AHRC PhD student wins prestigious poetry prize

 
  
Roseanne Watt

A young poet who is also an AHRC-funded PhD student has described winning a prestigious poetry prize as ‘incredible’.

Roseanne Watt spoke to the AHRC about winning the prestigious Edwin Morgan Poetry Award in August while she was in the last few weeks of writing up her PhD.

With a prize of £20,000, it is one of the largest literary awards in the United Kingdom. Named after the former Scottish poet laureate Edwin Morgan (who died in 2010), it aims to support young Scottish poets under 30 years old.

“It is incredible,” Roseanne told the AHRC. “It is so amazing to be given this opportunity to grow as a poet and filmmaker – especially at this time, just as I am just finishing my PhD and heading out into the real world.”

As well as a poet, she is a filmmaker and musician from the Shetland Isles. 

She is also poetry editor of the online magazine The Island Review and was also the winner of the 2015 Outspoken Poetry Prize (Poetry in Film) and runner-up in the 2018 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award.

Her doctoral research has taken the form of creative practice examining the importance of time & interconnection within the poetry of the Scottish Isles. Exploring the fragility & plasticity of cultural memory, Roseanne has filmed various Shetland tradition-bearers telling their stories of the Isles. Roseanne has created a number of film portraits that are freely available as a digital homage to, and re-mediation of, Shetland’s oral traditions. This process has involved multiple layers & methods of evoking, recovering, re-making & transmitting cultural memory – the intended thematic focus of the 30 poems. I intend for the resulting films & poems to to serve more than an elegiac or conservationist function, inviting users/readers to conceive the ‘archive’ of Island identity as vital and dynamic.

Every Field, A Memory from Roseanne Watt on Vimeo.

“I create film poems and film portraits exploring the literary heritage of the Shetland Islands,” she says. “Much of my work is concerned with language and the loss of language.”

Shetland had its own language – Norn – but this died out at the end of the 18th century. What emerged from this was the Shetland dialect.

“I'm interested in what's going on between the loss of Norn and the fear of the loss of our current dialect; as well as how our dialect is in turn underpinned by this loss, and how that might be coming through,” says Watt.

Roseanne's film poem Raaga  was shown at Screenplay, Shetland's annual film festival

“Raaga” means driftwood or wreckage in dialect and the work is written from the perspective of a tree washed up on a beach that Watt used to play on as a child.

“I speak the poem in dialect but it is simultaneously translated in text,” says Watt. “Although I grew up in Shetland, so I know the dialect, my mother was Irish and spoke English, so both forms have always been in my head and it feels very natural to present them like this.

“Working in film and video marries to artforms that I love very much.”

Although Watt says she enjoys screening her work at film festivals, because they are a dedicated space with an interested and open minded audience, she also likes the “democracy” of them being freely-available on the internet for anyone to discover.

For more information see @rosetotheanne or search Roseanne Watt on YouTube.

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