Prize-winning writing

23rd June 2021

News, Student news

A short story telling the life of An Lushan, an 8th century General of the Tang Dynasty wins the Rex Warner prize for 2021.

  • Jiaqi Kang

    Jiaqi Kang

Written by Jiaqi Kang (MSt History of Art and Visual Culture, 2020) judges described the winning essay as “a miniature epic”.

Proxime accessit (second prize) in the competition is Maisie Newman (Master of Fine Art, 2019) for her poem ‘Myriam, from the collection 'A Slippery Place’ which responds to works by Muriel Rukeyser and Elfriede Jelinek.

Jiaqi’s short story ‘An Lushan Goes to War’, is a magic-realist telling of the life of the 8th century General of the Tang Dynasty and leader of the An Lushan Rebellion. The judges commented: “The story featured a strong and complex central character and packed a huge story into a small space, like a miniature epic, and brought both mythic power and a light-handed touch to its original and thought-provoking treatment of gender.  Its forceful imagery and creative exploration of the sounds of language and inter-lingual wordplay stayed with the judges long after reading.” 

Read Jiaqi's winning story

Commenting on her inspriation for the story Jiaqi said: "I've been thinking a lot about what it means to write historical fiction, especially after encountering Saidiya Hartman's work."

"Her concept of 'critical fabulation' is an academic approach to researching and writing about people who are not just silent in history, but for whom the archive is actively violent. It is the very impossibility of truly 'recovering' marginalised subjectivities from the past that makes the task of the present-day, politically-motivated interpreter worthwhile. I came across a page in a book that described An Lushan and his rebellion as a fierce disruptive force, and I wanted to write a story about how everything –– including and especially things like gender, nation, history –– is fake, but also not fake at all. Content warning: violence."

  • Maisie Newman

    Maisie Newman

Maisie Newman's poem ‘Myriam’ from the collection 'A Slippery Place’ is a visceral and elemental exploration of birth, death, and language which is full of vivid imagery and evocative word-choice.  

“The collection handles its dense literary and historical references unobtrusively and mixes genres, blends languages, (Old English, Modern English and Yiddish) and blurs the boundaries between letters and images in a way that is both ambitious and successful,” said the judges.

Maisie adds: "This collection navigates cultural erosion, the transmission and untranslatability of Jewish histories, identity and trauma, and how these are able (or unable) to be mapped onto language. 

"I try to use writing, translation and mistranslation as an archival space, and the collection was written during a process of relearning. It attempts to place the short untangling of my interaction with, and loss of, Jewish identity against the fathomless void of wider Jewish history and collective trauma. 

"The work is influenced by small personal interactions with rituals, holidays and religious texts such as the Haggadah. Formally, it responds to writers including  Anne Carson, Muriel Rukeyser, Celia and Louis Zukofsky, Paul Celan, Elfriede Jelinek and Caroline Bergvall." 

‘Myriam’ was recently published in ‘A Book Of Visions’ (Book Works) which is currently able to view via the Ruskin School of Art’s online degree show at alongside other work

Read Maisie's poem 'Myriam' and other poems in the collection

Rex Warner prize judges Dr Hannah Bailey and Dr Sarah Cullinan-Herring added: “There was a strong field of submissions this year which included several compelling short stories; poems in a range of forms, many featuring strikingly defamiliarizing imagery and clever wordplay; and translations from Classical and Modern Chinese, Homeric Greek, Norwegian, Lithuanian, and French into both prose and verse.” The winning entries receive £100 and £50 prizes.