We had almost 600 entries to our inaugural Poetry Competition and the standard of the poems we received was astounding. After careful consideration, our head judge Andy Craven-Griffiths has selected the winners. We’re delighted to announce the winners and those who made the shortlist and longlist.
We’d also like to mention the creative writing charity, First Story – £1.00 from each entry (£575 in total) has been donated to First Story to help them continue their excellent work. Thank you to everyone who entered the competition and commiserations to those who didn’t win or make the shortlist or longlist. There were so many brilliant poems and we are confident that many of those we didn’t select will find homes elsewhere, so please don’t give up on them.
Right, time to unveil the winners (click on the title to read the poem).
First Prize (£1,000): How to cheat death in a nightclub bathroom by Jordan Hamel
Jordan Hamel is an Aotearoa New Zealand writer and performer. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan on a Fulbright Scholarship. His debut poetry collection Everyone is Everyone Except You, was published in New Zealand by Dead Bird Books in 2022 and will be published by Broken Sleep in the UK in 2024. He is also the co-editor of No Other Place to Stand, an anthology of NZ and Pacific climate change poetry from Auckland University Press (2022). He is the winner of the 2023 Sonora Review Poetry Competition, judged by Maggie Smith. Recent work can be found or is forthcoming in POETRY, Sonora Review, Gulf Coast, and Best NZ Poems 2022.
Head judge’s comments: My initial note to myself after a first reading of this poem was simply ‘Yes!’ It ticks all of the boxes in terms of writing skill and also brings emotional impact. It is self-knowing and accepting of struggle while also maintaining hope. Details such as ‘straddle the toilet backwards like a mechanical bull’ and ‘milk-carton angels’ simultaneously make the poem vivid in their specificity while the choice of simile/metaphor reinforces the themes of loneliness, sex, and confusion. The flow of instructions also moves with an associative logic. The drawing in lipstick becomes the reading of other people’s graffiti. The calling Charlie for a good time becomes the ‘drain clogging like a popular glory hole’ becomes unclogging a nose. Telling friends ‘they are your new home’ leads to dragging yourself to your old home, and so on. A couple of stand-out moments, for me, were the ‘gum stuck misshapen to the mirror, like a lost seahorse’ and the ‘satellites harvesting your stupor’. The first because of all that seahorses represent, the second because of that verb, ‘harvesting’ being simultaneously so unexpected and so perfect. This was a joy to read.
Second Prize (£300): The Fork by Maxwell Minckler
Originally from Hawaii, Max grew up across the USA, was schooled in the UK, started a family in Singapore, lives in England, and has scribbled on the side throughout. His poems have appeared in poetry journals Krax, Ambit, and Obsessed with Pipework, and he won the MacKnight Black Poetry prize in 2010. He writes to find the marvellous over the frying pan and to make his family laugh.
Head judge’s comments: This poem was so much fun to read. The poet’s invention of various uses the caveman finds for the fork detaches the fork from its ‘proper’ use and demonstrates the difference between convention and invention. It gets at a more primal layer of reality. And yet, the punctum of the soup at the end pierces this sense by demonstrating the fork’s limits.
Third Prize (£200): A Trans Guide to Pinning Luna Moths by Cecilia Mary Morris
Cecilia Mary Morris (they/she) is a Queer & non-binary writer currently living Syracuse, NY. Their work is concerned with how trans bodies, fertility, grief, and faith intersect in purely Queer patterns. Ms. Morris particularly enjoys exploring different forms of poetry, making their work Queer in shape and content. Their work can also be seen in The Allegheny Review and Blood Orange Review.
Head judge’s comments: I really enjoyed the richness and ambiguity in this poem in phrases such as ‘punches a period hole’ and ‘Make a ritual once a week pierce thigh’. A very clever and visceral way of sharing something of the trans experience.
Here are the other poems/authors that made it into the top 10 of the competition.
Analogue by Stephen Littlejohn
Euphoria by Naoise Gale
Naoise Gale is a poet from West Yorkshire who writes about mental illness and addiction.
Her work has been commended in the Poets and Players Poetry Competition 2023, the Welsh
Poetry Competition 2023, and she was the first-prize winner of the Ledbury Poetry
Competition 2022. Her debut pamphlet After the Flood Comes the Apologies was published
by Nine Pens in 2021, and was described in Buzz Mag as ‘gritty and gorgeous’. Naoise is
currently studying an MA in Creative Writing Poetry at the University of East Anglia and is
working on her first full-length collection. You can follow her on Twitter at @Naoisegale13.
