English and Drama blog

On literature and theatre collections from the 16th century to the present day

10 December 2016

Countdown to the 2016 Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets

With just a few days remaining before the winners of this year's Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets are announced, it seems topical to review the shortlists for the Pamphlets award and the Publishers award.  This year's Awards attracted 120 entries from nearly 50 publishers, along with five self-published pamphlets. The seven publishers with the highest number of entries submitted 48 pamphlets between them, and 24 publishers submitted a single pamphlet - giving an indication of the wide range of situations in which poetry pamphlets are being produced.  All these pamphlets will now be added to the Library's collections.

The five pamphlets shortlisted for the award of most outstanding poetry pamphlet were:

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.

Fiona Moore: Night Letter, Happenstance


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.

Camille Ralphs: Malkin, 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.

Richard Scott: Wound, The Rialto

Wound | The Rialto - the poetry magazine to read















Judges’ comments

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

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.


For the Publishers Award, fifteen publishers submitted entries detailing the work they do to produce and promote poetry pamphlets, as well as their approach to working with poets.   The shortlist for the Award was as follows:

HappenStance Press


Judges’ comments

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. The Awards are supported by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, in association with The Wordsworth Trust and the TLS along with the British Library.  

On a personal note, the quality of entries for the Awards was underlined for me last week when I was fortunate to see two of the poets who submitted pamphlets this year reading their poetry at the British Library Knowledge Centre.  Jay Bernard and Selina Nwulu were on stage as part of   'A Meeting of the Continents: International Poetry Night'  hosted by Linton Kwesi Johnson as part of a series of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding in London of New Beacon Books.   


The British Library will be recording readings by the poets shortlisted for this year's awards, and they will be made available on the Library's sound server, so watch this space to find out who the award winners will be.