Top poetry prizes for talented Fifers

Crail poet Garry MacKenzie has won a top poetry prize. Pic: George McLuskie
Crail poet Garry MacKenzie has won a top poetry prize. Pic: George McLuskie
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Talent from the East Neuk has shown the stanza strength of the county as two Fifers take top prizes in a national poetry competition.

The poem “Newcastle Central Station” was announced as the 2016 Wigtown Poetry Competition overall winner and was penned by Crail poet Garry MacKenzie (30).

Crail poet Garry MacKenzie has won a top poetry prize. pic of him with some books down on one of the benches at the harbour. 21 Sept 16

Crail poet Garry MacKenzie has won a top poetry prize. pic of him with some books down on one of the benches at the harbour. 21 Sept 16

Deborah Moffatt (63), who is an American living in Kingsbarns, won the Scottish Gaelic prize with “Clann na Coille”.

Writer Garry MacKenzie said: “It’s one of the competitions that everyone wants to win, and some great poets have won it in the last few years. The judge, John Glenday, is a poet whose work I really admire, so it’s very exciting to get his positive comments.

“Writing poetry is often a fairly solitary trade, and is plagued by the doubts that all writers have at one time or another. So to have some support and commendation is a great encouragement to keep writing!”

Garry, who has lived in Fife since 2003, first as a student at St Andrews University and now in Crail where he writes on a freelance basis and teaches some courses in English and Creative Writing at the University.

“His book – ‘Scotland: A Literary Guide for Travellers’ – was published two months ago and includes a chapter on Fife and Dundee.

“I first started writing poetry at primary school – I’d teachers who encouraged us to be creative, and I was always writing limericks and rhymes,” said Garry. “I like poetry because of its concision - it’s punchy and memorable, and its images, ideas and phrases can get into your head and under your skin.”

Garry’s explains his inspiration behind the poem: “I was passing through the station on a train north, and was struck by how airy and light the station was. It reminded me a bit of old cathedrals, and I wanted to write a poem capturing that sensation and also exploring the kinds of ideas that these sorts of places stimulate: the vision of the architects and builders who took years over their construction, how amidst the bustle there are moments of stillness – someone lost in contemplation perhaps – and how being in such a transcendent space makes you realise how amazing it is to be alive. I also wanted to give some recognition to a place that doesn’t usually play a starring role in literature!

The annual Wigtown Poetry Competition, which began in 2006, is in association with the Saltire Society, Scottish Poetry Library and The Gaelic Books Council.

Adrian Turpin, festival director said: “This year’s poems brim with confidence and show that, despite the tedious rumours of its demise, poetry remains our most versatile and necessary art form.” The winners will present their poems at the Wigtown Book Festival, which runs to October 2.