Competition Winners 2019

We have now had the results of our competition and the winners have been contacted. Please accept our apologies for the delay and our appreciation for your patience. Thank you to all who entered. The P&P team

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Update for competition entrants

Just to update all of those waiting to hear whether or not they have been placed in the competition. I’m afraid we are still awaiting the final decision. Apologies for any inconvenience.

The P&P team

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Message for competition entrants

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are unable to notify the competition winners today, as originally promised. Please accept our apologies. As soon as we are in a position to do so we will post again to say that all the winners have been informed.

The P&P team


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Reimagining the City: a commission by Mona Arshi, Will Harris, Maryam Hessavi & Degna Stone

Earlier this year Poets & Players commissioned Mona Arshi, Maryam Hessavi, Will Harris and Degna Stone to write a poem based on the topic ‘Reimagining the City’. The poets were given free reign to interpret this in any way they wished. We are delighted to present the following four poems:

Mona Arshi

Gateway of India

‘…speaking of other cities, I have already lost it one by one.’ Calvino


It’s early, the traffic volume still low, Kismet Coaches are arriving as I pass the sweepers along the railings, the chai wallahs stacking their perspex cups, smoking their morning beedi’s and I pass the still sleeping bodies-a man using the foam of his flip-flops for a pillow, a few beggars rising from the smoke. Around the perimeter the snack shops are selling Joos, phone cards and triple-blade razors. I step aside to avoid the speedy-boys in their brown and cream uniforms, their wire trolleys straining under the weight of the packages. The ladies’ entrance is closed this morning so I join the one easy moving queue behind a woman wearing a death before decaf! T-shirt and after security, incongruously step on a little patch of carpet that welcomes me into the square.

Under the triumphant arch, a row of apertures are filled with pigeons standing like sentry guards, each  of their ragged backs against the  Arabian Sea-these most revolutionary of birds are as maddening here as in any other city. The birds own this place; the pigeons, and the gulls that swarm in batches not unlike starlings, over the turrets of the old basalt gate, the harbour water and around the hotel. The Taj has erected anti-roosting spikes, aviary netting and every conceivable device but these birds are insistent as the Indian sun which now disrobes itself from the clouds as the Mumbai morning comes fully into the square. The last battalion of British troops left this spot in 1948. Two decades later and less than a mile from here, my father set sail on an Italian ship.


Will Harris

Half Got Out

I was reading a poem by
Ben Jonson where a
newborn half got out sees
the city burning and
decides to crawl back
into its mother’s womb
thine urn  he calls it
it was Tuesday morning
I’d just seen Leo near
Leicester Square he
was reading a book by
W. S. Merwin a poet
himself newly returned
to his dead mother’s
womb  I was feeling so
anxious Leo said  kind of
low when I started to
read him it felt like I found
him at just the right time
I’m not sure but don’t
parents always talk of
their children arriving at
just the right time like
you might describe
finding your flip flops
just before a beach
holiday yes I said to Leo
he wrote that poem
didn’t he that sad dad
poem that starts

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

I love the way the
dialogue loops back in
on itself the way you
know the poet is really
talking to or about
themselves it hurts to
read it it reminds me
I could be seeing my
parents right now who
live ten stops away  yes
half an hour but I’m
not and what else am I
not doing knowing
really knowing from
my top down to my
toes from whose bourne
they’ll not return  you
have to work though you
have to make a living don’t
you that may be true I
don’t know I left the
library in light rain to

meet Linda for a drink
at The Chandos and she
told me her granddad
used to go to Richmond
Park to fish he was a
wireless operating
sergeant during the war
it’s not like she cares it’s
just funny you know
even if she had a
Victoria Cross taped to
her forehead it wouldn’t
stop those dickheads at
the bar from asking if
she’s Latino or something
I fucking hate this city you
understand I say yes
I understand  but I don’t
know how to leave I say yes
I know I mean sorry
I don’t know I don’t
know how to leave or
where I’d even go

I looped back to enter
the tube at Leicester
Square stepping over the
body of a homeless man
to travel further again
from my mother’s
womb to Turnpike Lane
the word interred echoing
in my head how many
acres of earth were there
above me then the
whole city might have
been burning I could
already have been dead

there’s no going back my dad
said but how many times
have I crossed the point
of no return only to
crawl back down King
St or Goldhawk Rd
to eat chicken noodle
soup and talk about seat
cushions from Lidl  yes
I know they’re good value
thank you for dinner thank
you half got out and
half enwombed I know
that’s just the way it is I
understand the tube
threading me like a
complex stitch beneath
and through the city
back to the house we’ve
been sharing lately
when I got in I said I’m
home and you said  yes
I know and then you
filled the kettle and sat
down next to me and


Maryam Hessavi

red cities

I came to this planet earth
with cherries hanging on my ears

and I was not a girl.
I am also that girl.

