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THE WINNER OF THE INAUGURAL MOTH NATURE WRITING PRIZE IS ... 

Echolocate: A Bat Noctuary by Sammy Weaver 

Sammy Weaver has just completed an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and is currently collaborating with a composer to explore the theme of reemergence. She also recently won the Leeds Peace Poetry Competition 2020, judged by Zaffar Kunial.  

‘I first encountered the magic of a bat detector whilst on a writing course led by Pascale Petit and David Morley at Tŷ Newydd in North Wales. After moving onto a narrowboat last year, I soon discovered that canals are great feasting “grounds” for hungry bats. I spent many evenings during lockdown listening to the bat detector, trying to translate into words the strange sounds of their echolocation. Inspired by Sean Borodale’s site-specific poems, I wrote a lot of “Echolocate: A Bat Noctuary” in the moment of listening. I was surprised by the jumble of biography, lyric and prose that resulted. This form of diary-style nature writing is a new venture for me, so I was amazed to receive a phone call from Rebecca O’Connor saying I had won! It gives me so much confidence and it is wonderful to have my writing out there and enjoyed by others. Who knows, maybe it’ll even inspire some bat detecting.’ 
 

Judge’s comment:
‘This is a finely observed piece about bat behaviour, set lightly but tellingly against a backcloth of social crisis and personal resettlement. I was especially impressed by the writer’s pushing of language to its limits to try and capture a world where movement is complex geometry and seeing is hearing. It conjures up the otherness of the natural world, but also that we inhabit the same spaces, so the hard task of understanding is imperative.’
 
You can read Echolocate in the Irish Times online as well as in the current issue of The Moth.
 

RICHARD MABEY ALSO COMMENDED THE FOLLOWING:
 
Letting Go by Sicelo Mbatha (South Africa)
 
‘A brave account of a natural disaster, and of achieving reconciliation with the predatoriness of life’
 
Sicelo Mbatha is a facilitator of spiritual experiences of the wilderness. He has devoted his life to fostering deep connections between humans and nature, and to enabling members of his own community to experience the wilderness – which is rapidly becoming accessible only to the privileged few. He grew up on the doorstep of the Huhluwe/Imfolozi Nature Reserve, and nature has always been his medicine, his spiritual home and his teacher. As he lacked the financial means to study nature conservation, he volunteered at Imfolozi for three years, before being taken on as a trainee guide in the Wilderness Leadership School. After managing the wilderness trails for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for several years, he started his own company. He has touched the lives of hundreds of people from all over the world through transformative wilderness experiences, and has spoken in Germany and Austria. His memoir and reflections on the wilderness, co-authored with Bridget Pitt, will be published by Jonathan Ball in 2021
 
 
The Jellyfish, the Fig and the Cowslip by Alyson Hallett (UK)

‘ … for its sense of the weirdness of creation, and the improbable connectivities between its disparate elements’
Alyson Hallett is a prize-winning poet and her latest book is Tilted Ground. As well as books of sole-authored poetry she has published short stories, an essay for BBC Radio 3, drama and an audio diary for BBC Radio 4. Alyson collaborates with musicians, visual artists, scientists and sculptors. She has a poem carved into Milsom Street pavement in Bath and curates the ongoing poetry and public art project, The Migration Habits of Stones. 


Arias from the Last Act by Meredith Jelbart (Australia)

‘There is wisdom and perceptive writing here in abundance.’

Meredith Jelbart was born in Melbourne, Australia, and has lived there all her life. She is the author of a short story collection, Max, and other stories, and the novel, Free Fall. Her poetry, essays, memoir pieces and short stories have appeared in Australian magazines and on the Commonwealth Writers’ website adda. She is currently working on a memoir, Good Intentions, and a novel, Death, Life, and the Weather.

ABOUT THE PRIZE


‘What a great competition to be running.’ Robert Macfarlane
 
The Moth Nature Writing Prize aims to encourage and celebrate the art of nature writing. It is awarded annually to an unpublished piece of prose or poetry which best combines exceptional literary merit with an exploration of the writer’s relationship with the natural world. 

The prize is open to anyone over the age of sixteen, as long as the work is original and previously unpublished. 

Each year a single judge is asked to choose one winner from entries worldwide, to feature in the winter issue of The Moth. The winner receives €1,000.  

The inaugural judge was Richard Mabey.


Call 00 353 (0)87 2657251 or email enquiries@themothmagazine.com for more details.