Poetry competition: Roger McGough Annual Poetry Prize 2020


Enter poems on this year’s theme of ‘Identity’ for the competition judged by Roger McGough.

The national competition from Arts Richmond is for original, unpublished poems on the theme of ‘Identity’, up to 40 lines.

There is a first prize of £150, a second prize of £75 and a third prize of £50. Winning and shortlisted poems will be published in an anthology.

The entry fee is £5 per poem.

The closing date is 18 December.

For full details see the website.

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Becoming Noah – Imogen Downes

Becoming Noah


Hell knows all hiding places.
Hell invented them.
That’s what makes it Hell.
When the rain comes, and it will,
the sand will not shelter your head.


There was something godly about it.
Something definite
about the way everything starting to drip,
how all the good china started to run and
the animals became unusual.
People were pinning bed sheets to the sky
and coughing to hide the rumble.
The sky was painted biblical.


I dreamt there were waves
lapping at my bedroom window.
We, dry as a strong face
quietly watched the world rush by.
The flood pulled back into a beast
and lunged at our house –
we’re going to die, I thought
we’re going to be crushed and drowned –
but the walls didn’t quaver
and we held each other madly.


Once, I ran for the sky without learning to swim
and lost the air.
Now, I pull my socks up every morning
and give a hard stare to the mirror.


I survived. My family survived.
Everything unfinished died.


Did you do something you love today?


editedimogen6[4586]Imogen is a Bristolian poet and theatre-maker. She has worked with Bristol Old Vic and Cheltenham Literature Festival, and was named on Rife Magazine’s 24 Under 24 list in 2018 for her work in poetry. Becoming Noah is her debut pamphlet.


Sheaf Poetry Festival 19th – 23rd November


Click here to view the full programme.

The festival has two loose themes that work alongside each other. The first of these is wellbeing and particularly mental health, which has been central to the project of Genevieve Carver, our poet-in-residence. Genevieve presents a workshop that focuses on meditation and creative writing, and a panel discussion on poetry and mental health with poet and mental health worker Ben Dorey and poets Sarah Wardle and Caroline Bird. Genevieve has also been working with Sheffield mental health charity Flourish, and once it’s safe to do so we’ll have in-person events resulting from this collaboration too. Poet Abi Palmer will also read from her poetry memoir Sanatorium, a book full of baths and mystical experiences, charting the imperfect narrative arc of chronic illness and healing.

Carrie Etter and Caleb Parkin will be addressing this in their workshop, which explores the found poetry of ecology and the queer poetry of climate. J. R. Carpenter’s workshop focuses on the ephemeral changes in weather and climate and how we might find the words to pin them to the page. All three poets will be also reading from their work during the festival, and our Carcanet Press reading features work shared by three poets whose work explores terrain, landscape, and creatures, among other things; Mina Gorji, Isabel Galleymore and Kei Miller.

There’s much, much more over at their site:



Memories of You – Eleanor Page

Memories of You

Today I wake to a mass stranding.
They lie there half-dead, gasping,
and it is too difficult to step, to see
anything but their vermilion, spilling.
I try to sweep one away, but can’t bear
the sting of it; can do nothing
but wait, just willing them to die,

gripped by their eyes, coin-wide
and staring. I plead with them
to forgive me, but they just stare
and breathe and breathe and breathe.
I wait for the tide to drag them back;
there is so much I love there, I cannot
bring myself to bury them.

Picture1Eleanor Page is a poet and artist from North Essex. She is currently studying a Writing Poetry MA at the Poetry School, following a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick. She has had poems published in Acumen, Envoi and Brittle Star, and one of her poems was highly commended in the 2019 Ginkgo Prize. Her debut pamphlet ‘Sleeping on the Wing’ is due to be published by Against the Grain in 2021. 


Mutter/Land – Steve Xerri – Oystercatcher Press

1Steve Xerri, who has been a contributor to The Poetry Shed and was Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2017, has had his début pamphlet Mutter/Land published by Oystercatcher Press, with poems that touch on a wide range of subjects from the sound of songbirds to the UK’s place within the cultural matrix of Europe.

