Judges' Comments

Wigtown Poetry Prize 2023

30 September 2023
Writers and poetry 2023 winners standing on stage with Poet Hugh McMillan. A screen is behind them showing slideshows.

The winners of Wigtown Poetry Prize 2023 were unveiled last night at an awards ceremony hosted by author and poet Hugh McMillan.

Hugh said: “The Wigtown prizes in English, Scots and Gaelic are among the most eagerly sought after accolades and the list of judges and winners read like a who’s who of contemporary poetry.”

Copy of scots

The Wigtown Prize

Open to work in English, Scots or Scottish Gaelic. The winner receives £1,500 and the runner up £200.

Winner: John Wheway, My Mother Unwraps My Gift of Frida Kahlo’s Me and My Parrots

Runner up: Rachel Rankin, Winter Solstice

"My Mother …’ immediately struck me as the most outstanding poem among many excellent entries. Both moving and enlightening, this is a wonderfully tight and concise piece of verse, providing insight into three lives, including those of the writer, his mother and the artist, Freda Kahlo. Full of craft, skill and even a dash or two of humour, it is a work of astounding vitality and power.

“Out of the many contenders for second prize, Winter Solstice was my final choice. The reason? To quote a line from the poem, ‘it picks the bones of winter clean’ and sums up how many feel about the time of year it describes. Ironically, given the way it praised the winter’s darkness, the poem created its own brilliant kind of light.”

-Donald S Murray, Wigtown Poetry Prize judge

Scots 2

Wigtown Scots Prize

The Wigtown Scots Prize. £500, runner-up £200

Supported by the Saltire Society

Winner: Craig Aitchison, Juist

Runner up: Keeks Mc, Peer Breiths

"This category was both a pleasure and a pain to judge, because I thoroughly enjoyed every entry and trying to pick winners was extremely difficult. Every entrant should be proud of themselves, their Scots and their ability to put their world into words.

“The winning piece, Juist, captured a beautiful juxtaposition of the personal and universal nature of grief, and a close second place, Peer Breiths, was a powerful and reflective feminist mediation invoking strength and solidarity."

 - Len Pennie, Wigtown Scots Poetry Prize judge

Gaelic prize 1

Wigtown Scottish Gaelic Prize

The Wigtown Gaidhlig Prize. £500, runner-up £200

Supported by Comhairle nan Leabhraichean/The Gaelic Books Council

Winner: Seonaidh Charity, Mapaichean

Runner up: Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, Ainneamhag Gheal

“The winning poem Mapaichean is full of deep feelings, with a distinctly local flavour, reminiscent, perhaps, of Donald MacAulay or Derek Thomson. The poem in second place is slightly mysterious and reminded me of Aonghas MacNeacail.”

- Rody Gorman, Wigtown Gaelic Poetry Prize judge

Graphic logo for the Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize.

Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize

Named in memory of one of Scotland’s foremost literary talents, this recognises a collection of work rather than individual poems. The prize is for the work to be set as a pamphlet by Gerry Cambridge and published by the Wigtown Festival Company.

Winner: Ortelius’s Sea Monsters, by Stephanie Green

“The most difficult task of all was shortlisting the works for this award. If I had been allowed, I would have crammed around a dozen into my selection, aware that they all deserved to be considered for the prize.

“‘Ortelius’ Sea-Monsters’ is outstanding in terms of its source of inspiration and the varied ways in which the writer examines the fantastical beings to which the reader is introduced within its pages. I relished each encounter, fascinated by the different ways in which each creature is described. This is a work which is a triumph both for the writer’s imagination and their wide and surprising range of poetic skills.”

- Donald S Murray, Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize judge

Graphic Logo for the Fresh Voice Award, Dumfries and Galloway.

Dumfries & Galloway Fresh Voice Award

For poets living in, or from, Dumfries and Galloway who have never professionally published a full length collection. The prize is a package of professional support including mentoring by Wigtown Festival Company and a retreat hosted by Moniack Mhor Writers' Centre.

Winner: Sunshine Against Shadow, by Robin Leiper

Runners up: One Moonless Night, Diane Schofield and That Day Jane McBeth

“Fresh Voice Award winning poet Robin Leiper reminded me to be ever watchful for the signs that connect us and what it is to be human. Their collection Sunshine Against Shadow reminded me to maintain that sense of resilience within myself by responding honestly to past memory, to art and everyday things.

“Runners up Diane Schofield and Jane McBeth submitted poems of great validity and truth that moved me emotionally and offered healing reflections.

“Choosing a winner was not easy and I savoured every word offered. It was an honour to judge the Fresh Voice Award this year for Wigtown Book Festival.”

- Susi Briggs, Fresh Voice Award judge