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The winner of The Moth Nature Writing Prize 2021
Judged by Helen Macdonald

Cicadas by Arne Weingart 
Arne Weingart lives in Chicago with his family, where he is the principal of a graphic design firm specializing in architectural graphics and wayfinding. His poetry has been published widely in the US and he won the Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Prize in 2019. His collections include Levitation for Agnositcs, winner of the New American Press Poetry Prize, and Unpractical Thinking, winner of the Red Mountain Press Poetry Prize.
 
‘I don’t think of myself as a nature poet. Any poem (and to make the obvious argument, any work of art) aims to clarify something about how to be in the world. This is a problem uniquely designed for human consciousness and conspicuously not for what we are accustomed to regarding as nature. But we are in it and of it, conscious or not. We are both landscape and binoculars, viewer and viewed. I try to write from that shifting, unstable, vernacular middle ground, where the actual and the figurative collide. It’s thrilling to find an audience for this particular point of view, much less to win an award, get a handsome fistful of money and a week in France. I am eternally grateful, however much of eternity I have left in me.’ 
 
Judge’s comment:
‘For centuries, cicadas have been seen as emblems of insouciance and immortality,’ said Macdonald. ‘Where they occur, their eerie, periodic mass emergences mark the passage of time in our own lives. This poem is deft, surprising, quietly devastating; it speaks of the way we project our own lives into the lives of creatures around us, and how we see our own lives reflected back at us from the natural world. Strange and rich and poignant, it courses with death and love and wonder. I’m honoured to have read it and delighted to award it the prize.’

You can read Cicadas in the Irish Times online as well as in issue 47 of The Moth.


The winner of The Moth Nature Writing Prize 2020
Judged by Richard Mabey

Echolocate: A Bat Noctuary by Sammy Weaver 
Sammy Weaver has just completed an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and is currently collaborating with a composer to explore the theme of reemergence. She also recently won the Leeds Peace Poetry Competition 2020, judged by Zaffar Kunial.  
 
‘I first encountered the magic of a bat detector whilst on a writing course led by Pascale Petit and David Morley at Tŷ Newydd in North Wales. After moving onto a narrowboat last year, I soon discovered that canals are great feasting “grounds” for hungry bats. I spent many evenings during lockdown listening to the bat detector, trying to translate into words the strange sounds of their echolocation. Inspired by Sean Borodale’s site-specific poems, I wrote a lot of “Echolocate: A Bat Noctuary” in the moment of listening. I was surprised by the jumble of biography, lyric and prose that resulted. This form of diary-style nature writing is a new venture for me, so I was amazed to receive a phone call from Rebecca O’Connor saying I had won! It gives me so much confidence and it is wonderful to have my writing out there and enjoyed by others. Who knows, maybe it’ll even inspire some bat detecting.’ 
 
Judge’s comment:
‘This is a finely observed piece about bat behaviour, set lightly but tellingly against a backcloth of social crisis and personal resettlement. I was especially impressed by the writer’s pushing of language to its limits to try and capture a world where movement is complex geometry and seeing is hearing. It conjures up the otherness of the natural world, but also that we inhabit the same spaces, so the hard task of understanding is imperative.’
 
You can read Echolocate in the Irish Times online as well as in issue 43 of The Moth.
 
Work by the following writers was also commended:
Sicelo Mbatha, Alyson Hallett and Meredith Jelbart