoetry. The judges were the former UK poet laureate Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. We weren’t able to say a thing about it in public until after the awards ceremony last night in London, which, since I was already in town for the winter, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend, together with my partner Rachel, Luisa’s husband Ruben and their daughter Gabriela. We’ve just said our good-byes after a whirlwind, three-day tour of London. More about that in future posts here and on Facebook, no doubt.
Resurgence is a long-running British magazine focusing on ecology. It has always made room for poetry in its pages, but this was the first year their parent nonprofit has awarded the Resurgence Prize.
With a first prize of £5,000 for the best single poem embracing ecological themes, the award ranks amongst the highest of any English language single poem competition. Second prize is £2,000 and third prize £1,000.
Founded in the spring of 2014 by the former UK Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion, actress and green campaigner Joanna Lumley, and entrepreneur and environmentalist Peter Phelps, the Resurgence Poetry Prize reflects the founders’ shared passion for and commitment to poems that investigate and challenge the interrelationship between nature and human culture (read more on Ecopoetry).
The awards ceremony was held at a gorgeous, Victorian temple to art, the Leighton House Museum, and was emceed by actress and activist Joanna Lumley. Resurgence editor Satish Kumar kicked things off with a inspiring speech singing the praises of poets and poetry, followed by short readings of their own poetry by Andrew Motion and Jo Shapcott. Then the three prizes were awarded. The following, somewhat dodgy video begins with Shapcott’s description of the winning poem. The poets hadn’t been given any particular instruction on how to prepare for the ceremony, other than that they might be asked to read their poems (which they were), but Luisa took it upon herself to write a short acceptance speech as well, jotting down ideas in odd moments as we raced around London snapping photos in front of famous and not-so-famous monuments. Here’s her speech, followed by the poem:
The Resurgence people prepared a lovely booklet of the winning poems to hand out to everyone at the ceremony, and they’ve announced the winners on their Facebook page:
Here are the winners! Winning poems will be published on the website this week.
1) Luisa Igloria / Auguries
2) Claire Collison / The Architect
3) Meredi Ortega / Moving into Hannah’s house
SHORT LISTED – IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
Sue Proffitt / Bluebells
Judy Brown / Coelacanth
Elaine Ewart / Fen, Again
Nicola Healey / Robin Interlude
Geraldine Clarkson / snow rules
Ruth Wiggins / Tasmanian Tiger
Ruth Yates / The tiny death ritual
Much was made of the fact that all ten winners in this blind contest were women, with Andrew Motion remarking that male poets might become an endangered species—an interesting choice of words for an ecology-focused event. I do hope this portends some kind of righting of the gender balance in the traditionally male-dominated official poetry culture in the US and UK.
UPDATE (17 Dec): The winning poems are up on the Resurgence Prize website, together with a press release.