Claudia Rankine’s €10,000 Moth Poetry Prize shortlist spans the globe

Claudia Daventry, Damen O’Brien, Kate Potts and Nicholas Ruddock up for prize

The Moth Poetry Prize shortlist, chosen by the American poet Claudia Rankine, is announced today.

“It was such a pleasure and an honour to encounter the myriad voices, forms, risks, themes, critiques, encounters and techniques of these poems, which moved me with their great attention and care,” said Rankine of judging the prize. “It is heartening to know that so many poets are dedicated to their craft, and I’m grateful to have had time with these excellent and surprising poems.”

The Moth Poetry Prize is solely sponsored by the publishers of the Irish art & literature magazine The Moth and is now in its tenth year. With a cash fund of €13,000, it remains one of the world’s most valuable prizes for a single unpublished poem and receives thousands of entries from across the English-speaking world.

Each year, a different poet is asked to judge the prize blind. This year Rankine chose a shortlist that takes in Canada, the UK and Australia. The shortlisted poems are: I do not appear in photos by Claudia Daventry, Nave by Damen O’Brien, A Telephone Conversation with my Sister/Footnotes by Kate Potts and Genetic Memory by Nicholas Ruddock. They all feature in the current issue of The Moth.


Rankine praised “the melding of landscape and the body” in Daventry’s I do not appear in photos.

I walked with bees hovering
above the clover of my hair
which was perpetually ruffled
by the light breeze of your breath …

Daventry lives in St Andrews in Scotland. Her poetry is widely published and has won several awards, notably taking first place in the Bridport, Ruskin and Hippocrates prizes. Her chapbook, The Oligarch Loses His Patience, won a Templar Award, and her choral commissions, Songs from the Marsh and Selkie Song, have been performed by the BBC Singers live on Radio 3 and at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. She is currently researching the effect of light pollution on circadian rhythms, attention and mental health.

The “wonderful command of line and imagery that both seduces and disturbs instantaneously” in Damen O’Brien’s poem Nave was commended by Rankine.

Sometimes God gives us something broken:
little towns, worshipping their stubborn way
through drought and flood; or little lives,
silent and unblinking in their cots. Like all fatuous
truths, we are told things which are broken
allow us to see such beauty limned and split
from the hale world …

O’Brien, who is a native of Queensland, has always dabbled in writing poetry, but only took it up in earnest in 2014. Since then he has won numerous prizes, including the Welsh International Poetry Prize, the Val Vallis Prize, the Woorilla Poetry Prize, the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Poetry Prize and the WB Yeats Poetry Prize for Australia. He is working on his first collection.

Kate Pott’s A Telephone Conversation with my Sister/Footnotes, comprised entirely of footnotes, “does not sacrifice clarity, complexity or compassion in pursuit of its truth”, according to Rankine.

1. We never set fire to the lawn with the magnifying glass. The scissor blades didn’t draw blood. But aged five and seven, we loaded our possessions into plastic beach buckets and set out to seek our fortunes ...

Potts, who is also an editor and an events producer, teaches poetry and creative writing at Middlesex University, Royal Holloway and The Poetry School. Her debut pamphlet, Whichever Music, was shortlisted for a Michael Marks Award, and her collection, Feral (Bloodaxe), was a Poetry Book Society recommendation and a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month.

The skilful use of language in Nicholas Ruddock’s Genetic Memory, Rankine says, “allows us to simultaneously exist in the past, present, and future”.

Our baby had colic. We took turns walking the floor, holding him as he cried past midnight, slow-dancing, his unhappy chest on yours or mine, neighbours unable to sleep, banging fists against the adjoining wall. Sorry, sorry, we said inaudibly as outside muffled ploughs moved through drifts, through otherwise-impassable streets, snow falling on the mediaeval turrets of the hospital where you gave birth, on the English poets of Crescent Street, on Joyce’s living and the dead …

Ruddock is a Canadian physician and writer. He was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Short Story Award in 2016, has twice won the Bridport Prize (for flash fiction and the short story) and has won or been shortlisted for multiple awards in Canada, including the Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize, the CVC Fiction Prize and the Toronto Book Prize. His poetry has been published in Irish Pages and he has published two novels and one collection of short stories.

Poems by Devreaux Baker, Paula Bohince, Ian Dudley, Cynthia Hughes, James Leader and Oscar Redding were also commended by Claudia Rankine.

The overall winner of €10,000 will be announced at a special award ceremony at Poetry Ireland in Dublin on April 30th (Poetry Day Ireland), to which everyone is welcome. Details can be found at

The current issue of The Moth, featuring all four poems, can be purchased at