The National Poetry Competition, run annually by The Poetry Society since 1978, is one of the most prestigious poetry competitions for a single unpublished poem. Open to all poets worldwide aged 18 or over. With a top prize of £5000, this year’s judges include Neil Astley, Karen McCarthy Woolf and Jonathan Edwards. Enter online by midnight on 31 October 2020 at poetrysociety.org.uk/npc.
As part of this year’s National Poetry Competition, there is a series of free writing guides by Pascale Petit, Eric Berlin, Ella Frears, Jane Yeh and Matthew Caley to help spark creativity and get people writing their own poems. There are also Q&As from this year’s judges. All this and more can be found on the National Poetry Competition webpage.
Yes It could happen any time, tornado, earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen. Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake and look out – no guarantees in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning, like right now, like noon, like evening.
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Tomorrow, Saturday 17th October, we should have been indulging in a day of poetry at The Globe. Like every other Fountain Poets meeting since March, it has been cancelled. I hope, of course, to re-book all the cancelled poets some time in a future that seems to be drawing further and further into a distant and unguessable future.
CLIVE BIRNIE of Burning Eye Books(“Never knowingly mainstream”) would have read to us and run a Q&A on the process of achieving publication. He has sent me a link to the Clevedon Festival website, where you can hear him read from Palimpsest, his narrative sequence of poems recently published by Verve Press. It has been described as “Sci-fi poetry noir.” Clive has three times been short-listed in the Wells Festival Poetry Competition, and he won the Wyvern Prize in 2013. Here you will find, among others, a reading by Deborah Harvey, who was due to read for us in June, one by Dominic Fisher who would have been our guest poet for July, one by Ben Banyard our April 2019 guest, and one by Melanie Branton who was our guest reader in July 2018. Claire Trevien made a stop-motion animation of the final poem from Clive’s book. It can be seen here. Clive’s writing is very much my cup of tea, and the animation is a delight. Do try it!
I’m sad to miss Rosie Jackson and Graham Burchell reading from their wonderful collaboration Two Girls and a Beehive; however I have found some readings from the book on-line here.
I hope you’ll find time to watch/ listen to some of these over the weekend.
Trust the poem. It will survive on surprisingly little. A poem doesn’t need much content to survive; its bones are hollow, like a bird’s. That’s what allows them to fly. You don’t need to haul the carcass of a great idea or story into the poem and dissect it there. Poems aren’t built of ideas; they’re built from words. Just enough words, no more, no less. – John Glenday
The Poetry Society, in association with the University of Exeter and Oneworld Publications, presents the Places of Poetry anthology, a volume of selected verse from around England and Wales from last year’s hugely popular Places of Poetry project, an interactive map that poets could pin their poetry to. It attracted 7,500 poems from over 3000 people. The map can still be found here. The project was launched by Paul Farley and Andrew McRae. PLACES OF POETRY: MAPPING THE NATION IN VERSE is an anthology of 200 of the best of these poems.
I have not yet received my copy, and apart from some well-known names I don’t know whose work has been chosen. You can hear me reading my poem on the bank of the Hartlake River (yes, that’s Glastonbury Tor on the horizon) here:
The following is copied from an email from Anne-Marie Fyfe. If you’re at a loose end this week, why not have a go?
troubadour international poetry prize 2020
judged by mona arshi & mark doty
first prize £2,000
second prize £1,000
third prize £500
plus 20 commendeds
plus Zoom reading with mark doty & mona arshi for all winning & commended poets
submit via email by mon 28 sep 2020
Mark Doty is an American poet & memoirist, winner of Stonewall, Robert Creeley, Lambda Literary & National Book Awards & a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. His books of essays include Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, memoir includes Firebird & Dog Years, & his 13 poetry collections range from Turtle, Swan (1987) to Deep Lane: Poems (Norton, 2015). His latest publication is What is the Grass: Walt Whitman in my Life (Norton & Cape, April 2020).