I Met a Puma at a Hotel Bar by Meg Edwards
Meg Edwards grew up in a seaside town in Southwest England, blissfully weaned on books and beach air. Since early childhood, she has been a staunch lover of literature and performing arts and splits her free time between the library and the local theatre. She is a long-time admirer of poets like Carol Anne Duffy and Adrian Henri for their ability to encapsulate the magic of storytelling within the perimeters of poetic prose. Meg endeavours to always write with passion; she appreciates any art, of any means, and any evocation, so long as it is shameless in delivery. Connect with Meg on Instagram (@meggyeddie) and Twitter (@meggyeddie).
No Added Sugar by Bethan Michael-Fox
Bethan Michael-Fox is a joyfully exhausted mother of two living with her family in Falmouth, Kernow (Cornwall). She currently works at the Open University teaching lots of lovely interdisciplinary humanities courses. She is active in the academic field of Death Studies, where she researches representations of death and loss. You can find out more at drbethanmichaelfox.com.
Pisces Moon by Gloria Sanders
Gloria is a poet and performer raised in London, of Jewish and Spanish heritage, who has performed her poetry at sites including Hampton Court Palace, Dover Castle and Belsay Hall. She has been published by Arachne Press, Bluebee Magazine, and Belleville Park Pages and a collaboration Epistles from Gaia with musician Alexis Bennett is available to listen to here. She has been in the cast of Time Will Tell Theatre’s Dracula! at Whitby Abbey since 2017 and works regularly with HistoryRiot. Poetic influences include writers Vera Chok, Abe Gibson, Adrian Gillott, and Gabriel Moreno. (Website: www.gloriasanders.co.uk)
Primal Gestures by Natalie Jayne Clark
The “Trembling Giant” by Damen O’Brien
Damen is an Australian poet based in Queensland. Damen’s prizes include The Moth Poetry Prize, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the New Millennium Writings Competition. Damen’s poems have been published in many journals including Anthropocene, Cordite and Live Encounters. His first book of poetry is Animals With Human Voices. (Website: www.dameno.org)
Here are the poems and poets that were very close to making the shortlist.
A Morning Swim by Helen Hall
All in time by Daniel J Baty
All Wrapped up With Nowhere to Go by Jonathan Greenhause
An Artificial Lake in the Rain by Phil Barber
At the Butchers by DW
At the party tonight I spoke to everyone but you by Laura B Van Vorst
Autumn Age by SC Morse
Breaking by Lauren Childs
Brown girls’ anthem II by Bhumika Billa
Catch and Release by Caroline Elkington
Demockracy by Katrina Moinet
Fallout by Trudie Wingfield
Feeling My Age by Stephen Chappell
Fibs by Bethany Pulman
Funeral Planning by Katherine Gill
Gorse In Winter by Ruth Lexton
Here by Rachel Goodman
I forgot to tie the laces on my running shoes by Dania Tipote
july by Amaylia Dewis
June by Cat Faux
Just Another Day at the Office as Tiffany Crouches Upon Her Knees by Jonathan Greenhause
Loose Feathers by Roslyn Kingsley
Memory by Harini Prasad
My Wych Elm by Jay Wilson
Only twelve steps to Utopia by Jane Sparrow-Niang
pieces by Paris Rosemont
Stampsies by Jonty Pennington-Twist
The freeloading rat in my parents’ loft by Lee Woodward
The Only Deaf Girl in a Hearing Party by Maxine Sinclair
The Second Coming, 2024 by Andrew Grant
The second time I laughed during holy communion by Rebecca D. Martin
The Tower by Jack Welsby
The Unrequited Lover by Isabelle Emma Mace
This Godforsaken Argentine Disco by Jonathan Greenhause
This is not a protest by Katrina Moinet
Today I put my hands in my pockets by Navan Govender
Unanswered Letter To My Namesake by Kathleen Divina Turk
Unidentified by Karl Michael Iglesias
Union Under Siege by Hon Corbett
Weasel by Jack Warren
A note to the other entrants
If you entered our poetry competition and your name does not appear above, please do not be disappointed. The judging of creative work is by its nature subjective and there were literally hundreds of brilliant, imaginative and emotive poems that didn’t quite make the cut for our judges on this occasion. Please do not view this as a rejection of your work or your talent.
Re-read your poem and if there are ways you think you can improve it, make some changes. Or if you love it how it is, that’s great too. There are plenty of other poetry competitions, magazine and journals that might well decide your poem is right for them. We appreciate the courage it takes to put your creative work into the world and we thank you all for entering and wish you the best of luck in the future.