Competition 2015

The Winning Poems

chosen by Paul Muldoon

1st Prize: ‘Everest’ by David Wilson
2nd Prize : ‘Birch Bark Letter Number 292′ by Maeve Henry
3rd Prize: ‘Ulster Grill’ by Janine Pinion

Honorable Mentions

‘Pilgrims’ by Frances Nagle
‘Alas for Mrs Hickman’ by M J Oliver
‘Someone Else’ by Maeve Henry


The competition winners photographed with Paul Muldoon (from left Janine Pinion, Paul Muldoon, David Wilson, Maeve Henry and M J Oliver)

The Poems

First Prize: David Wilson


Once it was Chomolungma,
Mother Goddess of the Earth,
a face whose veil rarely lifted,
its whiteness the White Whale’s.

Now it’s like Elvis near the end,
a giant in a soiled jumpsuit,
blank, useful for percentages,
a sheet with all the music fled.

Comments from judge Paul Muldoon
1st Prize: ‘Everest’ by Colin Wilson

A brilliantly imagistic rendering of a place. The finding of likeness between Elvis and Everest, initially sonic, then extending to their bulk and slightly “soiled” status, is truly spectacular.

Biographical note:

David Wilson lives in North Yorkshire. He turned to poetry a few years ago after reading ‘Midsummer, Tobago’ by Derek Walcott on the wall of a hospital waiting room in Leeds. His novel ‘Love and Nausea’ is published by Abacus, Little Brown. Mountains and climbing feature in some of his writing. His poem commemorating the great Polish climber Wanda Rutkiewicz won the Scottish Mountain Writing Competition 2014.

Second Prize: Maeve Henry

Birch Bark Letter Number 292

The deep cultural layer holds entire neighbourhoods
of wooden houses linked by walkways. It has swallowed
markets, citadels, several cathedrals.
Over time we have recovered comb cases,
leather knife shields and a thousand birch bark letters,
brittle and black as rain soaked leaves. One I flipped over
in the wet trench, breaking off a corner. Yevgeny
was my witness. I lost a husband, he a son
at the other Novgorod, now named for Gorky,
in Perm Thirty Six. Letters came back, unopened,
marked with the official stamp. We look at this letter,
imagine it in some future museum, safe beneath glass:

‘I write, but you do not reply
The forest is silent and I miss the smell of your skin
When I come to Novgorod, with the furs and honey
I will spend everything on [ ]combs
for your yellow [hair?].’

Comments from judge Paul Muldoon
2nd Prize: ‘Birch Bark Letter Number 292’ by Maeve Henry

A painstaking attempt to reconstruct a complete history out of fragmentary evidence. A telling metaphor for our imperfect sense of how things are.

Biographical note:

Maeve Henry is a novelist and poet, whose poetry has appeared magazines and e-publications including Mslexia, Prole, poetandgeek and various prize anthologies. She was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition, and commended for the Hippocrates Prize earlier this year. She is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes, and works as an assistant data manager at the Haemophilia and Thrombosis Centre at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford.

Third Prize: Janine Pinion

Ulster Grill

Three breads, two puddings, sausage
stuffed with grain, an egg on top

and a careful rasher of bacon
laid with grace. A tray of tea follows,
breaking the silence with its little bell

and always you are asked: Is it enough?
Would you like some more?

Along the coast
from this butter-scented room
in a small town with seven castles,

through three loughs, a city
and a pinball of glens and arches

you’ll be asked the same questions: Is it enough?
Would you like some more?

Soda and potato, wheaten and oats,
blood and guts, sunny side up.

Comments from judge Paul Muldoon
3rd Prize: ‘Ulster Grill’ by Janine Pinion

witty take on the “sunny” attitude of a beleaguered nation set against their diet of “blood and guts.”

Biographical note:

Janine Pinion is based in Wirral, Merseyside. She moved from Belfast to study at Liverpool College of Art and has exhibited in the North West and Ireland. She has had poems published in Ambit, Iota, Interpreters House, Smoke and other magazines, and included in anthologies, most recently ‘Sculpted’ (North West Poets 2013). Her poetry has been described as visual and enticing, based on subjects such as an Irish childhood, missing people and postcards of modern life.

Honorable Mentions

Pilgrims (Frances Nagle)

They call the visitors who go around to all the houses on New Year’s Day to wish everyone a happy new year “pilgrims”.

From The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide,translated from the Japanese by Eric Selland

In Britain it’s a dark-haired man with a lump of coal
first-foots good fortune into our homes.
We draw a reverent breath as we open the door.
For a brief pure time we may believe:
this interlude is sanctified,
unspoilt, so clean
it runs us away hand-in-hand with hope until
it bumps against the world’s pain, so fast,
and the flow of cruel days rushes on regardless
of how we try to dam it and send out help.
Never far away is the one we don’t talk about
who’ll arrive in his own time and let himself in.