I followed the path of the horse’s gallop,
by a setar that played without strings

and I was not a musician. I am
also that hand that plays. The man

dropped a coin for my sound.
I am that man. The glint rolled as sound

loaded a horn so loud it banged
and worth was fashioned  well. I am

a bursted eardrum. The ear felt
wind sigh past. Wind cuts across

the ear. That ear is me.
The ear is a house that rests

on water with stilts that wobble.
Those stilts are me. And that house

belongs to me. Mine in my name
and my body. The body is

me   where no maps are drawn.
The pencil belongs to me. I am

the belonger, and he is mine and me. Mine
is a home of cherry trees and they are

sharpened. I am the stone from one
eaten. That meal is me and I kneel

before the mouth that does.
Teeth are me. Gums.

The tongue is enough.
I am taste buds and they

flower an orchard every June.
I am June. My Mother is Joon.

Joon is a place over bitter seas.
I am that. I do not sail past  blue lines.

————————————       ————* Joon, meaning ‘dear’ in Farsi


Degna Stone

The city was killing us so we tore it down

When the old city fell, we were covered in scars
but the healing had not made us stronger,

it had only made us scared. We were on the edge
of a dark age and the city had been a place to hide.

Now that the old tech doesn’t work, we’re back
to our most basic selves. Almost animal,

forming connections to the landscape
we’d tried to concrete over.

We are rebuilding without blueprints,
using instinct to create spaces to flourish.

We’ve learned to live without the old statues.
Their plinths lie empty, public notices read:

This monument has been removed until
we can find a way to put it into context.

It’s coincidence that the typeface is crimson,
though it reminds us of the times we barely

escaped through streets glittered with blood.
The truth gets less painful each time we hear it.

We’re not changing the story, only the telling.
Weaving new fables to keep our children safe.

We’ve made a home in this new city, where before
there was only shelter. Found balance,

if not yet peace.

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Workshop with Keith Hutson

Workshop with Keith Hutson on Saturday 18 May 2019, 10.30-12.30 at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. The fee is £20. Please email to confirm a place. Once your place has been confirmed payment can be made by cheque or by using the PayPal button below:

Workshop Payment £20Pay Now Button with Credit Cards

Keith Hutson

Keith has written for Coronation Street and for several well-known comedians. His plays have been performed at venues including The Royal Exchange, Manchester.

Since beginning to submit his poetry five years ago, Keith has had over 150 poems published in journals. He has also had competition successes including being longlisted twice for the National Poetry Competition, shortlisted for the Wordsworth Trust Prize, and a winner in the Poetry Business Yorkshire Prize.

Keith tours extensively with Carol Ann Duffy, recently the Edinburgh Book Festival, Durham Festival and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank.

Keith’s debut pamphlet, Routines, was published in 2016 by Poetry Salzburg (where Keith is now on the Editorial Board) followed by a smith doorstop pamphlet, Troupers (2018) which was selected by Carol Ann as a Laureate’s Choice. His debut full collection, Baldwin’s Catholic Geese, was published by Bloodaxe in February 2019.

He delivers poetry and performance workshops for the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and for the Square Chapel Arts Centre Halifax.

These poems illuminate something timeless about the human spirit. Keith Hutson is a wonderful talent – his technically accomplished and hardworking poems arrive all of a piece, centre stage. Carol Ann Duffy on Baldwin’s Catholic Geese.



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CANCELLED: Competition Event with Kei Miller, music from Daphne Duo: 18 May 2019


Please come along to our annual competition event where judge Kei Miller will announce the winners who will read their winning poems. Kei will also do a reading of his own work. The venue is the Whitworth Art Gallery, time 2.30-4.00. The event is free and everyone is welcome.

Kei Miller is a poet, novelist, essayist, short story writer and broadcaster. His many books include the novel Augustown (W&N, 2016) and poetry collection The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet, 2014) which won the Forward Prize (Best Poetry Collection of 2014). In 2010, the Institute of Jamaica awarded him the Silver Musgrave medal for his contributions to Literature. He has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Glasgow and is currently a Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Exeter.  Kei Miller is represented by Renaissance One

Daphne Duo

Oscar Tabor started learning the violin at the age of 4, due to the influence of his older sister’s piano playing. His love for music was further impassioned by the tuition of Dr Robert Jacoby, with whom he started learning at the age of 9. In the years that followed, Oscar played solos with the Dorset Chamber Orchestra and performed in concerts and competitions in and around the South West of England, often with musical members of his family.

