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€6,000 Moth Poetry Prize shortlist revealed

Catherine Ann Cullen, Jade Angeles Fitton, Lance Larsen and Craig van Rooyen chosen by Hannah Sullivan

Hannah Sullivan, TS Eliot Prize winner and associate professor of English at New College, Oxford, has chosen her shortlist for this year’s Moth Poetry Prize: Pencilling the Dates by Catherine Ann Cullen, And Other Mirages by Jade Angeles Fitton, Things I’m Against by Lance Larsen and Extinction Picnic by Craig van Rooyen.

Cullen, inaugural poet in residence at Poetry Ireland from 2019 to 2022, is also a children’s writer and songwriter, and author of seven books, most recently The Song of Brigid’s Cloak (Beehive 2022), and a broadsheet, 11 x 11 for Number 11: Poems for Poetry Ireland (2023). Among the honours she has received are the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship and the Celebrating Women with Words Prize 2022 from the Cercle Littéraire Irlandais. A former radio producer with RTÉ Radio 1, Cullen is now an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow with Poetry Ireland and UCD, writing a monograph on the lost street poets and tenement balladeers of 19th-century Dublin.

Cullen’s poem is, according to Sullivan, “a well-crafted and unsentimental piece of retrospection” which takes a subject “which is already rare in poetry – early pregnancy loss – and examines it in hindsight, from the perspective of a mother and her young daughter, scrupulously attending to its enduring meaning”.

Angeles Fitton’s memoir Hermit was published by Penguin Random House last year. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Independent, Vogue, Times Literary Supplement and The Financial Times. She lives in rural Devon.


Her poem gives us “a quirky, slight, sideways look at a recent afternoon” which “begins and ends during an exercise class in a swimming pool, the present dilated between two songs from the golden age of pop”, says Sullivan. “Fastening its attention to small, irregular things, like the bobbing wildflower swimming caps, the poem becomes an exercise in evacuating the ego (’not me, he whispers, not I’).”

Larsen grew up in Idaho. He is the author of five poetry collections, most recently What the Body Knows (Tampa 2018), with a sixth forthcoming. His work has appeared in New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, London Magazine, Paris Review, Poetry Magazine, Best American Poetry and elsewhere. His awards include a Pushcart Prize, The Tampa Review Prize, The Alpine Poetry Fellowship, The Missouri Review Prize, and fellowships from Ragdale and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at Brigham Young University in Utah.

His poem is, according to Sullivan, a “perfectly-timed meditation in syllabics” which “soon becomes much more than a charmingly odd list of deprecated things (rhubarb, hockey, suede shoes). Through a slippery series of tonal slides, the witty, conversational list items turn out to have a much more serious purpose. What this poem really dislikes is what we all dislike: death. And what it imagines in its final, much more personal stanzas, is a modest second chance.”

Van Rooyen, who was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a state trial judge in California. He graduated from UCLA School of Law and received his MFA in poetry from Pacific University. His poems have appeared in 32 Poems, Best New Poets, The Cincinnati Review, Narrative, New Ohio Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, Rattle and elsewhere. He is a past winner of the Rattle Poetry Prize.

Van Rooyen’s poem is “clever, questing and generous”, says Sullivan, imagining “not only sitting down with long-dead ancestors, but comforting them like children (’... it will be okay. /They will succeed in passing on the baton of DNA’), by concealing the realities of climate change and the imminent end of the genetic line. A witty and soothing reminder to slow down, pack a picnic lunch, and look around us.”

Sullivan also commended poems by Kate Fenwick, Victoria Gatehouse, Mary-Jane Holmes, Holly Hopkins, Cheryl Moskowitz, Eloise Rodger, Alison Carb Sussman and Imogen Wade, all of whom will receive prizes of €250.

The overall winner, who will receive €6,000, will be announced at a live event on The Moth’s Instagram page at 6pm on Thursday, April 11th. The remaining three shortlisted poets will each receive €1,000.

Meanwhile, the UK Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho is judging The Caterpillar Poetry Prize, run by The Moth, which closes on March 31st, and entries are now welcome for The Moth Short Story Prize 2024 (judge to be announced). The winners of each of the four annual Moth prizes are published in the Irish Times online, while the first prize-winner of The Moth Short Story Prize is printed in the newspaper’s summer fiction series.

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