This year’s McLellan Poetry Competition has now closed for entries and, if all goes to plan, by the time you read this Maura Dooley, this year’s the judge, will have completed her adjudication and the prizewinners will have been notified. Once again, after a slow start, interest built up to a frenzy during the final stages with a deluge of entries received on the last day, rather appropriately the summer solstice.
In the end entries were slightly up even on last year and in part this was due to the continued surge in interest from overseas. This year overseas poets accounted for more than a quarter of the field. As might be expected many came from the Irish republic and the US, but plenty came from more distant and sometimes unexpected places: Australia and New Zealand, India, South Africa and Zimbabwe. And over half the foreign entries came from EU countries including Romania and Cyprus. Arran’s poetry competition can claim to be truly international.
This year’s prizewinners’ event has been moved from Brodick to Corrie Hall. The aim is to provide a more intimate setting for the winning poets to share their work and for judge Maura Dooley to read from her own poems. And after three successive years when the visiting poet has been a man, it will be good to ring the changes with a distinctively female voice. Though of Irish extraction, Maura was born in Cornwall and brought up in Bristol. She had a spell in arts administration in Yorkshire working at the Arvon Foundation’s centre at Lumb Bank (Ted Hughes country) and currently teaches at Goldsmiths’ College, part of the University of London.
Two of her collections, ‘Kissing A Bone’ (1996) and ‘Life Under Water’ (2008), were shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and her work has also been shortlisted for the Forward Prize. Her poems are gentle, often poignant, but always accessible. Many are concerned with the poet of memory. Her latest collection, ‘The Silvering’ was published by Bloodaxe last year and is a Poetry Book Society recommendation.
Maura will also be conducting a writing workshop in Corrie Hall on Saturday the 2nd September entitled ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’. It is open to all regardless of experience though places are limited. If you are interested please contact Cicely Gill (700464) or David Underdown (810640). At £10 including a soup lunch it’s one of the best bargains of the festival.
Maura also works in film and theatre and will be accompanied on her Arran visit by her husband David Hunter who is producer for radio drama with the BBC. On the afternoon of Sunday 3rd September he is giving a (free) talk at Brodick Library entitled promisingly ‘Not Just The Archers’.
For full details of McLellan Festival Events have a look at the festival website. Tickets can be purchased online through Arran Events.