The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award is a celebration of innovative new writing from across the globe. Each year, the competition invites submissions of poetry and short fiction that redefine the parameters of form, concept and technique. The works included in this anthology, comprising winning and shortlisted entries, take the temperature of literature today. In poetry, the lines are blurred between the social and political, including immersive invocations of place and dazzling ekphrasis. In fiction, small moments of wonder are brought into focus, blending humour, rigour, shock and awe.
The winners have been announced for the 2022 award, including one winner in poetry and one in short fiction, each receiving £2,500 prize money plus literary consultations with Redhammer Management, as well as subscriptions and prizes from Bloodaxe, Vintage, Granta and The Poetry Society. The jury for this year included representatives from Hodder & Stoughton, Litro Magazine and Jacaranda Books, and independent authors, editors and poets who have written or edited for the likes of The Guardian, The Rialto and more.
The Poetry winner is Dean Gessie, whose piece [sic]stemic impressed the judges for its use of repetition in order to punctuate, pause and push forward its central argument. Oz Hardwick, Chair of the Poetry jury, notes: “A handful of poems were in the running for this year’s award, but after much discussion we agreed on [sic]stemic. From its memorable opening line to its startlingly humane close, it manages to keep anger and wit in the air simultaneously, right from its almost-too-clever title.” An excerpt of the piece can be read below:
I take my black skin out for a walk
I dress it in all-weather livery
I collar and muzzle and leash
I bid my black skin do tricks for passers-by:
I command my black skin to beg and roll over
and to bark silently and crawl
I train my black skin to play dead at the end
of finger pistols or threat of the cage
The Short Fiction winner, Baņuta Rubess, takes the prize for Flotsam. Karen Tobias-Green, Chair of the Fiction jury, commented: “Our winner, the wonderful Flotsam, uses a betrayed mother’s internal monologue to show us the conflict at the heart of realising the one you love is not the one you can trust. All of these stories are powerful, engaging and ultimately entertaining; they hold your attention and take you somewhere new. They ask that you stay with them, and even when they don’t give you what you expected (wanted? Don’t we all have an ending in mind for a story we are reading? Aren’t we all a little non-plussed not to get it?) they still delight. In this year when uncertainty reins, Flotsam resonates.” An excerpt of the piece can be read below:
“Yes, I know,” Hema said in her special Hema voice, “but the patients don’t want your fingers in their mouths anymore.” When I asked to talk to Dr. Mardone, she said, “Just be glad you’re getting two months notice.”
What my husband has to do with dental hygiene someone please explain to me.
No Longer Speaking To
- Margo because she wouldn’t let Holly come for her playdate as if we were contaminated.
- Henrietta who should have rushed to my side and if not you who can I trust
- Stella because you could at least text the person who organized your daughter’s birthday party when you weresick
- Gretchen who talked to the reporters and said oh yeah for sure when she knows nothing, and sang at our wedding
(am I supposed to overdose or)
The Aldermans. The Chows. Every single shit in Pilates. My husband is not a predator, and it’s not my fault.
“Mommy,” Holly called from her room. I crawled under the bed with her and Curious George. “Agnes saw Daddy on TV.”
“It will blow over,” I said. “What?”
“Nothing. Don’t be scared, honey, want some ice cream?” We each had two bowls.
By the time he came home that night, she was asleep. I steamed the mussels the way he likes them, shells spread wide. He looked so grateful I thought lord put him out of his misery and let him eat. Then I put down my forkand asked, “I’m asking you again.”
“Your sense of timing,” he sighed. “Bad. Love the mussels though.”
Did he do it? That question never leaves. I squeeze it on my toothbrush. It’s on the knife that spreads the peanut butter, the key that starts the car. Rocking down the aisle of the supermarket, I fear the answer; in every parking lot,when someone comes towards me, I think – ‘this is it, now it’s here, that stranger wants to tell me about Ted’ — and then they pass me, averting their eyes.
A further 58 writers have been shortlisted, comprising 60 writers which are published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2022. Shortlisted writers include the Costa Book Award-winning Ingrid Persaud, Poetry London Assistant Editor and Obsidian Foundation Fellow Isabelle Baafi, Melita Hume-shortlistee Mariah Whelan, Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition-winner Anita Pati and Fenland Poetry Journal editor Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, amongst others.
1. Massimo Colonna, Isolation.
2. Six n. Five, Europe.
3. Massimo Colonna, Gravity.