When she was announced as the winner of last year’s Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize, Alycia Pirmohamed quickly became a name to watch. Born in Canada, she had just completed a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, and had been involved in the writing community here as a co-founder of the Scottish BAME Writers Network.
She described the £20,000 award (for the best unpublished collection by a poet aged 30 and under) as “not only a validation of my writing, but providing the support so many writers lack – it carved the path that made it possible [to write]”. Her first full poetry collection, Another Way to Split Water, is expected in 2022.
Pirmohamed will give a Poetry Masterclass on 21 February at Paisley Book Festival, which boasts a strong programme under the theme ‘Radical New Futures’ with guests including Booker prizewinner Douglas Stuart, novelists Andrew O’Hagan and Kirstin Innes and comedian Janey Godley.
For her Scotsman Session, she has chosen to read two poems from her 2020 pamphlet, Hinge, which was a Poetry Book Society Summer Pamphlet Choice. The mountains, forests and prairies of Alberta echo through her work. She says: “All my poetry connects with landscape, how bodies exist in landscape, how people or memories interact with the natural world.
“I don’t feel I wrote about Canada until I left, and then it kept popping up constantly. I’ve felt quite connected to these poems recently because I haven’t been back to Canada for a year and a half because of the pandemic.”
Part of what draws her to landscape, she says, might be that she has moved a lot.
“In Scotland, my experience of the landscape was much more individual, more insular, because I didn’t have that connection with my history. But when I visited Dar es Salaam, which is where my parents were born, I felt connected to that landscape because I had heard so much about it from my dad’s storytelling.”
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