Shortlist for The Michael Marks Awards For Poetry Pamphlets 2016

Poetry Award

Polly Clark 
A Handbook for the Afterlife
Templar Poetry

Judges’ comments
Playful poems, which grip and convince, they are unafraid to cast their gaze on the darker side of life. These are poems richly shot through with warmth and honesty. 


Fattened bees drag themselves
in perfect diagonals
towards the margin of the door.

Not a single one makes it.
Each dawn I lift the waving forms.
And who shall save me?

Shall it be the irritable wives
busy in their kitchens?
The husbands who smell of honey?

The Community? Disney? God?
My neighbour’s words dance and thrum:
                          I don’t know what my purpose is

I longed to grab her hand and ask,
Your husband? Mine? Our children?

Perhaps the garden holds the answer,
sleepy with its nectars.
It’s where I dig and clip and hum.

Oh my neighbour, are we safe?
Is this what being safe
is like?


Fiona Moore
Night Letter

Judges’ comments
A tender, reflective pamphlet, these are poems of shifting moods and clear eyed observations. Here the reader will find poems that engage with senses of place in a subtle and moving way.

Night Letter

I don’t believe in an afterlife
any more than you did
but sometimes at night I lie awake
and can’t not imagine you
floating, out there
somewhere between angel and ectoplasm,
because sometimes this is easier
not only for the heart
but for the mind too.

It feels almost disloyal
to you, who said again
there was nothing
after we’d been given the prognosis:
said it calmly, factually. So
if you’re out there, please
forgive me for imagining
you, out there.


Camille Ralphs
The Emma Press

Judges’ comments
An engagingly inventive pamphlet bringing the Pendle story to life through innovative language, which dazzles and enthrals. Poems attuned at once to the rhythms and limits of language. 

Anne Redferne

(daughter of Chattox)

In words, in images I came/I went
in klay of ashen hue. Man? Hare?
A long dewlap of rowpe? A hunt
inwards. In images, I came; I went
from such tuff dust nd fingerprint
to skyklad, krumbling, bluffd in air -
in werd, sin, images! I came, I went
in clay of ashh n human hair.


Richard Scott
The Rialto

Judges’ comments
A thrillingly innovative pamphlet, full of high life and low living, powerful, arresting and unfleeting in its gaze. Poems where vulnerability and desire nestle side by side.

Trainee Priest at Rochuskapelle

Saint Sebastien stands covered with the hunger-cloth -
a hooded detainee from off the seminary television.
We must give up the sight of him to focus on the bare Easter altar.

Good Friday I will lift the veil, search his face for a clue of agony.
I don’t believe the sculptor’s lie, he cannot be in peace.
He is like me, young when he gave himself to God.

While the priests are diluting wine
I would have him tug off his sack, step down, walk.
I will lie him across my lap, pull out the cock-feathered arrows,

wash the holes in his body, sew them up
with my mother’s darning needle, ask if I will be forgiven
for wanting his delicate blood on my fingers.

But Sebastien is carved, I have traced the chisel’s evidence
with my thumb. I know my thread can’t heal -
he and his arrows are of the same body of Milanese oak.

There is no stop where either wound or weapon begin -
our devotion is a perpetual hurt. I am like him,
young, bound for a lifetime of suffering behind cloth.


Lizzi Thistlethwayte 
Angels and Other Diptera 
Waterflag Press

Judges’ comments
A poised and balanced pamphlet, these delicate, intricate poems transport us to other landscapes. Haunting work of great poise and stillness.

Full Moon at Snape

A land of reeds, mutterings
Then moon rose

her rose-belly her rose-window vessel of seed
and we balanced at the sea’s hem

tilted in want
flighting long tongues into moon’s dim hollows -

orange streaks probing the murk,
her immaculate ova


How do I attend the sea’s fragile hem?
I mustn’t tangle even one thread of salt
I need a song tonight
to hitch a lift on the moon’s yolk-full belly


a land of reeds
a moon’s yolk belly, the tidal suck and flood

of unsettlings


Publishers’ Award

HappenStance Press

Judges’ comments
We were impressed by the high standard of the HappenStance pamphlets this year.  HappenStance shows a commitment to working with debut authors and submitted six pamphlets this year, including Fiona Moore's shortlisted pamphlet, 'Night Letter'.  All share the same distinctive production features combining low-budget simplicity with care, shown in the richly coloured end-papers that contrast the cream covers, paired with line drawings and individually selected fonts.  HappenStance makes impressive use of carefully built networks to market the pamphlets, and this has been accompanied this year by brief 'one point of interest' reviews on the web, to promote the works. They won the Publishers’ Award in 2010.

Templar Poetry

Judges’ comments
Templar Poetry's submission of eight pamphlets impressed us by their high standard, and included Polly Clarke's 'A Handbook for the afterlife', alongside other pamphlets that were contenders for the shortlist.  They feature individual designs and varying sizes, so that each pamphlet can stand in its own right within a larger publishing offering.  Templar's commitment to poetry pamphlet publishing is shown through launches at Poetry Live Readings and an impressive selection of festivals across the British Isles.

The Emma Press

Judges’ comments
The Emma Press are again shortlisted this year, for the third year running, impressing us with the individuality and range of their seven pamphlets, as well as their high standard.  They included Camille Ralph's 'Malkin' and other pamphlets that were discussed during shortlisting, and range from 'action movie poems' to a poetic duet on the theme of travel.  The pamphlets' varying sizes and illustrations, with careful production values, convey an impressive level of ambition to make an impact through and on poetry publishing, by showcasing the work of deserving newer authors.

Shearsman Books

Judges’ comments
Shearsman Books' attractive and distinctive pamphlets feature silky soft covers and a standardised layout with individual cover illustrations; these production values convey commitment to the poetry pamphlet.  We were impressed by the range of poetic styles featured in these high-quality pamphlets, including more risky ‘experimental’ styles within their offering.  The pamphlets submitted were contenders for the shortlist, and were launched together to gain greater impact.  They are promoted primarily through live readings and events as well as being sold online. Shearsman appear on the Publishers’ Award shortlist for the third time.


The winners, along with the winner of the Illustration Award, will be announced at a special dinner at the British Library on Tuesday 13th December 2016.

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