Nina Mingya Powles

Small Bodies of Water

Nina Mingya Powles was the winner of the inaugural 2019 Nan Shepherd Prize for her submission Small Bodies of Water.

‘A remarkable book’
Robert Macfarlane
‘A distinctive new voice: attentive and tender’
Amy Liptrot
‘Elegant, understated, urgent and nourishing’
Jessica J. Lee

Small Bodies of Water is a lyrical, poetic essay collection that blends memoir with powerful writing on the natural world, taking us from London to New Zealand, Shanghai to Malaysia


Home is many people and places and languages, some separated by oceans.

Nina Mingya Powles first learned to swim in Borneo – where her mother was born and her grandfather studied freshwater fish. There, the local swimming pool became her first body of water. Through her life there have been others that have meant different things, but have still been, in their own way, home: from the wild coastline of New Zealand to a pond in northwest London.

This lyrical collection of interconnected essays explores the bodies of water that separate and connect us, as well as everything from migration, food, family, earthquakes and the ancient lunisolar calendar to butterflies. In powerful prose, Small Bodies of Water weaves together personal memories, dreams and nature writing. It reflects on a girlhood spent growing up between two cultures, and explores what it means to belong.

Nina received a publishing contract with Canongate and her winning title Small Bodies of Water published in hardback on 5 August 2021.

It is available to buy now from all good bookshops and online. The paperback will publish on 5 May 2022.

Nina signed with agent Kirsty McLachlan at Morgan Green Creatives.

Photo of Nina Mingya Powles

Nina Mingya Powles is a writer, editor and publisher from Aotearoa New Zealand. She is the author of three poetry collections, including Magnolia, which was shortlisted for both the Ondaatje Prize and the Forward Prize; and Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai. In 2019 she won the Nan Shepherd Prize for Small Bodies of Water, and in 2018 she won the Women Poets’ Prize. She is the founding editor of Bitter Melon. Nina was born in Aotearoa, partly grew up in China, and now lives in London.

@ninamingya / ninapowles.com

the 2019 shortlist

The six shortlisted titles for the 2019 Nan Shepherd Prize were...

Bluebottle on the Dung by Jacqueline Bain
Late Light by Michael Malay
A Loveliness of Ladybirds by JC Niala
Small Bodies of Water by Nina Mingya Powles
The Castle Captured Me by Emily Richards
Places that Heal by Elspeth Wilson

the 2019 Longlist

The longlisted titles for the 2019 Nan Shepherd Prize were...

Diminishing by Alison Armstrong
Bluebottle on the Dung by Jacqueline Bain
All My Wild Mothers by Victoria Bennett
Everything Worth Seeing by Fiona Black
On the Fence by Emily Ellis
Stone Stories by Rachel Findlay
Nature Punk by Douglas MacIntyre
Late Light by Michael Malay
On Women and Land by Mary Malyon
A Loveliness of Ladybirds by JC Niala
Small Bodies of Water by Nina Mingya Powles
The Castle Captured Me by Emily Richards
At Tidelines by Christina Riley
Procession by Mark Simpson
The Raven’s Nest by Sarah Thomas
Places That Heal by Elspeth Wilson

the 2019 Judges

The judges for the 2019 Nan Shepherd Prize were...

Amy Liptrot,
Chitra Ramaswamy,
Jenny Brown,
& Nick Barley

Marchelle Farrell

Uprooting