Kathryn Simmonds wins Wigtown Poetry Competition

Jackie Kay heralds “witty” and “stylish” sonnet

The winner of the largest poetry competition in Scotland has been announced at the Scottish Book Town Spring Book festival in Wigtown, Galloway. The 2007 Wigtown Poetry Prize has been won by ‘My Darling,My Cliche’, by Kathryn Simmonds. The winning entry was chosen by the poet Jackie Kay from more than 1600 submissions.

In her judging notes, Ms Kay described the winning poem as “witty” and “stylish”, observing that: “It is the job of poetry to take the cliché and breathe new life into it. I loved the twists and turns of this clever sonnet, the way it takes dead language and reactivates it. I love the way the poem mixes clichés and maxims up, and the many different directions it takes us in before getting to the fabulous and funny ending.”

Simmonds was born in Hertfordshire in 1972 and now lives in north London. Her pamphlet ‘Snug’ is published by Smith/Doorstop and her first collection will be published by Seren in 2008. On receiving the £2,000 prize, she said: “It was a wonderful surprise to find out I’d won, particularly as I really admire Jackie Kay’s work. Visiting Wigtown was great. It’s a beautiful corner of Scotland and it was fascinating to find so many bookshops in one small town. I’m going to use the prize money to visit my best friend, who lives in Canada, and am looking forward to exploring (and perhaps writing about) a new part of the world.”

Entries to the 2007 competition came from as far afield as Shetland and Zimbabwe. Commenting on the overall quality of work submitted, Jackie Kay observed: “This year the standard was particularly high. It was difficult to choose which poem should come first, second and third. Because, of course, that is an arbitrary business.”

The Winning Poem: My Darling, My Cliché, by Kathryn Simmonds

Don’t start what you can’t diminish.
A bird in the hand is worth nothing if it lies
stock still and won’t sing. You can lead
a horse to water but you can’t make it recite the rosary.
If I said you had a beautiful body would you.
This is our bed you have made for yourself.
Beware of old lovers bearing gifts. A rolling stone
gathers much loss. If you can’t say something nice
say something with gall (many a true word
was said in a vest at three am on a Wednesday night).
Why not begin afresh, put the past beside us,
forgive and beget. What the heart
hasn’t seen the eye doesn’t grieve for.
Please. It’s not over till the. Oh.

Results in full

1st Prize My Darling, My Cliché - Kathryn Simmonds 2nd Prize Pride - Judy Brown 3rd Prize Odysseus and the Sou’Wester - Jen Hadfield Gaelic Prize An fhior bheinn - Aonghas MacNeacail

Background to the prize

Now in its second year, the Wigtown Poetry Prize is open to anyone, anywhere in the world. Poems have to be in English or Scots (or Gaelic) and up to 40 lines maximum. Entrants pay £5 to enter, or £10 to submit three poems.

Wigtown, in Galloway, south-west Scotland, is “Scotland’s National Book Town”, home to more than 20 bookshops and two annual book festivals. The autumn book festival, which runs for 10 days from 28 September to 7 October 2007, is one of Scotland’s top literary gatherings (01988 403222; www.wigtownbookfestival.com).

Notes to editors For further information about the competition, including biographies of the runners-up and the full texts of their poems, please contact Rhiannon Batten on 07976 729113.


Date posted: 19/05/2007


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