Lucy Mercer wins the 2024 Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Essay Prize


We’re thrilled to announce that Lucy Mercer has won the 2024 Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios Essay Prize with her proposal for Afterlife, an essay on mortality, small- and large-scale collective making, the animate within the inanimate and the afterlives of materials through the mimetic medium of wax. Spilling across poetic thinking, candlemaking, the everyday, culture and ecology, and absorbing a wide range of references including Madame Tussauds, Europe’s biggest industrial candlemaking factory and the work of poets such as Louise Glück and Mary Ruefle, this lyric essay re-approaches this familiar but critically neglected biosynthetic material. Secreted and reconstituted from nonhuman bodies, in its flesh-like malleability wax also remains the closest reproductive medium we have of our bodies, blurring boundaries between life and death, the human and the non-human. Prioritising the materiality of wax and its environmental intersections as a focal point, while also considering wax as an amorphous, interstitial model for thought, Afterlife asks how we might conceptualise mortality as we become more collectively conscious of our environmental connectedness.

Lucy Mercer is a writer based in London. Her first poetry collection, Emblem (Prototype, 2022), was a Poetry Book Society Choice. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies and her essays and reviews in Art ReviewBricks From The KilnGrantaINQUELA Review of BooksPoetry ReviewPort Magazine and The White Review. She was awarded the inaugural White Review Poet’s Prize and is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Exeter. Since 2020 she has made candles with the artist Jamie Shovlin as an ongoing collaborative project, Croydon Candles.

The other shortlisted authors, chosen from 151 entries, were Sophie Brown for Postcards, Tomara Garrod for Understanding Eleanor, Rio Matchett for Fire is Not a Metaphor, Emilia Ong for Another Happy Day and Abhinav Ullal for The Raman Effect.

The 2024 Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios Essay Prize, an annual competition for unpublished writers, was open to submissions from 8 January until midnight on 17 March 2024. The judges will be looking for essays that explore and expand the possibilities of the essay form, with no restrictions on theme or subject matter. Initially made possible by an Arts Council Grant in 2015, the prize awards £3,000 to the best proposal for a book-length essay (minimum 25,000 words) by a writer resident in the UK & Ireland who has yet to secure a publishing deal. In addition to the £3,000 prize the winner will have the opportunity to spend up to two months in residency at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in Spoleto, Italy, to work on their book. The book will then be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions.