A SCOTTISH writer has said it is “heartwarming” to be nominated for a prestigious literary award for his latest poetry collection.

Michael Pedersen, who currently serves as writer in residence at Edinburgh University, has picked up a nomination in the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards in the poetry category. 

His latest work, The Cat Prince and Other Poems, is his third poetry collection and he’s been thrilled with the reaction.

It is the only award with a shortlist curated by booksellers with winners chosen exclusively by readers.

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“It’s such a beautiful accolade to know bookshops and the reading public are behind you,” the writer told The National.

“Awards can be a weird thing, even weirder when you know it’s a small conglomerate with specific tastes.

“So to know this is cast wider is really heartwarming. There’s no greater accolade than to know they’re connecting with the people who are reading and recommending your books.”

Starting out

Although he’s turned his love for literature into a career now, Pedersen (below) in fact started life as a lawyer.

He never studied literature at university but admitted that he very quickly discovered that the legal sector wasn’t for him.

The National: Michael Pedersen and his poetry collection The Cat Prince

“I needed a hobby job before the lucrative poetry career,” he says, laughing.  

“It was always the words in literature that fascinated me. I was always writing beside that. Poetry wasn’t seen as an immediate career plan shall we say so I had to think about where else I could find myself.”

Although Pedersen has dabbled in other genres, he admits poetry is always what he seems to return to.

On the award-nominated collection, he said: “It’s my most personal, my most honest and risky but also my most experimental.

“It was written in companion or almost in conversation with a book I published last year called Boy Friends which was the first prose book I’d written so I found myself having to write a poetry book in conversation with that.

“It takes on notions of masculinity or failures of masculinity during my youth and this is a poetry collection that delves into topics of love, loss and friendship.”

Although he says that there was “no intention” to publish this collection precisely 10 years on from his first, he admits it gave him a nice opportunity to look back.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know it was 10 years until recently. It was a nice invitation to look at the writers I used to faun over that I now find myself reading amongst.

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“I’ve explored other narratives and forms but poetry has been the ship I’ve been on the whole time, it’s the one form of literature that’s punctuated everything I’ve done.”

On the importance of poetry

Above all, Pedersen is pleased to see that poetry still has a place and is still getting the recognition it deserves.

“It’s a blessing to know the form is still just as important,” he says.

“I think it’s what we turn to in extreme situations. At a wedding or a funeral we turn to poetry because somehow the unsayable has been said with empathy and emotion.

“It’s so vital we have it as part of this award because it’s one of the pillars of literature.”

The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards 2023 winners will be announced on Tuesday November 7 and the full list of nominees can be found HERE.