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UEL Creative Writing lecturer shortlisted for Moth Poetry Prize.

Cheryl Moskowitz is in the running for sought-after poetry prize

Cheryl Moskowitz, a Creative Writing lecturer at the University of East London (UEL), has been shortlisted for the prestigious Moth Poetry Prize.

The prize is one of the most sought after in the world for a single unpublished poem. A first prize of 10,000 Euros and three runners-up prizes of 1,000 Euros are offered by the publishers of 'The Moth', an international art and literature magazine based in Ireland.

Cheryl said, "Entering a poem into a competition is like putting an urgent message in a bottle and casting it out to sea. Who knows if it will ever be discovered, read, paid attention to? 

“But we have to hope and sometimes that hope pays off, in a big way. It’s a fantastic feeling to be on the shortlist for such an amazing prize. I’m delighted that my bottle made it to shore."

The prize is judged anonymously each year by a single poet. This year it was Daljit Nagra, the first person to win the Forward Prize for both his debut collection and its title poem. Nagra recently published his third collection of poetry, British Museum, with Faber, and teaches poetry at Brunel University London.

“This was a hugely entertaining prize to judge,” said Nagra, “because there were so many deeply serious poems, both in terms of poetic craft, but also in terms of global politics. My winners include poems about gender identity, corrupt authority and the treatment of women – but also the role of poetry in shaping the imagination, and the joy of writing poetry.”

Cheryl’s 'Shirtless' is a “deeply upsetting poem about a girl who is discomfited by her gender”, said Nagra. “The simple style and setting, of a front garden and bedroom, show us the poet’s compassion for the girl’s distress.

“The casual ending carries a rich set of possibilities, but all of them deprive the girl of comfort. A quiet and brisk yet devastating poem.”

Shirtless

By Cheryl Moskowitz

Back then when she believed that being a boy or even a dog
was preferable to being the girl that she was,
she used to go shirtless on the front lawn

perfecting those sad eyes of hers, and imagining that if she stood
still for long enough the day would take her with it into the shadows
or wherever it is that days go at the end of the summer.

She said she didn’t care if people stared - No one knows me anyway -
and that everyone is entitled to their own idea of what makes
a good picture or who they will stand next to in a crowd.

I’m happier on my own.

And when the evenings got cooler the girl wore her shirt again
and went inside where she practised standing still in front of
the lengthways mirror next to her bed. Once she spoke quietly

to the glass reflection - You are too easily broken.

By this time the evenings were darker and colder
and no one played outside any more except for the occasional boy

with a ball, or a dog.