National Book Award Winner/ Reading Gaol History Lesson/ Palestinian Poet Released – Poetry News Roundup November 22nd

Today in our poetry news round up we look at the Guam poet who has won the National Book Award, the purchase of Reading Gaol and the Palestinian poet who has been released from detention.

Guam Poet Wins National Book Award for Poetry

Craig Santos Perez, a poet who has roots in Guam, has been awarded the 2023 National Book Award for poetry at the 74th National Book Award ceremony.

The award was given for his book “from unincorporated territory [åmot,]”. Speaking at the award ceremony, which took place on 15th November, Perez talked about growing up in Guam, one of the last colonies remaining in the world and a US territory. He was educated in an American school system and learnt only about American literature. This gave him the inspiration he needed when he began writing to inspire the next generation of authors from the Pacific Islands.

In CHamoru “Åmot” means “medicine.” The book is a collection of poetry that was created with the idea of helping to heal those traumatic wounds that can be linked to colonialism, environmental injustice and militarism on Guåhan, a western Pacific island.

Following his acceptance of the award, the poet recited the final poem from his book. Titled Pacific Written Tradition the poem speaks out against the myth that the CHamoru people are “illiterate oral people.” This book is part of a collection that is being written about the culture and history of the indigenous people of Guam.

Reading Gaol – 10 Years of History

It has been 10 years since Reading Gaol closed to inmates. The jail, whose most famous resident was the poet Oscar Wilde has been the subject of much speculation in the years since its closure, with the MoJ who have stated the empty building is costing over £250,000 a year to maintain attempting to sell it.

There have been many calls from the literary world and local communities to preserve the building for its important history and turn it into an arts centre. These are plans which have been backed by the local MP and a petition containing thousands of signatures.

A bid of £2.6m was rejected in May 2021 as it was felt to be too low. Banksy stepped in and offered to match the asking price of £10m if the bid would be awarded to the council to create the arts centre. To do so, he planned to sell the stencil he used to draw an image of prisoner scaling the prison wall. The MoJ said at that point that the deadline for bids had passed.

Last month, it was announced that the building was in the process of being sold and completion was expected in just a few months. Nothing is known about the buyer, but it is rumoured that the plan is to use the building for “charitable purposes”.

Palestinian Poet Released

Following an international outcry, it has been confirmed that Mosab Abu Toha, the Palestinian poet and writer, has been release from detention.

The poet, who had been writing articles for The New Yorker about his life in Gaza during the war, had been detained by Israeli forces for questioning. He had been trying to cross the border with his wife and children when he was stopped.

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