Rhyme time at Wigtown Fest

Marjorie Lotfi Gill, who chairs the Wigtown Book Festival Board
Marjorie Lotfi Gill, who chairs the Wigtown Book Festival Board

Wigtown’s international poetry prize has announced major changes designed to celebrate the richness of Scotland’s three national languages.

For the first time the £1,500 prize will be open to English, Scottish Gaelic and Scots language poems, with entries invited from around the globe.

The change marks the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019.

As in previous years there will also be dedicated categories, with top prizes of £500, for the best Scots and Scottish Gaelic poems.

A new pamphlet award has also been introduced commemorating Alastair Reid, who was born in Whithorn in 1926, and became one of the country’s foremost literary figures.

For the second year there will be a Dumfries and Galloway Fresh Voice Award to help nurture emerging poets based in, or from, the region.

This year the competition has new partnerships, including with StAnza, and is building on its established relationships with the Gaelic Books Council, the Saltire Society, The Scottish Poetry Library and others.

Marjorie Lotfi Gill, who chairs the Wigtown Book Festival Board of Trustees, said:“The Wigtown Poetry Prize has developed into one of the UK’s best-established writing competitions and has been a launchpad for many writers’ careers.

“With 2019 being the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages it seemed like the ideal moment to look at what more we could do to support and promote poetry in Scots and Scottish Gaelic.

“We are excited to be able to consider poetry in all three languages for the overall prize.

“We are also delighted to be introducing a pamphlet category which commemorates Alastair Reid and that will celebrate not just terrific individual poems but short collections of work.”

The competition awards will be made during the Wigtown Book Festival from September 27 to October 6.

Asif Khan, director of the Scottish Poetry Library, said:“It is pleasing to see The Wigtown Book Festival mainstreaming our indigenous languages within the overall poetry prize.

“The Alistair Reid Pamphlet Prize is a welcome addition too as the pamphlet form is a good medium for innovation in form, design and aesthetic.“