The winners of this years Doreen Micallef National Poetry Contest were announced at a ceremony held at the Malta Book Festival, presented by Jasmine Bajada. This year, over 60 poems were submitted for the contest, proving that the contest remains an important reference point for a wide variety of Maltese poets.

Leanne Ellul’s ‘ix-xnigħat taxmux u dwalijiet għammiexa’ has been awarded the first prize with an award of €1,000 by the jury made up of Irene Mangion, Justine Somerville and Caldon Mercieca.

Ellul writes both poetry and prose, and has previously also written for both theatre and television. She won first place in the national competition for theatre writing, Premju Francis Ebejer, and her play Ma Rridx Immur was staged at Teatru Manoel – Malta’s National Theatre. She won the Novel for Youths Prize 2014 with her novel Gramma. In 2015 Ellul was enlisted in the Commonwealth Young Achievers Book and in 2016 she won the special prize for the Best Emerging Author by the National Book Council. L-Inventarju tal-Kamra l-Kaħla is her debut poetry collection.

The evaluators described her prize-winning poem as a formally innovative work which manages to find beauty in ruin and destruction, and whose structure evokes an apposite sense of fragmentation and disharmony which perfectly matches the fatalistic and cynical thrust of the work.

The poem ‘Penthos’ gained Claudia Gauci the second place, while the poem ‘RSVP’ granted Glen Calleja the third place. Both poems treat a similar theme — the breakdown of a romantic relationship — albeit in different ways. Commenting on ‘Penthos’, the evaluators praised the poet’s use of seasonal metaphors to depict the gradual disintegration of a relationship, while ‘RSVP’ was described as a concise and poignant poem which memorably communicates the discomfort of a relationship falling apart.

During his speech at the ceremony, National Book Council Chairman Mark Camilleri expressed his optimism about the healthy number of applicants for this year’s contest. He stressed that the competition was highly competitive, with the top 12 participants achieving remarkably close scores. Camilleri also highlighted that the contest’s robust participation is further evidence of a “resurgence” in Maltese poetry — made even more apparent by the fact that the esteemed magazine Modern Poetry in Translation dedicated its summer 2023 issue to Maltese poetry.

The Doreen Micallef National Poetry Contest is held annually and is open to everyone. The poem submitted has to be original, in Maltese, unpublished, not longer than 36 lines, and through a pseudonym, making the evaluation anonymous. The National Book Council thanks all those all those who submitted poems and the members of the jury for their work. The next edition of this contest opens in June 2024.

During the ceremony, the shortlisted poets were invited on stage to read their works. They were also joined on stage by Therese Pace, who placed first in the competition last year with the poem ‘Fuq l-Aġenda tal-Għajn ta’ Doreen’.

The full results have been published here.

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