Robert Minhinnick has won the £4,000 Wales Book of the Year Award for the third time for his “powerful and political” poetry collection published by independent press Carcanet—25 years after first scooping the prize.
Minhinnick first took to the stage to collect the Roland Mathias Poetry Prize for Diary of the Last Man at the ceremony in Cardiff on Tuesday evening (26th June), before returning to be crowned winner of the 2018 Wales Book of the Year Award.
Diary of the Last Man is described by the author as a walk across Britain, exploring ‘Brexit Britain’ as the world faces political uncertainty and a "change of all kinds" including climate change. In parts the collection is "immensely local, in others casting its view abroad", offering "a celebration of the dwindling Earth and a caution".
Minhinnick received the overall prize of £4,000 and a specially commissioned trophy made by artist Angharad Pearce Jones. The prize is run by Literature Wales, the National Company for the development of literature in Wales, and was presented by the chair of the Arts Council of Wales Phil George.
Judge Carolyn Hitt described Diary of the Last Man as “environmentalism turned into elegy”.
“It’s so powerful, so political,” she said. “These are serious poems for serious times…that will stay with you and make you think about what we’re doing to the planet.”
This is the third time Minhinnick has won the Wales Book of the Year Award - he won previously for his collections of essays in 1993 and 2006. His poems have twice won the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem and Diary of the Last Man was also shortlisted for the T S Eliot prize last year.
Celebrating books across three categories in both English and Welsh in poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction, the ceremony saw 10 winners take to the stage to claim a total prize fund of £12,000.
The winner of the English-language Fiction Award was Light Switches Are My Kryptonite (Honno) by Crystal Jeans described by judges as a “funny, dark, shocking and warm novel which propels us through a week in its main character’s life and his journey of self-discovery”.
M Wynn Thomas took the English-language Creative Non-Fiction Award for All that is Wales (University of Wales Press), a collection of essays on a number of English-language authors from Wales, offering a sample of the country’s internal diversity.
Meanwhile the Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Prize was awarded to Tristan Hughes for his novel, Hummingbird (Parthian). The winning title of the overall Welsh-language Award as well as the Creative Non-fiction Award was Blodau Cymru: Byd y Planhigion (Y Lolfa) by Goronwy Wynne, billed as a comprehensive introduction by a renowned botanist to Welsh plants and flowers; their habitats, ecology, history and characteristics. The Welsh-language Fiction Award winner went to Catrin Dafydd for Gwales (Y Lolfa) and the winner of the Poetry Award was Hywel Griffiths with Llif Coch Awst (Cyhoeddiadau Barddas). The winner of the Golwg 360 Barn y Bobl (the Welsh-language people’s choice prize) was Peredur Lynch with his first poetry collection, Caeth a Rhydd (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch).
The category winners each received a prize of £1,000.
The annually selected independent judging panel included Hitt, a writer and producer, as well as poet and editor Kathryn Gray and author Cynan Jones who won last year’s BBC Short Story Award.
Gray said: “Wales Book of the Year celebrates the brilliant achievements of our literature. And it’s a testament to the exceptional quality of the writers who ultimately prevailed to emphasise that this was a particularly strong year across the categories. Our winners have produced what we consider to be essential contributions, packing a beautiful punch – as only the best writing can do. Judging this prize was, for all of us, an invigorating experience."
She added: "Our nation may be small, but Wales is home to fierce talent.”
Speaking at the Awards Ceremony, c.e.o of Literature Wales, Lleucu Siencyn: “Wales Book of the Year is one of the highlights of our cultural calendar. It’s vital that we have a national book award which gives a platform to all our literary genres – and treats our two languages equally.
"Wales consistently produces excellent writers, and this Award is testament to this each year.”
Meanwhile some of the books shortlisted for the Award have sold as few as 20 copies, the BBC has reported. Book sales data seen by BBC Wales apparently shows almost half of the shortlisted books sold fewer than 100 copies with the bestselling title shifting 4,000 copies and Diary of the Last Man selling 202 copies.