Mona Arshi worked as a Human Rights lawyer at Liberty before starting to write poetry: her debut, Small Hands won the 2015 Forward Best First Collection Prize, her poems have featured in Poems on the Underground & she was recently commissioned to write a programme on The Odyssey for BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week. Her latest collection is Dear Big Gods (Pavilion Poetry, 2019).
judges will read all poems submitted
Poems: Poems may be submitted from any country & must be in English, must each be no longer than 45 lines, must show title & poem only, must not show poet’s name, must be the original work of the entrant (no translations) & must not have been previously published; no text alterations accepted after submission; no limit on number of poems or number of subsequent submissions.
Submission: Email only, no postal entries: email your poems as attachments (.doc, .docx, .pdf, .rtf only) to email@example.com; include in email: Poet’s Name & Address, Phone Number, List of Titles, Number of Poems, Total Fees, & PayPal Receipt Number.
Fees: £5/€6/$7 per poem (Sterling/Euro/US-Dollars only); payment via PayPal at www.coffeehousepoetry.org/prizes, no PayPal account required, all major credit cards accepted.
Timeline: Submit by midnight (your local time) on Mon 28 Sep 2020; prize-winners will be contacted in week commencing Mon 16 Nov 2020.
Acknowledgement/Results: Submissions acknowledged within 14 days of receipt; results posted on website after Mon 23 Nov 2020; judges’ decision is final; no correspondence entered into.
(Check out winners, winning poems & judges’ reports, 2019 & previous, on ourpoemspage.)
Find them here. The first two are sound only, while the others are short films.
John Glenday advises, “Write less”. A poem is a conversation between poet and reader: leave room for the reader. If you listen to nothing else, please listen to these three and a half minutes!
Shehzar Doja: “Always carry a small notebook”. I can think of no better advice.
Gerry Cambridge remembers George Mackay Brown’s advice to practice writing in strict forms. Craftsmanship, Gerry says, leads to confidence – enjoy the process – don’t be afraid of making a mess – read widely; other poets are your signposts.
Anthony Anaxagorou too recommends keeping a notebook. And imagining impossibilities. And borrowing a line from another poet (but be sure to give it back!)
Jen Hadfield, in her beautiful film-poem, pleads for a balance between words and silence. Well worth a few minutes of your precious time.
Find it here. Poems from Morag, David K, Rachael and me (Ama), and a marvellous new film-poem by Andrew, specially written for the festival. Also a 20-minute Somerset Libraries podcast in which I read a poem by our founder, Jane Williams, Rachael and David N. read their locally-themed poems, and we chat about inspiration and collaboration.
A few Wells Fountain Poets (Andrew Henon, Mo Kiziewicz, Rachael Clyne, David Niven, David Ketelby and me, Ama Bolton) have been invited to contribute to next month’s Bridgwater Quayside virtual Festival (17-19 July). Another of our members, storyteller Beth Webb, will be contributing separately. Here is a preview of Andrew’s timely and powerful video-poem. Andrew is also participating in the Somerset Film project Hello World, and I urge you to watch the interview and two of his short video-poems on their website.
We have had to cancel our April, May and June meetings and will not be meeting in July or August, but I hope to be able to re-book all the cancelled guest poets next year.
“It is the task of a lifetime. You can never know enough, never work enough, never use the infinitives and participles oddly enough, never impede the movement harshly enough, never leave the mind quickly enough.” – Anne Carson on writing poetry
I need hardly say that we shall not be meeting again until we see what the post-pandemic world looks like. Then (if I’m spared, as my grandmother used to say) I’ll do my best to re-book all the guest poets we’ll have missed. NB use of future-perfect tense. Trying to maintain some standards here.
Meanwhile there is no shortage of opportunities to engage with online writing initiatives, and of course to send your work to magazines and competitions.
I have been asked by Ali Lewis to pass this on:
I was wondering if you might be able to share the details of our 2020 Poetry London competition with members of WellsFountain Stanza?
First prize is £5,000, second prize is £2,000 and third prize is £1,000, and this year, the competition’s being judged by Ilya Kaminsky.
It’d be great to see some entries from WellsFountainpoets. The deadline is 1 May, and you can see details of how to enter here.
Some others that popped into my inbox: Paper Swans single poem competition – max 24 lines, closing date 24 April
I’ll end by wishing you well, whether you are working your socks off in the service of the public or going for long contemplative walks and looking forward to yet another meal of mashed potato because potatoes are all you have in the larder and you must eat them up before they demand to be planted.