The Birdport prize is one of the more famous and respective prizes in the field of literature. Started in 1973 by the Birdport Arts Centre, it strives to encourage emerging writers and promote literary excellence. They have an annual award for Short Stories, Flash Fiction and Poetry and the award winning works are then published in an Anthology. It has 3 top prizes in every category and 10 supplementary prizes for short stories and poetry.
The 2012 Anthology is a mixed bag of stories. The winning entry ‘Being David’ is an extremely detailed account of an uneventful day in the life of an autistic child David. The story is from the point of view of David and the writer delves deep into David’s mind and gives us a touching account. The 2nd prize winner is ‘The Armadillo’ the story of a young girl whose mother insists on her getting a series of cosmetic procedure only to improve her looks, not realizing that what her daughter probably needs is not a new nose but the assurance that she is a beautiful person any which way. ‘My mother wants a princess. In order to live upto my bedroom, I need a nose to match her ambitions for me’. The 3rd Prize winning story is ‘Jugged Hare’ which is a woman’s effort to hide an abortion from her family. She is back from the hospital right after the procedure so she is home on time and takes up the task to skinning a hare to prepare a delicious meal for the family. In cutting and skinning the Hare the writers brings forth the physical pain and the emotional turmoil of the protagonist.
Apart from the Top three there are 10 more stories. While all of them are beautifully written, the ones which I really liked are Aurora Borealis, about a dysfunctional family whose car gets into an accident. As they face imminent death, the daughter longs to hear her mother say she loves her. Then there is ‘Robert, I suppose’ about a gay couple and how love binds people together even when they are like chalk and cheese. There is a story about an old man who comes back to his old house, the only problem is the boy he says he was is already dead, it’s a heart wrenching story called ‘Foundling’. There is also a story about Marianne, she wants to die and entrusts her friend with finding her a way to do so. So here we have a friend who tries her best dissuade Marianne but feels compelled to help her die, so does she die? Well you have to read ‘So long Marianne’ to know. Then there is ‘Big Mary and the Kraft Cheese’ Mary’s efforts to get the best cheese for her son will bring a smile to your lips, as she walks right into a riot to get Big Charlie to deliver the Kraft Cheese to her house so what if he was the middle of hijacking a vehicle. And if you are a love story person, you would definitely like ‘The War with Canada’ and ‘Tsunami Debris’, the latter a very unusual story.
Overall it’s a great read. While the stories are mostly about small details of everyday life, they are written beautifully and almost all of them have an underlying message which rings loud and clear. Going by what I read, I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the Anthologies.