Last but not least, in our week of Saltire Society Shadow Panel blogs, we hear from those who judged the poetry shortlist!
Julie Stirling (Chair)
Having recently chaired a judging panel for the Scottish Magazine Awards, I was particularly keen to see how the process for judging a literary award differed. This discussion largely came back to the idea of self – the idea being that all poetry is open to the readers’ interpretation. Reaction, feeling and understanding of the content was centric to the discussion. With the Magazine Awards the audience was the primary focus, with the relevance of content to the reader, and the aesthetic most frequently being debated. Whilst the aesthetic was visited in our discussion, the undoubtable and unsurprising theme common to the two judging processes was the accessibility of the content.
For me, I took the approach of reading each book in its own time – allowing a day or so to digest it before starting the next. As the books are so different to one another I think this helped me not to get caught up in the contrast. I chose to start with Jim Carruths’ Killochries, due I think, to the verse novella format. I am naturally drawn to narrative and storytelling and so I treated it like a book, only ever stopping before a new chapter. Re-reading was essential to me in unravelling the layers of intent and meaning for each of the books and it was fascinating to see how they changed as I did so. The best poetry in my mind, is the stuff that sticks. Words, lines or images that I can’t shake once I’ve put the book down are a sign of something powerful. For me, it had to be Killochries: for the quiet, unhurried and deliberate delivery in the poets approach to telling the story of the two characters.
Central Hall is a beautiful venue and seemed fitting for this year’s Saltire Literary Awards. With a near front row seat I was able to take in all the action and appreciate the immense hard work that has been shown by all the nominees this year. I was introduced to some important new authors such as Helen McClory, moved by Michel Faber and his personal journey through his writing career, and entranced by the singing of Wounded Knee.
The evening finished with some delectable canapés and just one or two classes of wine… and I now have an exciting list of new books to read and will look forward to the chance to do it all again next year.
I am a student of the MLitt in Publishing Studies in Stirling, and since I have started this course, I had many wonderful opportunities to get to know Scottish literature (which is not very well-known in Germany). One of these opportunities included being part of the SYP/Saltire Literary Awards shadow judging panel for the poetry category.
These shortlisted poetry collections were my first exposure to Scottish poetry, and I liked the distinct imagery of Scottish nature prominent in both The Cream of the Well and Killochries. The discussions of the collections with my fellow shadow judges were thorough, and everyone liked and disliked different aspects of the selected books. I was delighted to see my favourite collection win the Poetry Award, even if I sadly could not make it to the awarding ceremony.
I was quite pleased and excited to be a part of the shadow judging panel. It was so nice to sit and discuss poetry with people who share a similar interest in such a beautiful literary art form. I also enjoyed experiencing a somewhat similar process that panel judges partake in when choosing a book for an award.
As for the reading process, I sometimes found it a bit difficult to make my way through the books that I didn’t feel any connection with. For me, I want reading poetry to evoke some sort of emotional connection when I read it. If the text fails to do that, making my way through the book feels somewhat forced and unenjoyable.
My favorite book within the selection came to be Killochries by Jim Carruth. The text not only touched on spiritual and emotional levels, but reminded me of home. I also enjoyed this book as a story and not just a collection. It’s very rare that authors partake in poetic storytelling, and, to see that in a modern setting is refreshing. I sadly couldn’t attend the ceremony, but I followed closed via Twitter. Thank goodness for technology!
I am studying the MLitt Publishing Studies course at Stirling University and I recently shadowed judged on the Saltire Society’s Poetry book of the year panel. I really enjoyed the experience of having the taste of what its like to be a judge on a competition. I found it very interesting and loved reading the books especially The Cream of the Well by Valerie Gillies and Killochries by Jim Carruth. It was a great experience. I unfortunately did not make the event, which was disappointing as I would have like to have heard from the other panels and have seen the poets of the books that I read. A huge congratulations to Ryan Van Winkle for his book The Good Dark, which I really enjoyed. His poetry was very dark and real. The cover drew me in immediately. I would recommend others to apply to be on the panel. The night at the Saltire Society in Edinburgh was a great ONE. It was interesting hearing the opinions of the others on which book should win and how their insights changed my own mind about the books. Thanks to SYP for giving me the chance to be on the shadow panel!