Visual Verse Prize

by Aki Schilz

Visual Verse is a new cross-platform initiative, created by Kristen Harrison, co-founder of The Curved House, and edited by writer Preti Taneja. It’s generously supported by its patrons, Andrew Motion, Ali Smith and Bernardine Evaristo. I’m delighted to have won their inaugural Writer’s Prize and am excited that my winning entry, Geochelone spp (EX),  can now be read on the Visual Verse website alongside a fantastic list of entries in prose and verse.

Last week, Visual Verse launched at The Literary Platform mini-fair and conference for writers. The Literary Consultancy was presenting at the conference, so I was there (wo)manning the stall, and our Director Rebecca Swift chaired one of the excellent panels, entitled My Writing Life, featuring panellists Philip Hensher, Nikesh Shukla, and Polly Courtney.

If you are interested in learning more about any of the delegates and the services they provide for writers, across digital conversion, social media, workshops, events, masterclasses and development, you can find a list in the programme here.

During the conference, postcards of Marc Schlossman’s very beautiful photograph of the lip of a giant tortoise shell, taken at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, were distributed and delegates and visitors were invited to write from instinct within the confines of the postcard (creating a space that mimicked the online anthology’s word limit of 50-500 words and time limit of one hour maximum per entry). My poem pretty much wrote itself, between sips of tea and chats with writers about developing their work, and I handed it in without signing my name, as I was keen just to contribute to the table of writing that was slowly piling up throughout the day. I had noticed that the tag attached to the shell showed that the particular sub-species of giant tortoise in question had once lived on the Galápagos islands. Having been lucky enough to work briefly in Ecuador at the beginning of this year, and taking an active interest in conservation projects across indigenous flora and fauna, I was moved and inspired by the image, and penned a few lines led by this sensation. At the end of the day, VV editor Preti Taneja took to the stage to announce the winner and runners-up of the competition. I was presented with a signed print of Schlossman’s photograph in a beautiful glass frame, and my poem was uploaded to the site. It’s a privilege to appear along with such a varied list of established and up-and-coming writers in all forms, and I am very much enjoying reading the other entries. Highlights for me are Sophie Mayer’s intricate poem, Eley Williams’ Parisian prose, and Nick Mulgrew’s compact, powerful flash fiction, and Myrto Petsota’s (fabulously titled) slow burn memory portrait.

I’d like to dedicate my poem to an extraordinary woman, Irmgard (‘Jenny’) Farmer, who spent many hours looking after me and my sister when we were children and who I hope is resting now, perhaps swimming somewhere, in her native land, or in another, more beautiful place.