James McGonigal wins the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets with Cloud Pibroch

Poet James McGonigal has won the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets with Cloud Pibroch (Mariscat Press), for the publishing year 2010. Judge Lavinia Greenlaw presented the poet with the prize at an award ceremony at the British Library in London on 13 June 2011.

Lavinia Greenlaw, Chair of the Judges, who announced the winning poet at the award ceremony, said:

“These are unsettling poems of sustained acuity and grace, deeply rooted in the poet’s own landscape of the Scottish lowlands. McGonigal’s magical and precise imagery transforms his observations into questions of how we experience the world.”

In their third year, the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets aim to highlight the importance of the pamphlet form in introducing new poetry to readers and celebrates the continuing vibrancy of the print pamphlet in the internet age.

Pamphlets are defined as books of 36 pages or less and are where new poetry often first meets its audience – slim volumes allow readers to savour a concentrated gathering or carefully paced sequence of poems. Poetry pamphlets can be exquisitely designed, with striking visual qualities that form a strong part of the meaning of the book as a whole. Small press publishers have been at the forefront of developing new audiences for poetry through such attractive and innovative publications.

The Crater Press has won the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets award for a UK publisher of poetry in pamphlet form, on the basis of their publishing programme in 2010.

Robert Hampson, Judge, commented:

“We three judges were heartened and impressed by the vitality and strength of character of all the small presses we shortlisted, and we are delighted to be awarding this year’s Publishers’ Award to the Crater Press. Crater take the traditions of book art and fine printing, and add to them a strong editorial line to produce pamphlets that are both traditional and avant garde, as well as startlingly original.”

The judges for the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets are: Lavinia Greenlaw, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia; Robert Hampson, Professor of Modern Literature at Royal Holloway; and Richard Price, Head of Content and Research Strategy at the British Library. Selected from over 100 entries, the winners will receive £5,000 each. The winning poet will also become the Michael Marks Poet in Residence of the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies at its summer program in Greece this July.

The Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets are run by the British Library with the generous support of the Michael Marks Charitable Trust.

For more information on the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets, see: www.bl.uk/poetrypamphlets.

Notes to Editors:

Cloud Pibroch

This is a pamphlet which is as lyrical as it is unsettling. Striking metaphors rooted in acute observation – “Dogs learned a sign language of teeth and tongue” – animate and resonate, yet the dream reality of many of the poems reveals how much more is at stake.

That day the fever turned a Mondrian shade of blue –
I thought they were selling the air above me
and I wanted the sale to go through.

(from ‘Time of Fever’)

James McGonigal

James McGonigal lives in Glasgow. He taught English for fourteen years in secondary schools before working in higher education. His PhD thesis was on the work of the English modernist Basil Bunting. He is Professor of English in Education at Glasgow University. His poetry and translations have been widely published in literary magazines and some are collected in Driven Home (Mariscat, 1998) and in the tri-lingual long poem in English, Scots and Irish Gaelic, Passage/An Pasaíste, (Mariscat, 2004). His biography of Edwin Morgan, Beyond the Last Dragon, appeared in 2010. Cloud Pibroch is his third collection from Mariscat.

The Crater Press

The Crater Press is an independent poetry press run by Richard Parker, operating in both London and Brighton. Crater pride themselves on matching typographically diverse, challenging poetry with interpretation via the letterpress process. Each pamphlet is unique and handmade using traditional methods, yet with a very modern edge. Parker uses 'the various freedoms of the letterpress process - including colour, folding, binding and formatting options' to produce pamphlets that may require a paperknife in order to read them, but are accessibly priced and startlingly individual. Poets include Sean Bonney, Rob Holloway and Amy De’Ath. www.craterpress.co.uk

The shortlist

Poetry pamphlet shortlist:

  • Neil Addison, Apocapulco (Salt)
  • Simon Armitage, The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right (Smith/Doorstop Books)
  • Sean Burn, mo thunder (The Knives Forks and Spoons Press)
  • Olive Broderick, Darkhaired (Templar)
  • Ralph Hawkins, Happy Whale Fat Smile (Oystercatcher)
  • James McGonigal, Cloud Pibroch (Mariscat)
  • Sophie Robinson, The Lotion (Oystercatcher)

Publishers’ shortlist:

  • The Crater Press
  • Kater Murr's Press
  • The Knives, Forks and Spoons Press
  • Mariscat Press
  • Roncadora Press

Judges’ biographies

Lavinia Greenlaw was born in London, where she has lived for most of her life. She studied seventeenth-century art at the Courtauld Institute, and was awarded a NESTA fellowship to pursue her interest in vision, travel and perception. Her poetry includes Minskand the forthcoming The Casual Perfect, in addition to which she has published two novelsand the non-fiction The Importance of Music to Girls. Her most recent work is Questions of Travel: William Morris and Iceland. She has won a number of prizes and has held residencies at the Science Museum and the Royal Society of Medicine. Her work for BBC radio includes programmes about the Arctic, the Baltic, Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop. She has also written radio drama, song texts and opera libretti. She is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

Robert Hampson is Professor of Modern Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London, where, among other things, he is a member of the Poetics Research Group and teaches on the MA in Poetic Practice. He has been involved with contemporary innovative poetry since the 1970s - as poet, editor, and critic. He co-edited Alembic with Ken Edwards and Peter Barry in the 1970s, and he subsequently co-edited with Peter Barry a pioneering collection of critical essays, New British poetries: The Scope of the Possible (Manchester University Press, 1993). His recent publications include another co-edited collection of essays, Frank O'Hara Now (Liverpool University Press, 2010), with Will Montgomery, and Assembled Fugitives: Selected Poems 1973-1998 (Stride. 2001), a second edition of Seaport (Shearsman, 2009) and an explanation of colours (Veer Books, 2010).

Richard Price is the Head of Content and Research Strategy at the British Library and an acclaimed poet and novelist. As poet, small press publisher, and literary historian he has a wide knowledge of UK poetry pamphlets past and present. His poetry collections include Lucky Day and Rays while his most recent novel, in which a father and daughter steal a car as an act of revenge, is The Island. His poetry website is www.hydrohotel.net.

For more information contact:


The Michael Marks Charitable Trust was established in 1966 by the late Lord Marks, 2nd Baron of Broughton. Since its foundation it has committed over £20m to assist non-profit organisations and charities dedicated to the preservation and promotion of culture and the environment. The Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets are generously supported by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust. They are inspired by but independent of the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, also supported by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, founded by Tessa Ransford to celebrate poetry published in pamphlet form in Scotland.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  



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