The National Book Council launches the first edition of the Doreen Micallef National Poetry Contest

The National Book Council has launched the first edition of the Doreen Micallef National Poetry contest, inspired by the Maltese poet and playwright

The National Book Council launched the first edition of the Doreen Micallef National Poetry contest, on Friday.

Speaking at the launch in Valletta, the Executive Chairman of the National Book Council Mark Camilleri explained that in carrying the name of Doreen Micallef, the National Poetry Contest is celebrating “one of the most distinctive voices of her generation, a voice that was intimate and confessional, and female.”

Camilleri said that the contest is aimed at further raising the profile of poetry in Malta and at encouraging the writing of poetry in the Maltese language. He said that there was an increasing amount of emerging writers in Malta, adding that although the island does not have a long tradition of poetry, there were still many writers who “enriched it greatly.”

“It was Dun Karm who elevated the Maltese language to a new level of literary concussions by employing it in his poetry during the second decade of the 20th century when just before that he used to write only in Italian.” Camilleri said that Doreen Micallef influenced poets and writers that came after her in the same way that Dun Karm influenced a new generation of poets during his time.

“Poetry plays an important role in further enriching language and culture. Doreen Micallef’s poetry is a perfect example to which aspiring and emerging poets can look up to,” Minister for Education Evarist Bartolo said. 

Poet Victor Fenech, winner of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Book Council noted that Doreen Micallef’s impassioned writing was a testimony of a life dedicated to reading and writing.

NBC executive chairperson Mark Camilleri (second from right) at the launch of the contest
NBC executive chairperson Mark Camilleri (second from right) at the launch of the contest

Senior Manager at the NBC, Simona Cassano said that applicants are invited to submit three copies of one poem in Maltese, not exceeding 36 verses in length. The poems should only be signed by a “nom de plume” and must not have appeared in before, whether it be published anthologies or in journals. “Poets cannot submit more than one entry. The entries for the poetry contest are to be sent to the National Book Council, by no later than 23 August,” she said.

Cassano said that a jury panel nominated by the National Book Council will award the three poems that score the highest mark. “In their evaluation of the entries, the jury will apply a set of criteria. Broadly speaking, the jury is required to identify and reward authenticity, imagination, the distinctiveness of voice, and original and inspiring use of rhythm and figures of speech,” she said.

However, Cassano added that other matters such as consistency of register, orthography, grammar, visual aspects and many more still carry “considerable weight in the evaluation.” She said that all participants are urged to download the criteria and study them carefully.

“The poem that wins the first prize will be awarded € 1,000, while the two runners-up will be each getting a book voucher to spend in bookshops across the country, however, the jury panel reserves the right not to issue the awards if it deems submissions not to have reached the required standard. Members of the board or of the administration of the National Book Council are barred from participating in the Contest,” she said.

The winners of the contest will be announced at an official ceremony on 8 November during the 2019 Malta Book Festival as part of its cultural programme. The Malta Book Festival will take place from 6 to 19 November at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.

The full contest regulations, criteria and application form can be found on the council’s website.