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The Moth Poetry Prize is one of the biggest prizes in the world for a single unpublished poem. The prize is open to anyone, and each year it attracts thousands of entries from new and established poets from over 50 countries worldwide. It gives us great pleasure to present this year’s winner, chosen by Claudia Rankine ...


The Nave by Damen O’Brien
Damen O’Brien is a native of Queensland, Australia. He has always dabbled in writing poetry, but only took it up in earnest in 2014. Since then he has won numerous prizes, including the Welsh International Poetry Prize, the Val Vallis Prize, the Woorilla Poetry Prize, the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Poetry Prize and the WB Yeats Poetry Prize for Australia. He is working on his first collection.

The great thing about winning with this poem is that I have actually submitted it to several journals and other competitions without success. Sometimes you have to give up on your favourites, but sometimes it is worth ignoring the feedback and sticking with your gut. I am glad I did with this poem.

Read more in the Irish Times. You can also read about it in Books + Publishing

Judge’s comment:
‘I appreciated this poem’s treatment of landscape and place, a lens that refuses the romantic lull of the pastoral. There is a wonderful command of line and imagery that both seduces and disturbs instantaneously. The poem exists in the break that is the passage of time.’

Watch Damen read his poem here


I do not appear in photos by Claudia Daventry
Claudia Daventry lives in St Andrews in Scotland. Her poetry is widely published and has won several awards, notably taking first place in the Bridport, Ruskin and Hippocrates prizes. Her chapbook, The Oligarch Loses His Patience, won a Templar Award, and her choral commissions, Songs from the Marsh and Selkie Song, have been performed by the BBC Singers live on Radio 3 and at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. She is currently researching the effect of light pollution on circadian rhythms, attention and mental health.

Judge’s comment:
‘I was drawn in by the melding of landscape and the body that this poem enacts so brilliantly. I loved the subtle acts of defiance that the speaker offers up for the reader.’

A Telephone Conversation with my Sister/Footnotes by Kate Potts
Kate Potts, who is also an editor and an events producer, teaches poetry and creative writing at Middlesex University, Royal Holloway and The Poetry School. Her debut pamphlet, Whichever Music, was shortlisted for a Michael Marks Award, and her collection, Feral (Bloodaxe), was a Poetry Book Society recommendation and a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month.

Judge’s comment:
‘This formally inventive lyric reminiscent of Jenny Boully’s The Body understands the power of emotional memory over autobiographical fact. The poem does not sacrifice clarity, complexity or compassion in pursuit of its truth.’

Genetic Memory by Nicholas Ruddock
Nicholas Ruddock is a Canadian physician and writer. He was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Short Story Award in 2016, has twice won the Bridport Prize (for flash fiction and the short story) and has won or been shortlisted for multiple awards in Canada, including the Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize, the CVC Fiction Prize and the Toronto Book Prize. His poetry has been published in Irish Pages and he has published two novels and one collection of short stories.
Judge’s comment:
‘The documentary elements of this poem locate us both in place and time. Historically, geographically we are positioned in the moment by this poet’s use of lists, facts, research, setting the domestic within a larger historical framework. The skilful use of language allows us to simultaneously exist in the past, present and future.’
All four shortlisted poems appear in the spring issue of The Moth, available to purchase here for just €7 (including postage to anywhere in the world).

Claudia Rankine also highly commended the following:
Bear Dreams by Devreaux Baker
Devreaux Baker’s awards include the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Prize, the Joe Gouveia Outermost National Poetry Prize and the Women’s Global Leadership Poetry Prize. Her published poetry collections include Hungry Ghosts, Light at the Edge, Beyond the Circumstance of Sight, Red Willow People, and out of the bones of earth. She lives on the Mendocino Coast in Northern California.
The Skunk by Paula Bohince
Paula Bohince is the author of three collections and her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Granta, POETRY, The TLS, The Irish Times, Australian Book Review and elsewhere. She is the 2020 John Montague International Poetry Fellow at University College Cork.
The Magic Mountain by Ian Dudley
Ian Dudley has published poetry in online and print magazines. He was a Jerwood/Arvon poetry mentee in 2014, and has won the Oxonian Review, Aesthetica and Manchester Cathedral poetry prizes.
A Technology for Remembering by Cynthia Hughes
Cynthia Hughes lives in Vermont. She teaches young children and composes music as part of the duo Coracle. Recent poems can be found in Southword, Crab Orchard ReviewMid-American Review and A Global Anthology (Montreal International Poetry Prize). Her work has been shortlisted for The Bridport Prize, O’Donoghue Prize and Fish Poetry Prize.
And then the Quail Came by James Leader
James Leader is a poet, novelist and secondary school English teacher in Luxembourg. In 2016 he won the Luxembourg National Literature Competition. He was previously shortlisted for The Moth Poetry Prize, and his poems have been published in numerous anthologies in Australia, Ireland and Luxembourg. This year he will represent Luxembourg with two poems at Expo 2020 in Dubai.
I Killed A Lot of Things by Oscar Redding
Oscar Redding is from remote regional Australia, a town called Wee Jasper that rests by the Goodradigbee River. A farmer’s son, farm hand, kitchen hand and unskilled labourer who started writing. An actor and director of theatre and film, most notably appearing in Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake and the independent feature film Van Diemen’s Land, whichhe co-wrote with director Jonathan Auf Der Heide.

As we announce the overall winner of the €10,000 prize at a special award ceremony at Poetry Ireland on Ireland Poetry Day, 30 April, and listen to the poets read their shortlisted works. Tickets are free and all are welcome.