Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Male v Female

The Guardian has done a wonderful job of highlighting all the poets who have won the prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry. But it does show up an onoing imbalance.

Neil Astley, the Poetry Editor of Bloodaxe books points out on Facebook
20 years of the FORWARD PRIZE: 17 out of 20 winners were men. This Guardian feature only has comments on 18 poets because Sean O'Brien won the Forward 3 times. Publishers: Faber 6 wins, Picador 5, OUP 3, Chatto & Cape 2 each, Anvil 1, Gallery 1.
Compare with 18 years of the TS ELIOT PRIZES: 14 out of 18 winners were men. Publishers: Faber 8 wins, Bloodaxe & Cape 3 each, Picador 2, Carcanet 1, Gallery 1. Derek Walcott won last year's TS Eliot Prize, the only non-white poet out of a combined 38 wins.
The Forward prize does have two siblings:
The stats on Best First Collection and Best Poem show a much more even split with nearly half of those going to women, but there has been a perception that the big prize goes to the men and the women get the other two prizes to give the impression of even handedness. Similarly Best First Collection has gone to three non-white poets and Best Poem to one.
 Comments also point out

Certainly in contrast to the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize winners of the last 22 years: 12 men, 10 women and a real diversity of publishers.
Here's the link to the well thought of Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.

Is it linked to having the same establishment names on the judging panels time after time? And they all know each other. Why are there no poetry readers or emerging writers on the panel.

Some comments from 2002 here Apparently the Forward prize winner is always on the panel for the following year. Wouldn't that mean that the same type of poem would keep winning?

What about the Costa Prize for Poetry? (Note some men have won it more than once)

Whitbread 19 men 2 women 1985-2005
Costa 3 men, 1 woman - 2011 Jo Shapcott

TS Eliot Prize since 1993
18 men  4 women (Note some men have won it more than once)

Christ on a Bike!

What about the Irish Times Poetry Now Award? Since 2005
 5 men, 2 women. (Note some men have won it more than once)

I shall be posting more about the balance or lack of it in anthologies and magazines later. Any comments?


Rachel Fox said...

It may just sound like sourness but I'd be happy if they ditched all these prizes altogether. They get so much press and I'd rather the space they get was devoted to printing... oh, I don't know... maybe a poem now and then.
We're obsessed with prizes....
Must be nice to get the cash though!

Words A Day said...

Staggering, but not surprizing imbalance. A touch of mslexia?

Agree with you that having a prize winner on the panel for the following year must keep the poetry in the same vein, but obviously, to be fair, cant say it does till i have a look see...

Anonymous said...

Doesn't surprise me. And yet at poetry courses/workshops it's always 'a majority of women' in attendance. Maybe men are just so uber brilliant at this art. Or maybe, as in every walk of life, they're overconfident cocks suffering from Ted Hughes' syndrome. We need to redress that balance with our brilliance!

Emerging Writer said...

You'd think in this day and age we shouldn't still have to be fighting out corner.
Maybe there should be an orange prize for poetry to go some way to addressing the balance.

Brigid said...

An interesting debate, Kate.
I am not that familiar with the poetry world but my instinct would be that like all career options (and there are exceptions), men are single minded and focused which leads to high achieving. They possibly network more.
But I have worked in male dominated industries and I think it is us up to us females to assert ourselves and grab some of those prizes and contracts. Women are all over the internet so maybe we are finding our own network that works with our home/life balance. I say let's use it to promote each other. I agree with June, dazzling with brilliance could work. I'd better stop or I may as well write a blogpost of my own on this subject. I have more or less given up entering competitions myself. Thanks for getting my brain working!

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. More statistics coming your way. The more I look, the more staggered I am, to be honest.
I'm going to look beyond prizes to anthologies and mags. Would it be any different if it was prose, Brigid?
You're right about the workshops though, June.
I try really hard to keep a balance when I'm promoting other writers on this blog.

Jeanne Iris said...

Perhaps, women need to create an even more lucrative avenue for promoting and rewarding our writing. Just a thought...

Emerging Writer said...

What kind of avenue do you have in mind, Jeanne Iris?

The Poetry Bus said...

Rachel F is right, fuck their prizes!
I don't give a monkeys arse who wins them!
And people should stop entering them if they don't like the results or set up their own.We don't have to do things the old way anymore!
It's a new age revolutionised by the internet, nobody is in isolation now even agarophobics like me who never leave the armchair can interact and create and make a difference! If we don't like something we should try and change it or start an alternative
And just to blow my own hole while I'm at it The Poetry Bus mag has published more women than men so far.It's a nonsense to believe that men consistently write better poetry than women, so presuming that women are entering into these competitions then there is clearly something wrong. So fuck 'em ! Life's too short.