Competition 2021

We are pleased to reveal the names of the winners, highly commended and commended poets chosen by judge Seán Hewitt. With grateful thanks to Seán for all his work; much gratitude also to Rachel Davies for processing the competition entries; and finally, thank you to all entrants and all those who helped us to share the competition. A competition Zoom event with Seán Hewitt and the winners will be held on 4 May (details to follow).        

First Prize:
‘Sitting For Caravaggio’ by Julian Bishop

Second Prize:
‘Untitled (The hallways)’  by Hugo Jeudy

Third Prize:
‘Lately, I have found myself wondering whether I could be a body’ by Zelda Chappel

Highly Commended Poems

Paul Stephenson
Rose Segal
Alex Matraxia

Commended Poems

Ian Macartney
Mícheál McCann


Julian Bishop: First Prize

Julian Bishop is a former television journalist living in North London who was recently longlisted in the National Poetry Competition. A member of the collective group Poets For The Planet, he’s also a former runner-up in the Ginkgo Prize for Eco Poetry and one of four prize-winning poets featured in a 2020 pamphlet called Poems For The Planet. contact: twitter @julianbpoet Poems For The Planet available at:


Seán Hewitt’s Comments

From the moment I read this poem, I was arrested by its control, its atmosphere, the precision of its images and the dark, tense story it unfolds. It is at once delicate and alarming in its exploration of power, art, and erotics. “Although we never // touch, I feel his fingers flicker over me.” You can almost feel your own breath fluttering while you read it, such is the skill of the writing, the gradual submersion, the attentive detail. As I read the entries, it was this poem that I found had seared itself into my memory. It refuses to be forgotten.

Hugo Jeudy: Second Prize 

Hugo Jeudy is a high-school student currently living in Paris, France. This is his first publication.






Seán Hewitt’s Comments

This poem is full of images I couldn’t stop thinking about. Everything first seems characterised by a sort of spectral absence: the almonds no longer falling from a hand, something lent and not returned, the silence of the windmills, all are brought into focus by the opening image of the lacerated body. The syntax is daring and subtle, stranging the lines, slowing the pace so that each word feels carefully and deliberately placed. I was never sure what was happening, but, as with the best poems, this one opened a place for mystery, for meaning carried by a haunting, insistent music.

Zelda Chappel: Third Prize

Zelda Chappel’s first full collection of poetry, The Girl in the Dog-tooth Coat, was published in 2015 by Bare Fiction Press. Her work has been published in a number of journals, magazines and anthologies both online and in print, including Butchers Dog, Interpreters House, RAUM and Under the Radar.





Seán Hewitt’s Comments 

I was startled by this poem’s careful and moving attempts to locate the self. In putting forward a lyric “I” that ‘has no fixed coordinates’, the poet manages to expand its possibilities, incorporating things outside the body into a fluid concept of selfhood. It’s a vulnerable and yet an assertive poem, full of rich images that push our understanding of where we exist, and how.


The 2021 Competition is now closed. Thank you to all who entered and also to everyone who shared. Winners will be contacted by 7 April.

We are pleased to announce the 9th poetry competition run by Poets & Players, one of Manchester’s leading organisers of poetry and music events.

Our judge for 2021 is Seán Hewitt

Seán Hewitt

Seán Hewitt lectures in English literature at Trinity College Dublin, and is a Book Critic for The Irish Times. He won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2016, the Resurgence Prize in 2017, and an Eric Gregory Award in 2019. Tongues of Fire (Cape, 2020) is his debut collection of poetry, and was shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year 2020. His next book, All Down Darkness Wide, will be published by Cape in the UK and Penguin Press in the USA in 2022.

A video message from judge Seán Hewitt:


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)


Seán Hewitt 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: 1 March 2021

Winners will be informed by 7 April 2021 and will be invited to read alongside Seán Hewitt at the prize giving ceremony (date to be confirmed). If you have not been notified by 7 April 2021, 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 can be on any subject, in any style or form, but must be the author’s own original work (no translations). 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 1 March 2021, up to 12 midnight on this date (GMT);  Entries arriving after this date will not be considered.


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

Entry Form 2021

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. Poems must be in English. 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 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 including PayPal reference; poems on separate sheets (with no identifying information).


Entrants retain copyright of their poems, however, we will publish the winning poems on our website and/or in the Whitworth Art Gallery. We would also hope to receive permission to make a video recording of the winners reading for use on social media.