The winners of the 2022 competition, judged by Kim Moore (the poems are below as are videos of the three winners reading their winning poems).
1st prize: Isabelle Thompson, ‘The Weight of Sparrows’
2nd prize: Kathryn Bevis, ‘The Smuggler’
3rd prize: Rosie Rockel, ‘Whooper Swans’
Julia Deakin, Rosie Jackson, Justina Hart, Grevel Lindop, Day Mattar, Maria Ferguson
Judge Kim Moore’s Report:
I always enjoy judging competitions and have said before that it feels like getting a glimpse into hundreds of windows, scattered far across the country, perhaps the world. I thought it would be relatively easy to get down from nearly a 1000 poems to a manageable number. I don’t know if it is the calibre of entrants that this competition attracts because of the regular reading series that runs, but the quality was very high, and it took me a long time, probably twice as long as it would normally take me to get down to a long list.
This year I also noticed a larger-than-usual number of ekphrastic poems – perhaps this is the legacy of the Poets and Players reading series and its strong association with the beautiful surroundings of the Whitworth Art Gallery. I am ashamed to admit, previous to reading for this competition, I had an unfounded and illogical prejudice towards ekphrastic poetry – often finding myself impatient with poems that needed the reflection of another work of art to truly sing. However, after reading the many wonderful entries which in fact didn’t need the painting or work of art to lift from the page, I am now a convert! I’ve even given first place to one. I might even try and write my own.
So it took me a lot longer than expected to get from 1000 to 150, and then even longer to get down to 50 poems and a week to get from there to my final few. I feel really sad still when I think of those last 50 poems, that their authors might give up on them, thinking they have no value, because they weren’t in the top three. Please don’t! Your poem may have been one of the ones that just missed out and I don’t like to think of any of those poems languishing unrecognised or unloved. I hope you send them out into the world again.
I would like to say congratulations to everyone who submitted a poem, who put a small piece of themselves out there – thank you for making my job so enjoyable.
Isabelle Thompson: 1st Prize
Isabelle Thompson is a graduate with Distinction of Bath Spa University’s MA in Creative Writing, where she now works part time as a research assistant. She has been published or has work forthcoming in The Interpreter’s House, Rattle, 14 Magazine and The New Welsh Review, among others. She was a finalist in the 2021 Mslexia poetry competition. Her reviews appear regularly in Sphinx
This poem was at the top of the pile – I think it was the fourth poem I read, and it completely took me by surprise. It actually frightened me – I didn’t expect to find something so good so quickly. I knew after one reading that it would be in my top three. It has a strange, surreal quality to it which begins in the first sentence and continues throughout but this strangeness is always held in check by its own inner logic. I was transfixed by the imagery used throughout – the sparrows pouring from the empty eye sockets of a horse, the horse as an angry moon. The idea of the removal of eyes as a kindness. This is a poem about looking – who gets to look, who decides who looks, and about what happens when we look away. It’s a poem that leaves readers room to move around inside its empty spaces, inside its mysteries. Watch how that sparrow flies from a woman’s chest to the eye of a horse in despair. Doesn’t it make you want to follow?
Kathryn Bevis: 2nd Prize
Kathryn Bevis is a neurodivergent poet and poetry teacher. She was Hampshire Poet Laureate in 2020-21 and is the Selected Poet for Magma’s Solitude issue Her poems have appeared in Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland Review, The London Magazine, Mslexia, and The Interpreter’s House. In 2019, she won the Poets & Players and the Against the Grain competitions. This past year, her poems have come second in the York Poetry Prize and the Edward Thomas Prize, have been commended in the Verve Poetry Competition and longlisted for the National Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet manuscript was highly commended in the 2021 Mslexia Pamphlet Competition. She designs and delivers Poetry for Wellbeing courses for adults in mental health settings, substance-misuse recovery settings, and prisons and is working towards her first collection.
It took me a lot of reading to find this poem – I think this was entrant 364! I loved the playfulness of this straight away, and the way the rhymes seemed to slip around on the lines, in the same way the reader’s perception of the ‘she’ slips from being someone completely in control, who is taking everything they can when leaving a relationship or situation, to being someone who is abused, and finally escaping. This darkness that erupts at the end, with the revelation of the ‘he’ shouting, comes as a surprise, and is more chilling because of this. By the end of the poem, the strangely detached voice that tells this story, that makes the comments ‘What a boon!’ and ‘how droll!’ enacts all of our complicity when we sit back and watch violence acted out. I also found myself strangely and disturbingly sympathetic to the figure at the end of the poem ‘crouched on all fours, howling at the moon’.
Rosie Rockel: 3rd Prize
Rosie Rockel works in television and writes poems in the notes app of her phone
Here is entrant number 436 – this poem I put to one side to come back to and read more slowly later on, and unlike the other two poems, it grew on me with every re-reading. It feels as if this is a poem that has the scope of a novel – it starts at the end of a relationship, although we are not told what caused this ending. The description of the swans as ‘Big lovely swoopy’ (I won’t go on – read the poem!) could just as well describe this poem – it swoops along, creating its own charge of energy, from one train of thought to the next, full of wonderful details – the ‘bluebottle corpses’, the unheeded advice that ‘You can’t fall in love / with someone’s potential’, the strange and heartbreaking realisation that ‘When I think of you, / I think of something just out of sight’. It’s exploration of beauty and love as something we can never quite see, and its detailing of the way the mind searches and tries to make meaning from pain, is both fearless and compelling.
We are pleased to announce the 10th poetry competition run by Poets & Players, one of Manchester’s leading organisers of poetry and music events.
Our judge for 2022 is Kim Moore
Kim Moore’s pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2011 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. Her first collection The Art of Falling (Seren 2015) won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Her second collection All The Men I Never Married was published by Seren in 2021. Her first non-fiction book What The Trumpet Taught Me will be published by Smith/Doorstop in March 2022.
What previous judges have said about the Poets & Players Competition:
I’ve long admired Poets & Players. Theirs were the first live readings I attended as a teenager, and I’ll never forget the thrill of it. It was such a pleasure to be asked to judge this competition, which was brilliantly organised, and drew in such a range of exciting poems, stacked with images that stuck in my mind, lines that I couldn’t shake. The formal diversity of the entries was wonderful, and shows that contemporary poetry is in excellent hands. (Seán Hewitt, 2021)
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)
COMPETITION RULES AND OTHER INFORMATION
Kim Moore 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: Wednesday 23 February 2022
Winners will be informed by 4 April 2022 and will be invited to read alongside Kim Moore at the prize giving ceremony scheduled for Saturday 23 April 2022 (2.30-4.00pm). If you have not been notified by 4 April 2022, 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 23 February 2022, up to 12 midnight on this date (GMT); Entries arriving after this date will not be considered.
HOW TO ENTER BY EMAIL
ALL entries must be accompanied by a completed Entry Form (see the link below):
All email entries will be acknowledged.
Please email the completed Competition Entry Form and poems to
- 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 email (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. Payment must be paid by PayPal.
- IMPORTANT please include the PayPal reference number on the Entry Form.
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’ readings for use on social media.