Raise a glass to the winners of this year’s €10,000 The Moth International Poetry Prize, judged by Daljit Nagra. The four shortlisted poets are Natalya Anderson, Audrey Molloy, Cheryl Moskowitz and Teresa Ott. You can read the shortlisted poems in the Irish Times: All-female shortlist for €10,000 Moth Poetry Prize.
'A Gun in the House' by Natalya Anderson
Natalya Anderson is a writer and former ballet dancer from Toronto, Canada. She completed a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England. Natalya won the 2014 Bridport Prize for her poem ‘Clear Recent History’ and the same poem was highly commended at the 2015 Forward Prizes. This is the second time Natalya has been shortlisted for The Moth Poetry Prize (Billy Collins shortlisted a poem of hers in 2015). Her poetry and feature writing has appeared in Poetry London, Prac Crit, The Globe and Mail in Canada and other fine publications. She is currently working on her first full collection of poetry. She is the founder and curator of The Poetry Extension and is married to a very tall Irish man and they have a five-year-old son.
‘Almost a darkly comic scenario at first reading because of the child’s illness vying with the exaggerated hospitality towards the priest. The confidence of the speaker, and the subtlety of the writer, invite a rereading of the poem for what lurks beneath the surface. So on my second reading of the poem, I didn’t find a trace of humour, or tonal imbalance, but the unfolding of a bleak tragedy. Every line took on a dark nuance. The trope of the girl in the attic leads us to wonder why she’s in such a grievous state, but the clues are there in the speaker’s unknowing words. While the priest engorges on his feast, with extra cream, we learn that the girl has renounced prayer. A succession of sensually unsettling images drive this nervous, ironic poem forward. We learn that the girl ‘cocks her head like a confused coyote’, that ‘Her throat/ burns like gunpowder.’ It seems that the person charged with saving her may have been the source of her undoing.’
'Fortune Reshuffled, Reshuffled' by Audrey Molloy
Audrey Molloy was born in Dublin and grew up in Blackwater, County Wexford. She practised optometry in Dublin before travelling to Sydney, where she currently works as an optometrist and medical writer. Her poetry has been widely published, most recently in Crannog, Meanjin, Australian Poetry Journal, Cordite, Headstuff and The Ofi Press. Audrey is one of Eyewear Publishing’s Best New British and Irish Poets 2018. In 2017 she received special commendation for the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. Her full-length manuscript, Envy is a Daylily, was shortlisted for the Noel Rowe Poetry Award 2017–18. Her chapbook manuscript, Mother Creature, was shortlisted for the Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition 2017. She was also shortlisted in 2017 for the Bridport Prize, the Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets and the Over The Edge New Writer of the Year.
‘Three versions of a similar event reimagined from different attitudes in this earnest yet fun-packed postmodern poem in the voice of an implied fortune-teller. The most exciting element of the poem for me was the sestina style embedded in the prose form, with certain words being repeated in each section. The surface play discloses and obscures as it pleases, so rather than focus on a strong narrative I looked forward to the ways in which words such as ‘Hank’s’ and ‘Walt’s’, from the TV drama Breaking Bad, become ‘Hanky’ and ‘waltz’, or the way ‘kleptomaniac’ and ‘Sancerre’ took on a new relevance.’
Shirtless by Cheryl Moskowitz
Cheryl Moskowitz was born in Chicago, grew up in Denver, Colorado, and moved to the UK aged 11. She studied Developmental Psychology, trained in Drama therapy and Psychodynamic Counselling, and has worked variously as an actor, playwright, poet, therapist, lecturer, essayist, novelist and translator. She has led courses for The Poetry School and facilitates writing in a wide range of healthcare, community and educational settings. She is currently co-editor for the Film Issue of Magma poetry magazine (summer 2018), is on the organising committee for the 10th European Psychoanalytic Film Festival and is teaching ‘Story and Myth’ on the Creative and Professional Writing BA at the University of East London. Book publications include the novel Wyoming Trail (Granta), poetry collection The Girl is Smiling (Circle Time Press) and poetry collection for children Can It Be About Me?(Otter-Barry Books). Her essays and poetry have appeared in various anthologies and literary magazines including Poetry Review, The Manhattan Review, Southbank Poetry, Magma, The Rialto, Critical Quarterly, The Long Poem Magazine, Prairie Schooner, World Literature Today, Modern Poetry in Translation, Drunken Boat, and The Saint Ann’s Review. She is currently developing a poetry and writing project with the Cotton Tree Trust, a newly formed charity working to benefit refugees, asylum seekers and their families.
‘A deeply upsetting poem about a girl who is discomfited by her gender. The simple style and plain English amid the setting, of a front garden and bedroom, show us the poet’s compassion for the girl’s distress. The only speech recorded is dialogue-to-self, with the symbol of the shirt and the mirror being deftly employed to highlight the awkwardness of a body in turmoil. The casual ending is affecting because it carries a rich set of possibilities, but all of them deprive the girl of comfort. A quiet and brisk yet devastating, memorable poem.’
'In what way are forests black or white. We saw them blue. With forget me nots.' by Teresa Ott
Teresa Ott grew up in York, Pennsylvania. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Fiddlehead and Subtropics. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a National Magazine Award, shortlisted for Arc Poetry Magazine’s Poem of the Year Award and placed as a finalist for the Bread Loaf Katharine Bakeless Nason Award. She recently completed her first book, a collection of poems which visit and question, celebrate and lament, the domestic and biological interiors of two women linked across a century. She works as an office manager and lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her six-year-old daughter.
‘I love the way the lines run on, with passing details shed along the way, before we get to the glimmering point of each sentence. This poem has a marvellous fluency that corresponds to the motion of travelling back and forth in memory. A considered poem about loss and its reinforcing powers, and about all that’s memorial remaining fluid, and how we are in a complex time at each given moment.’
All four shortlisted poems appear in the spring issue of The Moth, available to purchase here for just €7 (including postage anywhere in the world).