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LANCE LARSEN’S ‘THINGS I’M AGAINST’ WINS THE MOTH POETRY PRIZE 2023 – JUDGED BY HANNAH SULLIVAN

‘Framed as a list poem, this perfectly-timed meditation in syllabics soon becomes much more than a charmingly odd list of deprecated things (rhubarb, hockey, suede shoes). A countercurrent begins to be set up of stays: the speaker may dislike golf, but loves “the word mulligan, oozy with second/ chances”. And, through a slippery series of tonal slides, the witty, conversational list items turn out to have a much more serious purpose. What this poem really dislikes is what we all dislike: death. And what it imagines in its final, much more personal stanzas, is a modest second chance.

It is so capacious in its exuberant detail ‒ the lists of things disliked or once-disliked or sneakily, if perversely, admired – but at the same time, winds in relentlessly to the final imagined conversation with a dead father. Sense and line are repeatedly played against each other, to create the whimsical, meditative, measured speaking voice – slightly reminiscent, perhaps, of Auden's Horatian syllabics. The stuff of this final imagined conversation – both as banal and beautifully scattered as the earlier lists – is heartbreaking.’ Hannah Sullivan

Lance Larsen grew up in Idaho mowing lawns, delivering newspapers and dreaming of catching Bigfoot on film. He is the author of five poetry collections, most recently What the Body Knows (Tampa 2018), with a sixth forthcoming. His work has appeared in New York Review of BooksThe Times Literary Supplement, London Magazine, Paris Review, Poetry Magazine, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. His awards include a Pushcart Prize, The Tampa Review Prize, The Alpine Poetry Fellowship, The Missouri Review Prize, and fellowships from Ragdale and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at BYU and likes to fool around with aphorisms: ‘A woman needs a man the way a manatee needs a glockenspiel.’ In 2017 he completed a five-year appointment as Utah’s poet laureate. Sometimes he juggles

‘Talk about being caught off guard! I was just happy to be among the shortlisted and commended poets. So much to learn from them. Thanks to Hannah Sullivan for selecting “Things I’m Against”. It feels great to be struck by lightning. I certainly have more confidence in this poem now, and the book manuscript it’s a part of. Thank you!’ Lance Larsen

 
SHORTLISTED POEMS



Pencilling the Dates by Catherine Ann Cullen
‘A well-crafted and unsentimental piece of retrospection, this poem takes a subject which is already rare in poetry  – early pregnancy loss – and examines it in hindsight, from the perspective of a mother and her young daughter, scrupulously attending to its enduring meaning. It has a brilliant, Larkinesque ending.’ 

Catherine Ann Cullen is an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow with Poetry Ireland and University College Dublin, writing a monograph on the lost street poets and tenement balladeers of nineteenth-century Dublin. She was the inaugural Poet in Residence at Poetry Ireland 2019-2022. Cullen is an award-winning poet, children’s writer and songwriter, and author of seven books, most recently The Song of Brigid’s Cloak (Beehive 2022), and a broadsheet, 11 x 11 for Number 11: Poems for Poetry Ireland (2023). Her New and Selected Poems, The Other Now, was published by Dedalus Press in 2016. Among the honours she has received are the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship 2018/19, the nationwide Business to Arts Award for Best Use of Creativity in the Community (2017 and 2022) and the Celebrating Women with Words Prize 2022 from the Cercle Littéraire Irlandais. She is a former radio producer with RTÉ Radio 1.
 



And Other Mirages by Jade Angeles Fitton
‘Brilliantly effective in its use of repetition, this quirky, slight, sideways look at a recent afternoon begins and ends during an exercise class in a swimming pool, the present dilated between two songs from the golden age of pop. Fastening its attention to small, irregular things, like the bobbing 'wildflower' swimming caps, the poem becomes an exercise in evacuating the ego (“not me, he whispers, not I”).’

Jade Angeles Fitton is a writer. Her memoir Hermit was published with Penguin Random House. Jade's work has appeared in the likes of the Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, and The Financial Times. Her short stories have been published in The London Magazine and Somesuch Stories, among others. Her poetry has been published in anthologies and magazines including New River Press and The Moth. She lives in rural Devon with David and Ghost Dog.
 

 
 
Extinction Picnic by Craig van Rooyen
‘Clever, questing and generous, this poem imagines not only sitting down with long-dead ancestors, but comforting them (“...it will be ok. /They will succeed in passing on the baton of DNA”) like children, by concealing the realities of climate change and the imminent end of the genetic line. A witty and soothing reminder to slow down, pack a picnic lunch, and look around us.’

Craig van Rooyen lives in San Luis Obispo on California’s Central Coast among the ghosts of grizzlies and bison, not to mention Parnassian butterflies and horseshoe shrimp. He is a poet and judge whose work has appeared in 32 Poems, Best New Poets, Cincinnati Review, Narrative, New Ohio Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, Terrain.org, and elsewhere. He is a past winner of the Rattle Poetry Prize and the Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. He is a graduate of Pacific University’s MFA program. 
 
 
 
POEMS BY THE FOLLOWING WERE ALSO COMMENDED
 
Kate Fenwick was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize 2023. Her poetry has appeared in Ink and Marrow (USA) and R:Ed. Kate is a freelance editor and a story consultant for Why Yesterday?
 