Oscar currently studies at the Royal Northern College of Music and is taught by the Czech violinist and composer Pavel Fischer. Fischer’s love for Eastern European folk music has since inspired Oscar to play a wider range of genres. These include working with the Klezmer band Kibitz, and managing a gypsy jazz outfit named the Misophone collective. In Oscar’s 3rd year studying at the Royal Northern, he met Marcus Forster, and their mutual love for a myriad of genres led to them to the forming the Daphne Duo.

Young guitarist Marcus Forster first took to the electric and bass guitar playing various styles and fusions from blues and folk to rock and metal, performing and recording with bands throughout his home county of Northumberland. At the age of twelve, Marcus turned his interest to focus on the classical guitar.

After graduating from school, Marcus had a short but fruitful career in arboriculture before beginning a Bachelor of Music degree in 2015, studying under the renowned guitarist Craig Ogden at the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Marcus is currently in the fourth year of his undergraduate degree.

Daphne Duo appears by kind permission of the RNCM.

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Commission ‘Reimagining the City’ with Mona Arshi, Will Harris, Maryam Hessavi, Degna Stone and music from Paula Darwish & Serpil Kılıç: 27 April 2019

Free poetry and music event at the Whitworth Art Gallery on 27 April 2019 (2.30-4.00). This is our annual commission event; four poets have been invited to participate in a poetry commission ‘Reimagining the City’:

Mona Arshi

Photo credit: Svetlana Cernenko

Mona Arshi worked as a  Human rights lawyer at Liberty before she started writing poetry. She completed her Masters in poetry in 2011 at the University of East Anglia with a distinction. Her debut collection  ‘Small Hands’ won the Forward Prize for best first collection in 2015. She has also been a prizewinner in the Magma, Troubadour and Manchester creative writing competitions. Mona was the 2016-2017 Arvon/Jerwood poetry mentor .She has performed her work at over 40 Festivals both here and abroad. She has read at the Royal Society of Literature, the Poetry School, The Southbank and in  2017 she was one of the judges for the Forward Prize. Mona makes regular appearances on the radio including Front Row and was recently commissioned to write a programme on the Odyssey for ‘Book of the week’ for Radio 4. Her poems and interviews have been published in many magazines including The Times, The Guardian, The Times of India as well as on the London Underground. In 2015 Sathnam Sanghera from the Times  described Mona as ‘nothing less than Britain’s most promising writer.’

Mona’s second collection ‘Dear Big Gods’ is to due to be published in April 2019 by Liverpool University Press.

Will Harris

Will Harris is a London-based poet and critic. He is the author of the chapbook of poems, All this is implied (HappenStance, 2017), and the essay, Mixed-Race Superman (Peninsula Press, 2018). His first full-length poetry book, RENDANG, is forthcoming from Granta in spring 2020.

Maryam Hessavi

Maryam Hessavi a British, Manchester-based poet. An Alumni of The University of Manchester, her poetry has featured in various commissions, Peter Barlow’s Cigarette series, Ledbury Festival 2018 readings, readings with Kevin Bateman PresentsSmoke Magazine, Ambit and The Emma Press. She is a Ledbury Critic, with reviews featured or forthcoming in The Manchester ReviewPoetry LondonPoetry WalesThe Poetry School, PBSMagma, Ambit and The Guardian.

Degna Stone

Degna Stone is a co-founder of Butcher’s Dog poetry magazine, a contributing editor at The Rialto and a pamphlet selector for the Poetry Book Society. She received a Northern Writers Award in 2015 and is a fellow of The Complete Works III. She is an Inscribe supported writer and her latest pamphlet Handling Stolen Goods is published by Peepal Tree Press. Her appearances include: StAnza International Poetry Festival, Leeds Lit Festival and BBC Radio 3s The Verb. (Photo credit: Phil Punton).

Paula Darwish and Serpil Kılıç

2017 Anatolian Folk Paula Darwish.jpgAlready a singer/songwriter in her own right, Paula Darwish became more well known in the early 2000s for her unique and captivating interpretations of Turkish and Kurdish folk songs. Her growing passion for the the old folk music of the Anatolia region led to the founding of the Country & Eastern band in Manchester (2002-2012). The band combined elements of Turkish and later Kurdish folk with electric instruments and western grooves. Paula now mainly performs acoustically with Serpil, who is originally from Dersim province in Turkey and has been playing bağlama with Paula since 2004. As well as Turkish and Kurdish songs, their repertoire also includes song in Arabic, Armenian and other Middle Eastern languages.

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