Biographical note:

Frances Nagle’s publications are Steeplechase Park (Rockingham Press), The War in Fraxinus Excelsior and a pamphlet of poems for children calledYou Can’t Call a Hedgehog Hopscotch, both from Dagger Press. She lives in Hazel Grove, Stockport.

Alas for Mrs Hickman (by M.J. Oliver)

Bill Neat (Bristol Butcher) v Tom Hickman (Gas Man), a bare-knuckle fight on Hungerford Common 1821, recorded by William Hazlitt in the New Monthly Magazine

Come noon, I lumbers into the ring & quietly I disrobes.
I has to wait, till Gas Man struts out
onto the grassy knoll, sucking at his orange
with supercilious air. He tosses the peel

at the chanting crowd, booms, So! You’re Bill Neat,
The Bristol Butcher. I’ll knock more blood
out of thy great carcase than thou ever knocked
out of a bullock’s! Straightway I head-fakes him

to the left, but gets a liver shot in the right.
I’m down, a lifeless lump
of lard an gristle. Is that it, finished,
in the first bleeding round?

I thinks on the wife, the shame of it,
& I’m up on me feet, me arms
like sledge-hammers, I holds him in a clinch
rabbit-punching the back of his skull

till he sinks; blood drains from his ugly mug,
out his eyes, out his nose, out his ears.
But he heaves himself up,
and smiles his ghastly smile.

Eighteen rounds later, his brow screwed up
against the setting sun,
he falls for the last time. I stoops
& limply shakes his broken fist – the sign

for my homing pigeon to take to the skies &
fly to the bosom of my beloved wife – the message
Alas for Mrs Hickman!
attached to its little pink leg.

Biographical note:

M.J. Oliver has a degree in Fine Art from Reading University and an MA from Falmouth University. She lectured and exhibited widely in Scotland and England until 2005, when she switched to writing full-time. Since then she’s won quite a few prizes and had poems accepted for publication in UK and the States. She’s currently writing a novel set in Saskatchewan during the 1930s. She lives in Newlyn, Cornwall.

Someone Else (by Maeve Henry)

The quilt still smells of you, but your bedroom walls
are pocked with blu-tack, football teams all gone.
They say you crossed the border, walked into Syria.
You will head home, I tell them As you used to
come back from parties, drunk on girls and spliffs.
You will come in, yawning, lifting the lids
of my saucepans, grabbing a spoon. I will say,
your father is worried. Why are you breaking my heart?
It’s done. It’s broken. I was looking the wrong way,
like the guards at the airport. They caught you on camera,
clear as the scan of my womb. Now someone else
is being born, a boy with a gun, screaming obscenities.
And the view from your room is just the same:
that lilac bush, a blackbird, the washing line.

Biographical note:

Maeve Henry is a novelist and poet, whose poetry has appeared magazines and e-publications including Mslexia, Prole, poetandgeek and various prize anthologies. She was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition, and commended for the Hippocrates Prize earlier this year. She is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes, and works as an assistant data manager at the Haemophilia and Thrombosis Centre at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford.


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(David Wilson, Maeve Henry, Janine Pinion, M J Oliver, Paul Muldoon, Minute Taker,  audience at the Whitworth)

Information about the Competition

300 poets (178 women and 122 men) submitted a total of 871 poems. We offered both postal and online entry options, 47 poets chose to submit by post and 253 online.

This was an excellent and encouraging number and the overall standard was very pleasing. We were delighted to welcome Paul Muldoon as our judge, and offer our thanks and appreciation for his enthusiasm, professionalism and attention to detail.

We had entries from all over Europe (Italy, Netherlands, France), from all corners of the UK, several entries from Eire and the Scottish Isles then entries from the wider world: USA, SA, Australia, the Far East and the Sub-continent. A truly international event.

All entries were clearly addressed and, without exception, appropriate payments included. Thank you to all our entrants for your help in this and for your interest in our competition.

Thank you to everyone involved in the organisation, promotion and success of the third Poets and Players Competition. Please look out for future announcements about the 2016 competition.

Videos of the winners performing their poems will be available shortly on our Youtube Channel.

Any feedback relating to any aspect of the competition is most welcome.



The winners of our 2015 competition have now been informed. Thank you to all who entered.

We hope you will join us for the prize-giving event on 30 May where Paul Muldoon will announce the winners.  Click here for event details




The poets and players 2015 competition is now closed

thank you to all who entered

winners will be notified by 7 may 2015


We are pleased to announce the 3rd poetry competition run by Poets and Players, one of Manchester’s leading organisers of poetry and music events.


Paul Muldoon (photo by Pieter M. van Hattem)

Paul Muldoon has published eleven major collections of poetry along with numerous other works. His latest collection, One Thousand Things Worth Knowing, will be published in the UK by Faber and Faber and in the US by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in January 2015.