Whether describing the epiphany of a lived moment or the deep time of archaeology, the work focuses largely on an urban environment but remains keenly aware of the incursions of the natural world through and over which cities are built.

Bird Music 

II : Nocturne

Alone at the window as streetlamps
prickle through failing daylight,
I listen as the blackbird

unfurls his fluttering solo
into the cathedral acoustic
of this high-skied evening.

His stay will be short, between egg
and ditch, between the last bird
and the next – made to such

resemblant perfection that for all
our complexity we can’t discern
a new arrival taking up the song.

Unbidden, there comes an image
of the heart as a fruit rotting
in the bone tree of a thorax –

and I grasp at last in my mind’s core
something of Rilke’s notion of beauty
as the thin end of terror’s wedge.

Often embodying a clear-eyed apprehension of mortality and its ephemeral beauties, this is poetry which aims to find music in visiting a graveyard, listening out in a city garden, dealing with a hangover or, as here, peering over the shoulder of an archaeologist.


“I suspect that there are many people all over the land writing poetry in a serious version of standard English like this, though I also get the feeling that Steve Xerri is exceptional.” (Peter Riley, The Fortnightly Review)

“The political element here is implied but definite, a rejection of the idea that small worlds are necessarily narrow. … It is [the] turning of the English poetic tradition on the idea of Englishness as it now exists that is the major achievement of Xerri’s style in these poems. It’s an achievement to be admired.” (Billy Mills, Elliptical Movements)Copies are available from Oystercatcher Press [http://www.oystercatcherpress.com/product-category/2020/ ].


Arrival at Elsewhere – curated by Carl Griffin – published by Against the Grain Press

elsewherecoverfrontpageArrival at Elsewhere is a book-length long-poem response to the coronavirus outbreak of 2020, curated by one poet, Carl Griffin, but written by many (97 to be precise!). Against the Grain Press is publishing this month with sales in aid of NHS Charities Together and it can be ordered now

In this book poets from across the world speak in one voice in response to 2020’s life-changing pandemic. Not a definitive voice, nor an authoritative one. But a contrasting, contradicting, confused voice, set both in the UK and everywhere else, represented by one narrator who, just like the rest of us, is made up of a hundred different people. A narrator cohesive only in his/her/their contemplation of Elsewhere.

Arrival at Elsewhere –

The darkness in the room crackles with static, 
the greater mind in regular telecom 

to maximise survival capabilities. 
The muscles of the dank air flex 

and the room’s dimensions strain and shift. 
I can hear it like the wind in the trees, 

the susurrus filling the lungs 
of birch and ash, thin and laboured

like an after gasp, the smoker’s wheeze 

that yet persists after thirteen years. 
The introvert is so remote in the interior 

there is a risk he will mislay himself 
and never get his bearings back.

It is a day so still I hear, too, the creeping
of the moss. Beauty hurts, as much as pain:

both ride a long-drawn breath. 
A child has carved a heart in a stone. 

It sits at the roadside, tree-lit, not beating.

Lines 1-13 by Julian Turner, lines 14-16 by Kathryn Bevis, lines 17-18 by Rob Hindle


