Poet triumphs at Wales Book of the Year Awards

Poet triumphs at Wales Book of the Year Awards

Cardiff-based poet Ailbhe Darcy has won the £4,000 Wales Book of the Year Award for her "striking" collection, Insistence (Bloodaxe Books). 

Celebrating books across three categories in both English and Welsh - poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction, tonight’s (Thursday 20th June) awards, run by Literature Wales, saw 10 winners take to the stage to claim a total prize fund of £12,000. 

Darcy took to the stage at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre to collect the Roland Mathias Poetry Award, before returning to accept the overall title Wales Book of the Year 2019, from Aberystwyth University vice-chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure. 

Insistence is a collection set during the six-year period the poet and her family spent living in a post-industrial city in Midwestern America, during which time Darcy gave birth to her son. Insistence has also won the Pigott Poetry Prize 2019 and was shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award 2019 and T S Eliot Prize 2018. 

Judge Sandeep Parmar, a poet and professor of English Literature at Liverpool University, said: “Insistence, is a proliferation of uncertain and strange lyric events, invigorating poetry at the level of line and language. Her title responds to a work by the poet Inger Christensen that centres around existence. Replacing 'existence' with 'insistence', Darcy’s work opens up a natural world where love erupts with explosive force onto the necessity of living. The contours and iterations of this book and the depth of Darcy's thoroughly human project is operatic, mortal, unforgettable.”

Literature Wales chief executive Lleucu Siencyn added: “Wales has an age-old poetic tradition, and Ailbhe Darcy’s win shows us that poetry’s power to help us make sense of the world, ourselves, and others around us is as relevant today as it always has been. Thank you to The Brecknock Society for their support over the past eight years, and congratulations to Ailbhe and all of tonight’s winners.”

Louise Holmwood Marshall, head of the English and creative writing department of Aberystwyth University and novelist and emeritus professor of creative writing at Birkbeck College, University of London Russell Celyn Jones joined Parmar on the judging panel.

Carys Davies won the Aberystwyth University English-language Fiction Award for West (Granta), a novel following the journey of Cy Bellman, American settler, widowed father and amateur explorer, and his daughter Bess who eagerly waits for his return. 

The English-language Creative Non-Fiction Award went to Moneyland by Oliver Bullough (Profile Books), where the investigative journalist reveals the obscene dark side of globalised finance. 

Jonathan Edwards scooped the Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Prize with his poetry collection, Gen (Seren). This is the second Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Prize win for Edwards, who also took home the £1,000 prize in 2015.

The winning title of the overall Welsh-language Award as well as the Aberystwyth University Fiction Award and the Golwg360 Welsh-language People’s Choice prize was dystopian novel Llyfr Glas Nebo (Y Lolfa) by Manon Steffan Ros. 

Cyrraedd a cherddi eraill (Cyhoeddiadau Barddas) by Alan Llwyd, a collection of biographical poems to mark the multi-award-winning poet’s 70th birthday, won the Welsh-language Poetry Award winner and Andrew Green scooped the Welsh-language Creative Non-fiction Award with Cymru mewn 100 Gwrthrych (Gwasg Gomer), a book which tells the story of Wales through 100 objects. 

This year’s Welsh-language submissions were judged by author, poet and 2017 Wales Book of the Year winner, Idris Reynolds; popular broadcaster and sports author, Dylan Ebenezer; and the Aberystwyth University’s head of Welsh and Celtic studies Cathryn Charnell-White. The category winners each received a prize of £1,000.