Atlantic Press, an independent press associated with the MA Illustration: Authorial Practice course at Falmouth has won the prestigious Michael Marks Illustration Award. The book’s illustrator Mairead Dunne received the award for her illustrations to Luke Thompson’s book of poems, The Clearing, which was published last summer. Mairead is a graduate of the Authorial Illustration Masters course (September 2016).
The winners were announced at a special dinner with the shortlisted poets, publishers and illustrators at the British Library in December last year. Mairead was presented the award along with a cheque for £1,000 by Lady Marina Marks, Chairman of the Michael Marks Charitable Trust.
The images are a contemplative series in photography, using experimental lenses and interventionist drawing. The work reflects and reveals the narrative, highlighting the sense of reader as voyeur, as well as developing the symbolism and ambience of the poetry. Every copy of the clearing is unique, the cover birds having been individually hand-stamped by Mairead.
Steve Braund, Course Coordinator of MA Illustration: Authorial Practice and Director of Atlantic Press has written a piece about the work:
“The Clearing is one of a series of four ‘poet-illustrator’ collaborations we’ve published recently at Atlantic, the others being Stone by Em Strang and Mat Osmond, Pick Me Up by Anna Kiernan and Harriet Lee-Merion and On Ridgegrove Hill by Alyson Hallett and Phyllida Bluemel.
Attempting to illustrate poetry can be foolhardy as the ability of poems to picture subject matter so vividly make them powerful illustrations in themselves. So, we’ve tried to support collaborative conversations between the pairings of poets and illustrators where the images augment the words with a fair degree of ambiguity allowing open-ended readings. In addition, and of equal importance, is the attention to the design and typography: how the book feels in your hands, how the pages turn and the use of empty spaces. In The Clearing, as with the others in the series, the design was in the hands of the illustrator.
Part of the underlying excitement in all our books is in that suspension of disbelief where the ‘unreal’, the fictional construction (or sometimes imaginative take on the real), captivates the audience, holding their attention, taking them on a journey of the imagination, the story. The best results occur when the creator/s (in this case the poet and illustrator in collaboration) inhabit their characters from within. The storytelling never works quite as well when the characters feel consciously contrived as if from a distance. If your character cuts their knee, you need to feel their pain. If you don’t, then don’t expect your audience to either.
The publication was supported by a grant from the Arthur Quiller Couch Memorial Fund (Q Fund) and through Crowd funding.”
The Award was judged by Sir Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery, London from 2008 – 2015. The Illustration Award recognises outstanding illustration of a poetry pamphlet published between July 2015 and June 2016. Sir Nicholas Penny considered illustration in any medium and was looking for a subtle and sustained relationship between image and text, as well as the overall quality of the images.
The Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets are sponsored by The Wordsworth Trust, The British Library and the Michael Marks Charitable Trust in association with the TLS and the Harvard University Centre for Hellenic Studies.