Victoria Gatehouse is a Zoologist, poet and children’s writer based in Yorkshire. Her second pamphlet The Mechanics of Love (Smith | Doorstop) was selected as a Laureate’s Choice. Victoria’s writing has been widely published in magazines including The Rialto, Mslexia, Magma and The North, and also broadcast on BBC radio. She has won, and been placed in, many competitions. Victoria is a three-times winnerofThe Poetry News Members’ Competition and was highly commended in the Gingko Prize 2023. A first collection is forthcoming in summer 2024.
 
Mary-Jane Holmes is studying for a PhD in poetry and translation at Newcastle University. She has won the Live Canon Poetry Pamphlet Prize, the Bath Novella-in-Flash Prize (Don’t Tell the Bees is published by Ad Hoc Fiction), the Bridport Poetry Prize, Dromineer Flash Fiction Prize, Reflex Fiction Flash Fiction Prize and the Mslexia Flash prize. She has been shortlisted for the Beverley International Prize for Literature and longlisted for the UK National Poetry Competition. Her collection of poetry Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass is published by Pindrop Press and her collection of flash fiction, Set a Crow to Catch a Crow,is published by V. Press. She was included in the BIFFY 50 2019/2020, showcasing the best British and Irish flash fiction and was a UK National Poetry Archive showcased poet during lockdown.
 
Holly Hopkins grew up in Berkshire, spent time in London and now lives in Manchester. Holly’s first collection The English Summer (Penned in the Margins) ‘takes on the stories England tells about itself’. It was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Seamus Heaney Prize and won a Laurel Prize. It was awarded the Poetry Book Society’s Special Commendation and was named one of The Guardian’s ‘Best Poetry Books of 2022’. Holly is an assistant editor at The Poetry Business and The North. Work-in-progress, which will form Holly’s second collection, was awarded the Northern Writers Award for Poetry in 2023.
 
Cheryl Moskowitz is a poet, novelist and creative translator trained in dramatherapy and psychodynamic counselling. She writes for children and adults. She has authored two poetry collections, one novel and two poetry books for children. She facilitates writing projects in a wide variety of health and community settings including schools, prisons, refugee centres and with the homeless. She is an editor at Magma and co-founder of the poetry and electronic series, All Saints Sessions. In 2018 she was a Moth Poetry Prize finalist with her poem ‘Shirtless’ and is delighted to have a poem commended in this year’s competition.  
 
Eloise Rodger is a twenty-year old English scholar at Trinity College, Dublin. Half-Venezuelan, she was born and grew up in London. She’s currently the editor of Icarus, the oldest arts journal in Ireland. She enjoys talking to herself constantly, jumping into the sea on a Sunday and working on her first novel. More than anything, she loves to write her stories.
 
Alison Carb Sussman, a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee, has garnered numerous awards and publications  throughout her writing career. Her first full-length poetry book, Black Wool Cape, was printed by Unsolicited Press in 2022.  Her chapbook, On the Edge, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Sussman won the Abroad Writers’ Conference/Finishing Line Press Authors Poetry Contest and read her winning poems as their guest in Dublin in 2015. She was a finalist in Naugatuck River Review’s 11th Annual Narrative Poetry Contest in 2019 and in the 49th Parallel Award for Poetry in Bellingham Review’s 2016 Literary Contests. Her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Gargoyle, The New York Times, Rattle, Southword, and elsewhere. Some of her poems have been translated into Chinese by Yongbo Ma. She lives and writes in New York City.
 
Imogen Wade is a writer and person-centred therapist from England. She won The National Poetry Competition 2024, 1st Prize in the Ware Poets Open Poetry Competition 2023 and was a runner up in the 2023 New Poets Prize. Her work has been commended in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, the Plough Poetry Prize, the Winchester Poetry Festival Prize and the Wells Festival of Literature Poetry Competition. She has been published by Poetry ReviewAmsterdam QuarterlyPN Review and The London Magazine. She contributed to Bi+ Lines: An Anthology of Contemporary Bi+ Poets. She can be found on Instagram @imogen_wade_poetry
 
 

ABOUT THE PRIZE

The Moth Poetry Prize is one of the biggest prizes in the world for a single unpublished poem. The prize is open to anyone, as long as the poem is previously unpublished, and each year it attracts thousands of entries from new and established poets from over 50 countries worldwide.

The prize is judged anonymously by a single poet. Past judges include Claudia Rankine, Billy Collins, Nick Laird, Warsan Shire and Nobel Laureate Louise Glück.  

The overall winner receives €6,000, while the three remaining shortlisted poets each receive €1,000. A further €250 is given to each of the commended poets. 

The prize will open again in June 2024.  
 
Past winners include Laurie Bolger, Aniqah Choudhri, Michael Lavers, Natalya Anderson, Lee Sharkey, Ann Gray (whose poem was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem) and Abigail Parry (who was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection). 
 


TESTIMONIALS
 
‘I am over the moon. To be recognised by Louise Glück is honestly wonderful. Thank you for being so bloody lovely & making my year.’ Laurie Bolger

‘Judging The Moth Poetry Prize was a beautiful experience. I’ve come away changed ‒ inspired and hopeful.’ Warsan Shire
 
‘The great thing about winning with this poem is that I have actually submitted it to other competitions without success. Sometimes you have to give up on your favourites, but sometimes it is worth ignoring the feedback and sticking with your gut. I am glad I did with this poem.’ Damen O’Brien
 

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



 

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