Competition 2020

We are pleased to reveal the names of the winners and commended poets chosen by judge Sinéad Morrissey. 


First Prize:– –   Rob Miles, ‘Moon’
Second Prize:-.. Natalie Rees, ‘Little House’
Third Prize:–  –Luke Allan, ‘Lemon ode’

Commended Poets

Rod Whitworth, ‘Winter 1947, Our Yard’
Ken Evans, ‘The Mortification of the Flesh’
Susie Wilson, ‘Paper Chase’
Connor Owen, ‘Birdwatcher’


First Prize: Rob Miles for his poem ‘Moon’

Rob Miles is from Devon and lives in West Yorkshire. His poetry has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies. Rob has won or been runner up in various international journal and festival competitions. Some of Rob’s first places include the Philip Larkin Prize, judged by Don Paterson, and the Gingko/Resurgence Ecopoetry Prize, judged by Jo Shapcott and Imtiaz Dharker.




Some bad amateur maths pins it at blinking distance.
A hackneyed backlight design for antlers.
Salty ghost sucking crustily on the veins of a tree.

Chimneys giving it the finger get met by nothing
so tough in its serenity. There’s no face on this
pick-pocketed fossil, but a face

swallowing a face because no final face
has ever been achieved. It will take much more
than a few kitchen windows to explain. Stare

hard enough through a kettle’s breath and the aura
off its rocky iridescence is sticky tape going rogue:
ambiguous attachments, clear

commitment issues, now you see it, now…
Found on baby blue, welcome back as that nightmare
button thought lost in a cot. Singular mother

of all mothers of pearl. Floating speck on the retina
of the world. Eclipses fixed with a quick once over
at the opticians. Slingshot

chalk. Ancient castle moat igniter. Tide-teaser. Sliced
extrusion of seaside rock, blank at both ends
but all the way through saying moon.

Sinéad Morrissey’s comments: It seems almost impossible to write a good poem about the moon these days, and yet this writer has done exactly that. Like a stick of seaside rock, this virtuosic poem offers fresh perspectives on our planet’s most poetry-honoured satellite all the way through, and is full of textured grit and sonic wordplay.

Second Prize: Natalie Rees for her poem ‘Little House’

Natalie Rees is an Irish writer living in Bradford where she runs a Play & Creative Arts Therapy practice. She has been a prizewinner in the Penfro (2018) and Flambard (2017) poetry competitions and has published with various UK magazines. Her debut pamphlet is forthcoming later this year with Calder Valley Press.



Little House

Laura Ingles, with your mousey braids
and plaid smocks. With your sister, Mary,
who was prettier and towed the puritan line,
while you couldn’t help but involve
yourself in the entanglements
of your late nineteenth-century agrarian community
in ways that produced perfect moral outcomes,
such as Nellie Olsen in her Quaker best
being pulled by her blonde ringlets
into a pond because she was too self-aggrandising
when deferring to her family’s
sweet-shop-cum-hardware-store mercantile lifestyle.

Laura Ingles, I turned the top shelf of my plywood
wardrobe into your mid-western attic bedroom,
and sneaked up matches to read my Bible by paraffin lamp
made out of a used Nutella jar and tea light.
I craved your wholesome life, so safe and contained. If only
we could all skip around swinging packed lunches
in tin pails, wearing starched cotton dresses with white
aprons, everything in my eight-year-old life would be okay.

Laura Ingles, I spent Sunday afternoons fantasising
your father Charles would step out of the screen
into my living room, and pinch my cheek,
and call me Half-Pint,
his eyes meeting mine with all the twinkle
of a man who can hitch a wagon and work a water mill
by hand. Who would always happen to be behind
the next corner the precise moment
I needed a paternal figure to soak my shame
into the metallic sweetness of his flannel shirt.

Laura Ingles, even now I classify my personal timeline
as life Before Laura and life After Laura.

Sinéad Morrissey’s comments: This poem is composed of four direct addresses to Laura Ingles, with a whole world conjured in between. Funny, wry, self-deprecating and linguistically exuberant, “Little House” offers a re-run of a much-loved television series via unforgettable phrases and capacious syntax.

Third Prize:Luke Allan for his poem ‘Lemon ode’

Luke Allan is a poet, editor and designer. Former managing editor at Carcanet and PN Review, he is currently poetry editor at Partus Press and the literary journal Pain, and director of Studio Lamont. He studied at UEA and the University of Oxford. His poems are published in the TLS, Oxford Poetry, the anthology New Poetries VII and elsewhere.



Sinéad Morrissey’s comments: A gorgeous concrete poem in the shape of a lemon which conveys this fruit’s sharp, sensuous appeal to our touch, our sight, and our hearing in taut language and fruitful similes. The final comparison to owls is both unexpected and  exactly right and seals this poem’s achievements beautifully.







Our competition is now closed. Good luck to all who entered. And thanks to everyone who helped us spread the word.







We are pleased to announce the 8th poetry competition run by Poets & Players, one of Manchester’s leading organisers of poetry and music events.

Our judge for 2020 is Sinéad Morrissey

Sinéad Morrissey has published six collections of poetry: There Was Fire in Vancouver (1996); Between Here and There (2002); The State of the Prisons (2005); Through the Square Window (2009); Parallax (2013) and On Balance (2017). Her awards include the Irish Times Poetry Now Award (2009, 2013) and the T S Eliot Prize (2013). In 2016 she received the E M Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. On Balance was awarded the Forward Prize in 2017. She has served as Belfast Poet Laureate (2013-2014) and is currently Director of the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts at Newcastle University.


