Regi Claire - Mslexia/PBS Women's Poetry Competition 2019 winner

Regi Claire, ‘(Un)certainties’

It was Halloween, the second anniversary of my sister’s funeral. I’d been feeling very sad. Then came the astonishing, mind-blowing email: ‘(Un)certainties, my poem about my sister’s tragic death, had won first prize. I double-checked, and checked again. I could hardly believe it because I’d always thought of myself as a fiction writer and this was my first poem ever.

I rushed through to my husband’s study, shouting and crying. It was a visceral experience: my nose started to bleed while I was on the phone to my parents in Switzerland and, on and off, the nosebleed continued all day and well into the night. A happy nosebleed, you might say! 

I am truly grateful to Mslexia, the Poetry Book Society and Malika Booker. Their fantastic endorsement has given me the confidence, and the courage, to resume my cross-genre project, a novel-in-short-texts, of which ‘(Un)certainties’ forms the heart.’

REGI CLAIRE was born and raised in Switzerland but came to Edinburgh in 1993 to continue her PhD in English Literature – then dropped out to write the stuff herself. She teaches a Reading Round critical reading course at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Open Learning, and a writing workshop in conjunction with art historians. She has published two novels (The Beauty Room, 2002 and The Waiting, 2012) and two collections of stories, (Fighting It, 2009 and Inside-Outside, 1999). The latter two publications were shortlisted for Saltire Book of the Year awards. ‘(Un)certainties’ is her first published poem. English is her fourth language (after High and Swiss German and French). She has been subscribing to Mslexia since the very first issue. 

What did the judge say?

‘‘(Un)certainties’ by Regi Claire, is a harrowing interrogation of a tragedy using the structure of a multiple-choice questionnaire. The formal constraints provide a relentless repetition that traps us in the unfolding narrative. I marvelled at the tenaciousness of this obsessive and risky long poem, its plain factual language a natural counterpoint to the haziness of the facts about the sister’s drowning.’

MALIKA BOOKER is an award-winning poet whose work is steeped in anthropological research methodology and rooted in storytelling. She is the founder of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen writers’ community initiative. In 2019 she was awarded a prestigious Society of Authors Cholmondeley Award for her contribution to poetry. Her first collection Pepper Seed (Peepal Tree Press, 2013) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre prize for best first full collection published in the UK & Ireland. Clients and organisations she has worked with include BBC, British Council, Wellcome Trust, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and Arvon.

Congratulations to the other winners and finalists

  • SECOND PRIZE: Jacqueline Saphra, ‘Fishwife’
  • THIRD PRIZE: Alex Toms, ‘Daedalus in therapy’
  • PRIZE FOR PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED POET: Erin Coppin, ‘Kindling’ (prize donated to SANDS, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Society)
  • Marlo Bester-Sproul, ‘Therapy’
  • Eloise Birtwhistle, ‘Metastasis’
  • Penny Boxall, ‘Advent’
  • Charlotte Buckley, ‘Cell of phantoms’
  • Becky Cherriman, ‘Surprise of barn owl’
  • Michaela Coplen, ‘Fortress’
  • Nicola Daly, ‘The woman who cut my mother’
  • Claire Dyer, ‘Like this’
  • Katie Hale, ‘A 17th Century guide to beauty in Virginia’
  • Leah Larwood, ‘Gold divers’
  • Wendy Orr, ‘A parliament of members’
  • Ilse Pedler, ‘Haibun of the remembered’
  • Kate Potts, ‘Bloom’
  • Susan Utting, ‘Reconstructing my father’s mother’
  • J S Watts, ‘The undertaker’s daughter’
  • Sarah Wimbush, ‘The ring’
'I particularly enjoyed the quick creative exercises, the book suggestions and the job adverts'
Sophie Livall