Creator: Basma Kavanagh

Nominator: Self-nominated


Niche is a collection of poetry described as “layered, clever, and accessible” by the 2019 jury members. The highly-original work by Kavanagh features poetry and writing punctuated with field journal, encyclopedia-style imagery, making “startling connections” between human civilization and the larger ecological system we seek to categorize yet simultaneously destroy. The work evokes feelings of immediacy and urgency as it delves deeply and unrelentingly into the undeniable reality of our world: nature is everlasting, humanity is not. It poses timely and important questions, challenging readers to consider the ways in which our “progress” is potentially speeding us towards our own extinction and poignantly depicting the ways in which the world will heal once we are no longer a part of it.

The jury praised Kavanagh’s ability to situate herself and her own experience in the work, deftly weaving with respectful fingers a narrative lacking appropriation but wherein the many cultures and histories impacting the land and the world are given their due. The complexity of the work is remarkable, as is its ability to call out our atrocities while also illuminating the ways in which we may yet save ourselves.

As the jury commented: “Niche is what everyone should read today.”

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