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Cardiff-based Irish poet Ailbhe Darcy has won the English Language Roland Mathias Poetry Award (the English language poetry category of the Wales Book of the Year Awards), in addition to the overall Wales Book of the Year Award 2019. Her winning collection, Insistence (Bloodaxe Books), is set in the American Rust Belt, in ‘an era of climate change and upheaval’ where it ‘takes stock of the parent’s responsibility to her child, the poet’s responsibility to the reader, and the vulnerability of the person in the face of global crisis.’


The annual awards are presented to the best works within literary criticism and creative writing in three categories: Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction. This is the fourth time in the award’s eight-year history that the poetry collection has also won the overall award, and the final time this will be possible. 2019 is the concluding year of the sponsorship by The Brecknock Society for the Wales Book of the Year Roland Mathias Poetry Prize, in memory of Welsh writer and literary critic Roland Mathias. Darcy was presented her awards at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 20 June, winning a total prize of £4,000 – all of which she plans to donate to Extinction Rebellion, according to her tweet:


'So many writers who win prizes desperately need the money.  I'm lucky enough to say: I have enough. I'm over the moon to have won #WBOTY19 and just as excited to be giving the prize money to #ExtinctionRebellion. Let's all make the difference we can.'


The English language judging panel was: Sandeep Parmar, poet and Professor of English Literature at Liverpool University; Louise Holmwood Marshall, Head of the English and Creative Writing Department of Aberystwyth University; and novelist and Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London Russell Celyn Jones.


Judge Sandeep Parmar said, on behalf of the panel:


“Insistence, is a proliferation of uncertain and strange lyric events, invigorating poetry at the level of line and language. Her title responds to a work by the poet Inger Christensen esthat centres around existence. Replacing ‘existence’ with ‘insistence’, Darcy’s work opens up a natural world where love erupts with explosive force onto the necessity of living. The contours and iterations of this book and the depth of Darcy’s thoroughly human project is operatic, mortal, unforgettable.”


Category winners:


Aberystwyth University English-language Fiction Award:

West by Carys Davies (Granta)


English-language Creative Non-Fiction Award:

Moneyland by Oliver Bullough


Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Prize:

Gen by Jonathan Edwards (Seren)


Welsh-language Award:


Overall Welsh-language Award, Aberystwyth University Fiction Award, Golwg360 Welsh-language People’s Choice Prize:

Llyfr Glas Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros


Welsh-language Poetry Award:

Cyrraedd a cherddi eraill (Cyhoeddiadau Barddas) by Alan Llwyd


Welsh-language Creative Non-fiction Award:

Cymru mewn 100 Gwrthrych (Gwasg Gomer) by Andrew Green


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