Courtney Conrad's I Am Evidence wins the 2023 Michael Marks Poetry Award

Courtney Conrad's I Am Evidence wins the 2023 Michael Marks Poetry Award


Courtney Conrad's pamphlet I Am Evidence was announced as winner of the £5000 Michael Marks Poetry Award at an in-person and live-streamed ceremony at the British Library in London on 4 December 2023. On announcing the winner, co-judge Fiona Benson said:

'One pamphlet stood out for us for its sheer nerve and its virtuosic use of the pamphlet form: Courtney Conrad's I Am Evidence.  These are startling poems of personal, social and political resonance. It has the reach and impact of a long novel, and each poem explodes on the page.'

Courtney read poems from I Am Evidence at the event, alongside the other five shortlsted poets. A video of the ceremony will be made available in due course.

When I Am Evidence was shortlisted, the judges commented:

'The poems in this pamphlet give fierce witness to the precarity and turmoil of a violent and impoverished Jamaica. The poems are linguistically surefooted, and enriched by a rich, dynamic Jamaican patois; they are also technically incredibly accomplished. Through evocations, classifieds, stories, recipes and witness, we are immersed in the convulsions and mercies of a dangerously unequal society. While these poems bear witness to the most brutal violence, the collection is not without joy, because love is always present at the table. Although the pamphlet is a short form, I Am Evidence has the reach, ambition, structural integrity and humanity of a long novel. This pamphlet is obeah; wonderful, dangerous magic.'

The Judges for the Poetry and Publisher's Awards were Fiona Benson, Imogen Cassels, Laura Jansen and Stephen Cleary. 

The Poetry Award is worth £5,000 and includes a winner’s residential trip to Greece in association with the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies. The residency will take place in 2024.

Details of all six shortlisted pamphlets, judges' comments and sample poems can be found on the Michael Marks website here.

Courtney Conrad's pamphlet I Am Evidence was co-published on 1 September 2023 by Bloodaxe Books and Mslexia.  It won the 2022 Mslexia Women's Poetry Pamphlet Competition, judged by Imtiaz Dharker, for which publication by Bloodaxe was part of the prize.

All six pamphlets shortlisted in the Michael Marks Poetry Awards, and a few others, were reviewed by co-judge Imogen Cassels in a TLS feature of 8 December 2023.

‘The title of Courtney Conrad’s I Am Evidence immediately makes clear the documentary nature of its contents. Its exploration of the dual “vibrancy and violence” of Caribbean diasporic experiences, both in Jamaica and in the UK, is admirably confident; Conrad’s language embodies multiple interlocking voices with a hypermobile fluidity … The forms Conrad employs are expansive and original: one poem takes the shape of a series of “Classifieds”, another a recipe for “Snapper”, which ends by leaving “[m]y reality inedible”.’ – Imogen Cassels, The Times Literary Supplement

In print. Available online in full by subscription.


Courtney Conrad is a Jamaican poet who now lives in London. Her debut pamphlet I Am Evidence (Bloodaxe Books/Mslexia, 2023) was the winner of the 2022 Mslexia Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Competition judged by Imtiaz Dharker, and the 2023 Michael Marks Poetry Award. I Am Evidence includes some work which won her an Eric Gregory Award in 2022. She received a Bridport Prize Young Writer Award in 2021. She was shortlisted for The White Review Poet’s Prize, the Manchester Poetry Prize, Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition and Aesthetica Creative Writing Award’s Poetry Prize, and was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition.

Courtney’s powerful work interrogates the tensions within Caribbean migration, gender-based violence and national politics. Migrating from Kingston as a teenager, she is unflinching in her attempts to capture the vibrancy and violence of her experiences in both the UK and Jamaica. Her poetry draws together subversive diasporic imagery, national political commentary and shatteringly personal narrative in its exacting response to the political corruption and violence she witnessed as a young girl in Jamaica in the wake of its colonial subjugation under the British Empire. 

'The poems in this pamphlet speak from a visceral place in the face of political and personal violence.  But what Conrad does is make the language itself the means of defiance.  This is English remade, remashed. It hacks out a route to survival through its agility and its music and is unstoppable.  So, I expect, is this poet.’ – Imtiaz Dharker, Judge of the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2022 on the winning pamphlet I Am Evidence

Read more about Courtney Conrad and her journey into writing poetry on the Mslexia website here.


Courtney read live from the pamphlet at our September online launch event on 19 September 2023, alongside Jen Campbell and Nicole Sealey. This event was livestreamed on our YouTube channel and is now available to watch online:

[05 December 2023]

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