Paul Muldoon is a professor of poetry, as well as an editor, critic, and translator. He is winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; T. S. Eliot Prize; Irish Times Poetry Prize; Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry; Aspen Prize for Poetry. He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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

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)


Paul Muldoon will read ALL poems. All poems will be judged anonymously.

1st Prize:  £400
2nd Prize: £200
3rd Prize:  £100

Commended poets at the judge’s discretion.

Closing Date 9 March 2015

Winners will be informed by 7 May 2015 and will be invited to read alongside Paul Muldoon at a launch ceremony on the afternoon of 30 May 2015 at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester where they will also receive their prize. If you have not been notified by 7 May 2015, 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 and Players committee.
  • Poems must be in English.
  • 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).
  • 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 application form.
  • Please note that all competition entries must reach us by Monday 9 March 2015, (online entries may be submitted up to 12 midnight on this date; postal entries must be received in our mailbox no later than 9 March 2015). Entries arriving after this date will not be considered.



ALL entries must be accompanied by a completed application form (see the link below):

Competition Application Form 2015

  • Please post the completed Competition Application form and poems to: Poets and 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.
  • 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 application form.
  • Entry fee is £3 per poem or 4 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 and Players’ and send together with your poem/s and Competition Application form to the address above.


ALL entries must be accompanied by a completed application form (see the link below):

Competition Application Form 2015

      • Please email the completed Competition Application form and poems to All email entries will be acknowledged.
      • Please ensure that all poems are sent as an attachment and not in the body of the email. Please use your name as the title of the document (poems and application form can be in the same document but must be on separate pages). If you are submitting more than one poem you may include them all in the same attachment but please ensure pages are numbered and start each poem on a new page. 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 application form.
      • 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 £3 per poem or 4 for £10. Email entries must be paid by Paypal, IMPORTANT please include the Paypal reference number on the application form.
      • Single poem £3 Pay Now Button with Credit Cards
      • Four poems £10 Pay Now Button with Credit Cards

CHECKLIST: Completed Application Form; poems on separate sheets (with no identifying information); cheque or postal order made payable to ‘Poets and 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.



14 Responses to Competition 2015

  1. James D. Taylor says:

    I wish to enter but cannot access the entry form for some reason may I create my own entry form since I have submitted poems for competitions and know what is required?


    • Dear James,
      I’ve changed the form now from docx which can cause problems for some, so perhaps try again and see if you can access it. If not I’ve copied the info that we need below. Let me know if you have any further problems. Best wishes, Janet

      Full Name:
      Telephone Number:
      Email Address:
      Title of Poem/s (please ensure no identifying information is included on the poems):
      Total payment made by cheque or postal order: £ …
      (£3 for one poem, £10 for 4 poems. Please make cheques and postal orders payable to ‘Poets and Players’). To enter more than 8 poems please complete another application form.

      If you are submitting this form and your poems by email please pay by Paypal and include your Paypal reference number below:

      Total payment made by Paypal: £ ……………

      Paypal Reference: ……………………………

      Where did you hear about this competition? ……..


  2. Nicole varnam says:

    I have tried to send my application however for some reason no matter what format i try and send the attachments in it will not let me.


    • Hi Nicole, It sounds like it’s a problem with your email account. There is time to post if you are in the UK, if you post tomorrow. Or alternatively, as an exception you could post your poem/s into the body of the email. Hope this helps. Janet


  3. I can’t top up my Paypal account and can’t get a reference number. Is this a major problem?


    • Dear Joyce,
      I’m afraid at this stage the only way to pay is by Paypal as you have missed the postal deadline. Paypal usually takes money from either a credit or debit card or your bank account, so would it be possible for you to link the Paypal account to a different method of payment? Hope this helps. Janet


  4. An attempt to pay via paypal says it is possible. The only problem is that they don’t provide a reference number.


    • Hi Joyce, I assume the payment will come through to our account with your name on it, in which case we will be able to track it and I’ll let our treasurer know and also the person who receives the emailed poems. If you use a different name on Paypal to the one you have for WordPress let me know so I can pass that on. Thanks for persevering and good luck! Janet


  5. Eleanor says:

    By midnight as the deadline for the online submission, do you mean the very end of the 9th, or the start of it? Sorry if that’s a silly question. Also, do poems strictly have to have titles, or could I just put the first line of each one in that space on the form?



    • Hi Eleanor,
      The deadline for online entry is midnight Monday 9th (so at the very end of that day). Poems need to have titles so they can be identified and Paul Muldoon will let us know the winners by title (and our reference number) because he won’t have the poets’ names. It’s up to you if you want your first line to be the title, I guess that would depend on what it is and the length of it. Hope this helps.
      Best wishes, Janet


  6. Pingback: Thank you, Mr. Muldoon, Poets & Players | janine pinion

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