The Inaugural
Not On The Short List Prize

My book didn’t win the Costa Award
so it comes as no surprise
to find it is not on the shortlist
for the Seamus Heaney Prize.

It is not the Saltire Book of the Year
and ineligible for Wales.
The Forward Prize for best of its size
is numbered among its fails.

It was entered for T.S. Eliot
and the Roehampton Poetry Prize,
and (in manuscript) for the Anthony Hecht
which Waywiser organise.

I didn’t expect it to soar to fame
because I’m not published by Cape
(or Picador, Bloodaxe or Carcanet)
but I somehow expected to scrape

into a shortlist somewhere,
a group of worthy non-winners.
I am not, after all, a member
of ‘Poetry For Beginners’.

So I’m launching a prize of integrity
not in the least like the rest—
for poets of valour and fibre
prepared to be put to the test.

The NOTSL award is strict but fair.
To demonstrate aptitude
you must list the noteworthy journals
in which you have not been reviewed;

and your record of competitions
will demonstrate how you have been
NOT on a shortlist for several awards
(no fewer, let’s say, than thirteen)

with proof that you actually entered
and a book with poems within.
The shortlist for NOTSL will be quite long
and everyone on it will win

gold labels: ‘Shortlisted for NOTSL’
(to stick on your book’s front jacket).
This poetry racket’s for crack-pots—
it takes a true crack-pot to crack it.

Helena Nelson

If you have any comments on this poem, Helena Nelson would be pleased to hear from you.