Mary-Jane Holmes wins Martin Starkie Prize for Poetry

7 July 2017

Mary-Jane Holmes

Mary-Jane Holmes, who is reading for an MSt in creative writing, was awarded the Martin Starkie Prize for Poetry at a ceremony on 17th June. The prize is named after the founder of the University of Oxford’s Poetry Society, which was established in 1946 with the aim of highlighting ‘an emerging, noteworthy voice within the Oxford poetry community’. The prize was judged by Helen Mort, a rising star in British poetry whose own work has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.

“I was thrilled to have two poems shortlisted for the Martin Starkie,” says Mary-Jane, “but to find that I had actually won was wonderful. I am relatively new to poetry so the award has given me the confidence to keep going and to keep honing the craft.

“The winning piece is part of a collection of response poems in dialogue with Alfonsina Storni, an Argentinian feminist and modernist poet who died in 1938. I see my engagement with Storni similar to writing letters to a pen pal only there is not just distance to be negotiated but time as well. She tells me of her position as a women in urban Buenos Aires in the 20th Century and I tell her of my life in the rural North Pennines in the 21st Century. Sometimes we argue, sometimes we agree, mostly we commiserate the fact that things haven’t moved on for women even after all this time. ‘B6726’ is a poem about the only road in and out of the dale I live in, it is about the indifference of the natural world and how that impacts on our daily lives. The poem will be published in ASH magazine sometime soon.”

Mary-Jane Holmes’s fiction and poetry has been published in various publications and anthologies including Best Small Fictions 2016 edited by Stuart Dybek, The Lonely Crowd, Prole, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and The Tishman Review. In 2017 she was nominated for a Forward Prize and won the International Bedford Poetry competition. She was winner of the Dromineer Prize for fiction in 2014, has been shortlisted for the Bridport twice for both fiction and poetry and longlisted for the Kathy Fish Fellowship.

Since 2009, Mary-Jane has served as chief editor of Fish Publishing Ireland. She is the director of the company’s creative writing and mentoring programs. She also facilitates writing retreats and runs workshops in the US, Switzerland and Spain and is editorial consultant with the new international poetry journal The Well Review, based in the city of Cork, Ireland.

Two further Kellogg students reached the shortlist for this prestigious prize: Millie Guille for The Clean-Up Worker’s Wife and Constantine Blintzios for Where I am from.