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The Ivan Juritz Prize
Winner for text: Nick Makoha (King's College London)

A Low-Pressure System is part of sequence that explores the Entebbe hijacking in 1976. It is a dramatic retelling of those events, paralleled against Nick’s life, and key historic events and other intertwining material linked by the motif of flight. It hopes to expand on the range of viewpoints usually brought to bear on this story. Nick uses airport codes as the titles of poems, and as points of inquiry about liminality at airport terminals, as well as poems of the immigrant experience. The motif of flight is rendered through the myth of Icarus and and Basquiat who painted Icarus Esso, 2002.

The personal is made political and the political is made personal in these expert and moving poems in which Makoha writes

“Nick's poems take as their starting the hostage rescue mission at Entebbe international airport in 1976. The complex geopolitics of that operation resonate in the lifelong self-fashioning of a writer with many allegiances who fled Uganda for the United Kingdom as a child but for whom the words exile and migrant are mere static views of something more essential a process of endless transformation to the person in perpetual flight.”

Will Eaves2021 Judge

Makoha also weaves in other meaningful strands such as the myth of Icarus and ekphrastic reactions to Basquiat's paintings which in turn create an entire and completely human world out of desperate and tragic historical events. Makoha’s writing is deft lyric and profound. He never reaches for exact answers
instead, he finds a lyric beauty in earphones, broken rice graffiti and a daughter's yellow flowers, unearthing a sheer resonance in the perhaps shared symbols of life creating a tense and important kind of empathy and through his subtle writing and world painting Makoha transports the reader to a place of absolute profundity and consolation.

Richard Scott2021 Judge