The much coveted Sphinx High Stripe Award is announced annually. At least it will be. This is the inaugural announcement.

The much coveted Sphinx High Stripe Award is announced annually. This is the inaugural announcement.

All poetry pamphlets submitted (in triplicate) for review in the Sphinx area of this website receive three written responses from reviewers. Each reviewer is also asked to give a stripe rating based on 4 criteria, as follows:

  • Production quality (paper, covers, ‘feel’ and design of publication)
  • Quality of the poetry.
  • Coherence/ character/ identity (whatever!) of collection as a whole. It could have coherence in terms of deliberate fragmentation, if that was a consistent central idea.
  • Warmth of recommendation to other readers.

The three reviews are then edited into one document, with the amalgamated stripe rating published on the website in the form of a Sphinx logo bearing the appropriate number of stripes. Any publication which gets 7 or over has had a warm response.

Since this is the inaugural High Stripe Announcement, the selection has been based on all pamphlets reviewed since the system was introduced. In that time, only three pamphlets have received nine-stripe awards and therefore they are the winners in this unfunded and under-publicised competition.

They are . . . (drum roll). . .

The Announced, Ruth Valentine, Ellipsis 1/ Sylph Editions 2009 (sold out and therefore now a collector’s item)

No Panic Here, Mark Halliday, HappenStance 2009

Shadow, Alison Brackenbury, HappenStance, 2009

The careful reader will note that all three were published in 2009. No nine-stripers in 2010, then? Not yet. We are still in the process of reviewing last year’s publications. However, the following were close contenders with 8.5 stripes also in 2008/9:

Emblems, Wayne Burrows, Shoestring Press, 2009

Hem and Heid, James Robertson, Kettillonia, 2009

Amicable Numbers, Mike Barlow, Templar Poetry, 2008

Party Piece, Anna Woodford, Smith/Doorstop Books, 2009

Treasure Ground, Clare Best, HappenStance, 2009

I hope it doesn’t look like corruption in the ranks that two of the nine-stripers are HappenStance publications. One of these two, Mark Halliday’s No Panic Here, received a fairly swingeing review in issue 1 of New Walk, so it would suggest that readers either love or loathe the publication (but at least that’s interesting). I’m also alarmed to find I have managed never to notice we reviewed Anna Woodford’s Party Piece twice, so that was six readers as well as further proof that I’m losing my marbles, if I ever had any. I have no idea how that happened, although I do know I was one copy short at one point and bought another, which suggests I had five (but not six). Duh. Lovely wee pamphlet, anyway.

Congratulations to Ruth, Mark and Alison, winners. Congratulations to Mike, James, Wayne, Clare and Anna, close contenders. I may yet have some Sphinx t-shirts printed so that winners will be able to remark at poetry gatherings and festivals — ‘Been there, got the t-shirt’. If I were rich, I would send you all a sack of money.

At the moment I will put the Sphinx high-striper accolade at the top of all reviews of publications receiving 8.5 or above, so if poets or publishers want to link from their website to that page, it might boost morale and hopefully attract readers.

(thanks to Ross Kightly, who helped check the stripes).