Anakana Schofield wins Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award for Bina

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s Collected Poems wins Pigott Poetry Prize at Listowel festival

 Anakana Schofield. Photograph: Arabella Campbell

Anakana Schofield. Photograph: Arabella Campbell

 

Anakana Schofield has won the €15,000 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award for Bina, a novel which secured a British publisher only after The Irish Times reviewed its Canadian edition.

Novelist Rachel Cusk, who adjudicted the prize with Richard Skinner, said: “Bina is fiction of the rarest and darkest kind, a work whose pleasures must be taken measure for measure with its pains”.

Bina, published by Fleet and previously shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, is a provocative, feminist novel about a woman who persists in spite of the violence, injustice, and oppression that fills her world. Bina is a woman who has had enough and isn’t afraid to say so.

Schofield said: “This book prize is literally a life saver! For the past six months, I have been working at the local Covid lab to make ends meet, which, while useful for contributing to the pandemic, has made it very difficult to finish my next novel. It is truly exceptionally special to be acknowledged in Listowel because this award also acknowledges the labour of my mother Hannah, a farmer in Co Mayo, who, in England, took me to the library and instilled a love of reading and language in us. My granny Kathleen Gaughan was another great woman for a good turn of phrase and bringing my attention to the intricacies of story and especially the Irish language. 

“Bina is a novel about female friendship. You can’t write a novel like Bina without being blessed with the love of friends and their humour. The pandemic has shown us that friendship is the best to be achieved in life and without people we are nothing. 

“Irish literature has always been a diasporic literature and I appreciate being included, even though writers inevitably feel inadequate every time they pick up a pen. We should be aiming for a diverse literature and I rejoice that it’s no longer only the exclusive domain of snooty blokes in polo necks. It was women journalists in the Irish Times, who inspired me as a 20 year old that I might someday write and now, at age 50, as the most unlikely person to succeed as a writer, I have written 3 novels.” 
 

John Self, reviewing the Knopf Canada edition in The Irish Times in July 2019, wrote: “Here is a book you must read but you can’t. You can’t because the new novel by Anakana Schofield – whose first novel won two prizes and whose second novel was shortlisted for three – hasn’t been published in Ireland, the UK or even the US. It’s available only in Canada, so if you want to read it you need to have it shipped internationally for an arm and a leg. If I were you, I probably would.”

Schofield’s previous book, Martin John, was also shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize as well as Canada’s Giller Prize and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Her debut novel, Malarky, won the Amazon First Novel Award.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. Photograph: Eric Luke
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. Photograph: Eric Luke

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin won the €10,000 Pigott Poetry Prize for her Collected Poems, chosen by Maura Dooley and Mark Waldron.

Martina Evans, reviewing the collection in The Irish Times, wrote: “Perfect line breaks exhibit the fine sense of form which anchors every poem in this timeless collection. No amount of description can sum up the vast complications and pleasure to be found here among her shape-shifting, tantalising, slippery dream-words.”

Ireland’s largest monetary prize for a collection by an Irish poet is sponsored by Mark Pigott, executive chairman of Paccar, who this week also donated £200,000, which Queen’s University Belfast matched, to endow a £400,000 Michael Longley Endowed Scholarship Fund for postgraduate students and create a classroom known as the Longley Room, in recognition of the lifetime of poetry excellence from Michael Longley and his wife, Prof Edna Longley.

Piggot said: “It is a blessing to be able to support this wonderful literary award and recognise the leading poets of Ireland. This is the eighth year of the prize and the competition is world class. I would like to thank our adjudicators, Mark Waldron and Maura Dooley, for their hard work and thorough review of all the entrants and congratulate the winner Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin whose poetry showcases the beauty, diversity and strength of Irish poetry.”

Ni Chuilleanáin is a Fellow and Professor of English (Emerita) at Trinity College, Dublin and a member of Aosdána. She served as Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2016-2019. An early collection, Acts and Monuments, won the Patrick Kavanagh Award. The Sun Fish won the 2010 Griffin International Poetry Prize and The Mother House won the 2020 Irish Times Poetry Now Award.

Collected Poems, published by The Gallery Press, is a book of singular beauty and uncommon cohesion. It contains work from more than 50 years – nine collections and new previously unpublished poems. For all the serenity of their surfaces a core of historical concern permeates her lines. Often she attends to marginalised or solitary figures, and embraces multiple journeys which transport her readers to the dramas of hinted narratives. Eiléan’s art is a wonder.

Philip Toomey, chairman of prize sponsor, the Kerry Group, said: “I would like to congratulate Anakana. The standard was incredibly high and the judges had an unenviable task as they selected an overall winner. Anakana now joins a list of very notable winners of this award and we wish her the very best for the future.”

Catherine Moylan, chairperson of Listowel Writers’ Week, said: “I would like to congratulate Anakana on winning the 26th Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year. I wish her every success with this novel and her next literary endeavour. We are very grateful to all the authors and publishers who submitted their books for this year’s award. Thanks as always, to Kerry Group for supporting both Listowel Writers’ Week and Irish literature.”

The other shortlisted novels were This Happy by Niamh Campbell; Threshold by Rob Doyle; A Sabbatical in Leipzig by Adrian Duncan; and Words to Shape my Name by Laura McKenna. The other shorltisted collections were Ourselves by Beda Higgins and Selected Poems, Found Architecture by Sinéad Morrissey. The full list of Listowel Writers’ Week competition winners is listed on writersweek.ie

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