The Environmental Poet of the Year prize
The Michael Marks Charitable Trust has a combined aim: the promotion and conservation of culture and of the environment. For this reason, the Michael Marks Awards are piloting a new award in 2022.
We are delighted to announce the Michael Marks Environmental Poet of the Year prize.
• Publication of your portfolio as a pamphlet, to be sold at Wordsworth Grasmere and The British Library
• Invitation to read at a special ‘Environmental Poet of the Year’ event at Wordsworth Grasmere, as well as at the annual Michael Marks Awards event at the British Library in London. During the course of the year when the winner holds this title, they may be invited to participate in further events or activities. For full information, please see these prize-specific Submission Rules and Terms and Conditions and FAQs.
Deadline for Entries: Thursday 1st September, midnight (UK). (Please note that the closing date of the other 2022 Awards is different).
Judges: Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, Mark Avery, Jane Caven
*Terms and conditions will apply.
How to enter
Portfolios must be clearly inspired by the subject described below (see ‘The environment, and the place of the human within it’).
Poetry portfolio: between 150 and 200 lines of poetry.
The prize is open to writers of any age, living in the UK only.
The environment and the place of the human within it
With this prize, we would like to highlight that the work of poets writing during the climate crisis is of importance.
As the effects of the climate crisis become increasingly apparent, for many writers, the subject of the environment has an urgency and relevance that is new. For other writers, the topic is not new territory, but nuances still emerge.
Now, when we say ‘the environment’, we may be referring to both a rural idea of nature and specifically to the climate crisis. Within the subject, we might include a city mid-heatwave, a street underwater, or an invasive species of insect in a car park, as well as a person ‘wandering lonely’ across a hillside in unseasonable sun, or a scene of grouse on a moor. Whether a poet lives in an urban or rural area, they may write about the effects that people—either individuals, or humans as a species—are having upon their environment. On the other hand, they may instead write about the effects that the changing environment is having upon people.
Poetry has the capacity to convey new ways of seeing and feeling, that resonate with readers, and which are memorable. The pamphlet form, which traditionally has included very short publications that are easy for a reader to digest in a single sitting, is particularly well suited to short portfolios of poems with a unifying theme.
The prize will be judged by a panel of three judges. It is a separate judging panel from the other 2022 Awards. Only one of the judges is a poet. Another of the judges has been chosen by our partners Wordsworth Grasmere, and is a keen reader with a background in business. The final judge is a scientist and naturalist, a well-published writer of prose, and also an avid reader.
The judges will look for poetry that creates insights into the environment and the place of the human within it. They hope to find poetry that a broad readership could enjoy.
Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch’s Picador collections were both shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year (Not in These Shoes in 2009 and Banjo in 2013). She has recently written for BBC Radio 3, in collaboration with composer and producer Dr. Nina Perry. She won second prize in the National Poetry Competition in 2011. Samantha taught Creative Writing at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and at Oxford University. She was a Leverhulme writer in residence at the National Wool Museum and held a residency at the Dylan Thomas Boathouse to mark the centenary of his birth. She has published pamphlets with Rack Press: Lime & Winter, and Ling Di Long. Her most recent work on the impact of coastal erosion in west Wales, a sequence called Tree Tai Chi, was published by Sustainable Wales in the anthology Gorwelion/Shared Horizons. She is currently working on a fourth full collection and is rewilding a field on the west Wales coast.
Dr Mark Avery is a scientist by training and a naturalist by inclination. He is a keen reader. He writes about and comments on environmental issues, and his books include Remarkable Birds (Thames and Hudson, 2016), Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands (Bloomsbury, 2015), and Fighting for Birds: 25 years in nature conservation (Pelagic Publishing, 2012). Mark worked for the RSPB for 25 years until standing down in April 2011 to go freelance. He was the RSPB’s Conservation Director for nearly 13 years. Mark lives in rural Northamptonshire and is a member of the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, the BTO, and the National Trust for Scotland. He is Chair of Trustees of the World Land Trust.
Jane Caven is a former plc director (public limited company) and co-founder of a successful management consultancy; she is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and holds an MSc in business. Jane also holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and after 42 years in business has returned to this, her first and enduring passion. A keen reader, she enjoys a broad range of genres, but particularly both classical and contemporary poetry. Since retiring in 2020 Jane has become a volunteer at Wordsworth Grasmere, where she is a member of the Poetry Readers group who recite to visitors to Dove Cottage and the Museum.