What previous judges have said about the Poets & Players Competition:

When Poets & Players asked me to judge their competition I happily agreed. It’s an organisation I have long admired, from its earliest days with the inspiring founder Linda Chase, to today’s impressive incarnation in the splendid Whitworth Gallery. (Pascale Petit, 2018)

Poets & Players is one of the most significant and impressive poetry organisations in the country: the quality of the readings it puts on, its presence in the city is remarkable, so I’m delighted to be part of it in judging this competition. (Michael Symmons Roberts, 2017)

What was electrifying about this year’s entries … was not just the wide and eclectic range of subject matters … but also the range of forms and tones, the many tongues and registers that together created a resonating and distinct entry of poetry. (Jackie Kay, 2016)

What a fabulously organised competition… One tries to dissuade people from the idea of competitions but if you’re going to have one have it like this. (Paul Muldoon, 2015)

It was actually really fun judging the competition because you get the sense of what is happening in poetry right now … it was fascinating to take the temperature, as it were, of contemporary poetry. I’d like to thank Poets and Players organisation for running the competition, for wanting to run the competition, but also in general for the work that they do in promoting poetry in Manchester and the broader area, it’s a commendable organisation and I’m delighted to be associated with it. (Vona Groarke, 2014)

This competition was scrupulously organised, and I loved the fact that the anonymity of the entries allowed each poem to speak for itself. (Jacob Polley, 2013)


Sinéad Morrissey will read ALL poems. All poems will be judged anonymously.

1st Prize: £600
2nd Prize: £200
3rd Prize: £100

Commended poets at the judge’s discretion.

Closing Date: Tuesday 21 January 2020

Winners will be informed by Tuesday 17 March 2020 and will be invited to read alongside Sinéad Morrissey at the prize giving ceremony on the afternoon of Saturday 4 April 2020 at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. If you have not been notified by 17 March 2020, we are afraid you have not been successful.


  • The competition is open to anyone over the age of 16, except for members of the Poets & Players committee.
  • Poems must be in English, typewritten in single space, font size 12. Please begin each poem on a new page but multiple online entries should be contained in a single document.
  • Poems can be on any subject, in any style or form, but must be the author’s own original work. They should not have appeared anywhere before, online or in print. Please do not submit poems that are currently under consideration elsewhere.
  • Maximum line length for individual poems is 40 lines (excluding title). Please do not include photographs or illustrations.
  • No changes can be made to poems once submitted and we regret that we are unable to provide feedback or make any refunds.
  • You may submit as many poems as you wish, accompanied by the appropriate payment and Entry Form/s.
  • Please note that all competition entries must reach us by Tuesday 21 January 2020, (online entries may be submitted up to 12 midnight on this date (GMT); postal entries must be received in our mailbox no later than Tuesday 21 January 2020). Entries arriving after this date will not be considered.



ALL entries must be accompanied by a completed Entry Form (see the link below):

Competition Entry Form 2020

  • Please post the completed Competition Entry Form and poems to: Poets & Players Poetry Competition, Poetry Dene, 16 Clifton Street, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 5DY.
  • If you wish to receive confirmation of your entry please enclose a prepaid envelope.
  • Poems must be printed on separate, numbered sheets, word processed (or typed) and clearly legible (single spaced and font size 12).
  • Please do not include your name or other identifying information on the same page as the poem/s. All poems will be judged anonymously.
  • You may enter as many poems as you wish but please ensure you add all poem titles to the Entry Form/s.
  • Entry fee is £4 per poem or 3 for £10. Please do not send cash. Postal entries must be paid by cheque or postal order (only email entries may use PayPal). Please make payable to ‘Poets & Players’ and send together with your poem/s and Competition Entry Form to the address above.


ALL entries must be accompanied by a completed Entry Form (see the link below):

Competition Entry Form 2020

Please email the completed Competition Entry Form and poems to All email entries will be acknowledged.

  • Please ensure that all poems are sent as a single attachment and not in the body of the email. Please use your name as the title of the document (poems and Entry Form can be in the same document but must be on separate pages). If you are submitting more than one poem you should include them all in the same attachment but please ensure pages are numbered and start each poem on a new page. Single spaced and font size 12. Please save documents as doc, docx or PDF.
  • You may enter as many poems as you wish but please ensure you add all poem titles to the Entry Form/s.
  • Please do not include your name or other identifying information on the same page as the poem/s. All poems will be judged anonymously.
  • Entry fee is £4 per poem or 3 for £10. Email entries must be paid by PayPal. IMPORTANT please include the PayPal reference number on the Entry Form.
      • Single poem £4 Pay Now Button with Credit Cards
      • Three poems £10 Pay Now Button with Credit Cards

CHECKLIST: Completed Entry Form; poems on separate sheets (with no identifying information); cheque or postal order made payable to ‘Poets & Players’ (if submitting by post); PayPal reference (if submitting by email).


Entrants retain copyright of their poem, however, we would hope to receive permission to make a video recording of the winners reading at the awards ceremony for our website, and to publish the winning poems on our website and/or in the Whitworth Art Gallery for one year after the competition.