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This report is taken from PN Review 237, Volume 44 Number 1, September - October 2017.

On Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books Vahni Capildeo
JUDGING THE LEDBURY FORTE PRIZE, which awards £5,000 to the author of a second collection of poetry, inspired me to search a property website. I selected ‘London’, ‘one bedroom apartment’ (assuming a second-collection poet might need to fit in another person as well as themselves, a desk and some books). The listings hit £500 per month – for shared flats or houses of multiple occupation. What looks like a great lump of cash is not even a year’s rent.

Prizes are not income. They cannot be relied upon. What can be relied upon is the opprobrium which judging attracts. Here are some answers. You can write the questions.

(a) Agitate for writing to be recognised as labour. If you do lots of stuff for free for your mates because art is lovely and the system is fucked – this, too, is an exercise of economic agency, with consequences. Less whinge, more manifestation à la française. Are you participating in local politics, or co-ordinating public interventions (leafleting, graffiti, digital…)? Applying to Teach First or the civil service? Join the Society of Authors. Read www.gov.uk guidelines for freelancers.

(b) There is no ‘prize culture’. There are numerous, interlinked, imperfect mechanisms for bringing more, and different, poetry to more, and different readers – including those outside these four nations, who nonetheless happen (who knows why?) to read in English.

(c) If your publisher did not enter your book, it was not considered. Speak to your publisher. You might know that some ...


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