Mark Pajak is ‘walking on air’ after winning the Seamus Heaney First Collection Prize
Mark Pajak has won the Seamus Heaney First Collection Poetry Prize for Slide (Jonathan Cape, 2022).
The prize is awarded annually to a writer whose first full collection has been published in the preceding year, by a UK or Ireland-based publisher. The winning writer receives £5,000 and is invited to participate in the Seamus Heaney Centre’s busy calendar of literary events.
The Seamus Heaney Centre at QUB revealed Mark Pajak as the winner at an awards night in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on 26 June 2023.
Speaking about Slide, chair of the judges’ panel Professor Nick Laird said it was a wonderfully questioning book, “always seeking to step – or slide – behind the immediate surface of things and into a deeper reality.
“With impeccable control and a fine ear, scenes of childhood or adolescence are delicately re-entered with an adult’s eye, and elegantly mined for meaning or mystery.”
Mark Pajak was born in Merseyside in 1987. His work has received a Northern Writers’ Award, a Society of Authors’ Grant, an Eric Gregory Award and a UNESCO international writing residency.
He said that for months he was anxious that Slide might be the only book he ever wrote.
“However, receiving the news about the Seamus Heaney First Collection Poetry Prize completely silenced that thought.
“Seamus Heaney is my lodestone, the writer I most look up to and hope to emulate; and I have always read Heaney, not only to learn how to become a better writer, but also how to become a better person. I cannot fully articulate how deeply this has touched me. I am walking on air.”