UK’s Only Dedicated LGBTQ+ Book Prize Announces its 2023 Winners

By Jude Jones

The Polari Prize, the only dedicated LGBTQ+ Book Prize in Ireland and the UK, has announced that its 2023 winners’ ceremony will return to the British Library on 24 November 2023.

The Polari Prize features two categories: the Polari Book Prize for non-debut writers and the Polari First Book Prize for debut writers.

The former category was won by Julia Armfield for Our Wives Under the Sea (Picador), described as a “hypnotic and haunting deep-sea romance.” Born in 1990, Armfield was first published with her Ovidian, woman-centered short-story collection salt slow (Picador) in 2019, which was nominated that that year’s Polari First Brook Prize and later earned her the 2020 Pushcart Prize.

Building on this myth-infused corpus, Armfield, in Our Wives Under the Sea, draws on her academic background as a Master’s graduate in Victorian Art and Literature at Royal Holloway to piece together a postmodern gothic fairytale as Miri is reunited with her wife, Leah, following an ill-fated deep-sea mission. Lyrically lending horror and romance to treat themes of loss and isolation, the novella has been heavily recommended by the likes of Florence Welch.

The latter category, the Polari First Book Prize, was meanwhile awarded to Jon Ransom for his The Whale Tattoo (Muswell Press). Dealing similarly with themes of maritime trauma as two men war for love in a bleak Norfolk fishing village, Ransom draws on his own experiences growing up in queer, working-class Norfolk to create a tragically realist tale.

The Polari Prize was founded in 2011 by activist and author Paul Burston, the award ceremony will be followed by “Polari in Heaven” on 25 January 2024, a literary salon led by Armfield, Neil Bartlett, Kate Davies (who won the Polari Prize in 2020), and Alexis Gregory.

Tickets are available via OutSavvy.

Jude Jones is a staff writer at GAY45. He is also a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Cambridge, whose interests include the literary, visual, and academic cultures of HIV/AIDS in Britain, France, and the USA.

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