Through the ages venerated Irish poets relied on the patronage and protection of the great Gaelic chieftains, but how do modern-day poets make a living?
The publishers of The Moth, Rebecca O’ Connor and Will Govan, are offering poets from around the world a chance to earn a very handsome $11,100 (€10,000) and potentially launch a career in the poetry world. Details of how to enter the prize, which closes on December 31st, can be found at www.themothmagazine.com.
Rebecca and Will met 10 years ago at a life drawing class in Notting Hill in London.
Their eyes met across the nude male model they were supposed to be drawing, and a year later they were married and on their way to Ireland to set up a new life for themselves and their new son. The Moth, an international magazine which features poetry, short fiction, interviews and art, was launched in 2010 and is published from their idyllic farmhouse in County Cavan.
Their aim was to produce something that would make art and literature accessible, and to that end the magazine is sold at an affordable $6.65 (€6.00) (including postage to anywhere in the world). Rebecca and Will felt they were on the right track when a woman from County Kerry called them to say she had picked up a copy in her local garage (having never bought a literary magazine before in her life) and was enjoying it very much. "She sounded like she was kind of surprised at herself," says The Moth’s editor Rebecca O’ Connor. "We were thrilled. That was the best possible kind of endorsement."
The magazine has since been praised by the likes of Cloud Atlas’ s David Mitchell and Billy Collins (“the most popular poet in America”, according to the New York Times) and it has featured well-known writers such as Irvine Welsh, Paul Muldoon and Eimear McBride, alongside work from a host of unknown first-time writers from around the world. In 2011 Rebecca and Will launched the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, with the generous support of the celebrity chef Darina Allen.
The prize is now one of the most lucrative in the world for a single unpublished poem – with $11,100 (€10,000) for the overall winner and three runner-up prizes of $1,100 (€1,000). The prize is open to anyone, and all four shortlisted poems appear in the spring issue of The Moth just ahead of the announcement of the overall winner in April.
The Moth is very proud of its strong readership in the US, and, for this reason, they have asked the American poet Deborah Landau to judge this year’ s prize (previous judges include Billy Collins and Marie Howe). Deborah Landau directs the Creative Writing Program at New York University. Her latest collection "The Uses of the Body" featured on the “Best of 2015” lists in The New Yorker, Vogue, BuzzFeed and O, The Oprah Magazine. Her “killer wit evokes Dorothy Parker crossed with Sylvia Plath – leaping spark after spark, growing to deadly dark fire,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The prize is judged blind by a different judge each year. "A single judge offers a unique perspective," remarks Will Govan. "And a single judge, to my mind, means that there can be no compromise in choosing a shortlist and an overall winner. Which is why it is so important to us that the judge is someone we respect and admire as a poet."
Previous winners of the competition include Abigail Parry (a former toymaker), Lisa Bickmore (an English professor at Salt Lake Community College in Utah), Ann Gray (who owns a nursing home in Cornwall; her poem went on to be shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem), and Tom Moore (a geneticist from Cork).
To enter, visit The Moth's website here. Good luck!