Indran Amirthanayagam, Valerie Bence, Kathryn Bevis, Stephen Bone, Jemma Borg, Penny Boxall, Annie Butler, Ron Carey, Graham Clifford, Jennifer Copley, Martyn Crucefix, Kerry Darbishire. Cath Davies, Grahame Davies, Adam O. Davis, Karen Dennison, Glyn Edwards, Jonathan Hadas Edwards, Will Farris, Catherine Fletcher, SJ Fowler, John Foy, Naomi Foyle, Linda France, Jennifer Franklin, Bashabi Fraser, Beatrice Garland, Lesley Glaister, John Glenday, Rebecca Goss, Angela Graham, Mark Granier, Andrew Greig, Seán Griffin, Philip Gross, Rachel Hadas, Matthew Haigh, Jean Hall, Myronn Hardy, Rob Hindle, Sarah Hymas, Sarah James/leavesley, Pam Job, Troy Jollimore, Adrianne Kalfopoulou, David M. Katz, Yusef Komunyakaa, Aaron Lembo, Christopher Levenson, Thyrza Leyshon, Ele-Beth Little, Lorraine Mariner, Peter Marra, Tim Mayo, Chris McCabe, Richie McCaffery, Michael McKimm, Rafael Mendes, Matt Merritt, Bruce Meyer, Kathy Miles, Jessica Mookherjee, Abegail Morley, Katrina Naomi, Lizzie Nunnery, Jean O’Brien, Sean O’Brien, Alasdair Paterson, Vic Pickup, John Priestly, Edward Ragg, Jeremy Reed, Christopher Riesco, Eléna Rivera, Danny Rivers, Chrys Salt, John Sewell, Peter Sirr, Maria Sledmere, Austin Smith, Gerard Smyth, Sue Spiers, Julian Stannard, Alina Stefanescu, Arundhathi Subramaniam, Hideko Sueoka, George Szirtes, Simon Tin, Csilla Toldy, Helen Tookey, Olivia Tuck, Julian Turner, Phil Vernon, Steve Walter, Bogusia Wardein, Sarah Westcott, Charles Wilkinson, Keith S. Wilson, Gareth Writer-Davies


Devoted sons share Mum’s secret poetry

1Hundreds of handwritten poems, charting a woman’s journey from teenage years to adulthood, is being published by her adoring sons, who will use the proceeds in gratitude for the compassion and dignity she was afforded in her last days. A Woman’s Verse by Susan Ealey, tells of the highs and lows in the progress from childhood to womanhood, through youth, first love, raising a family, and into later years. It also features the hardship of single parenthood, growing older, loss, secret love and finding one’s place in the world. Susan Ealey was 69 when she died at Princess Alice Hospice in October 2019.

Her son Matthew, himself a screenwriter and author, said: “Though my mum was only at the Hospice you for two or three days, it made a massive difference for those final days for her to be out of hospital, to be treated with respect and be able to say a proper goodbye to my brother and me, in a loving and caring environment. “In finding Mum’s poems and deciding to publish them, we both knew immediately we wanted to give our proceeds to the Hospice as a thank you from us; also, we believe it’s what Mum would’ve wanted.”

Following Susan’s death, Matthew and his brother Marcus found 320 unpublished poems she had written over the years. Stashed away in a folder under her bed, the pile of handwritten poems had no titles, no dates or explanation. Her sons dedicated their efforts to choosing and categorising a selection to include in A Woman’s Verse. Matthew said: “It will read as a poetry journey of my mum’s life from youth, to family, to love, to views on the world. We want our beautiful and powerful mum’s words to be read by as many people as possible, in her memory.” Susan was a striking young woman who worked as a PA in Fleet Street and model, in the late Sixties and Seventies. She had her boys in her twenties and continued with her career, later becoming a single mum and juggling work and family. Matthew said he recalls her writing poetry since he was a child, but she always kept her creative work to herself – apart from the occasional verse or two she’d share.

Matthew added: “Her own mother died when she was just 23, and she had a lifelong avoidance of hospital. Luckily she had always had a very healthy life and was never ill when we were growing up.” “She only became ill in the year she died; a bout of shingles in mid-2019 marked a turning point in her health. “Mum resisted going into hospital but it became inevitable – it turned out she had cancer – and it looked as though there was no option but being admitted. “After a while, whoever liaises with St Peter’s Hospital came to see us, and we knew she wanted to be anywhere but the hospital – it would have crushed us all.

“The option of Princess Alice Hospice was just perfect – it gave us the time together in her last couple of days, to hear her final wishes, even plan her funeral with her – in privacy, peace and quiet. “She had a great room, with a lovely view, which she could enjoy during her favourite season – autumn. She was treated with huge compassion and kindness, dignity and respect. “It was the best place she could have been. We were so impressed – there are no words.” Matthew, 45, and Marcus, 49, have stayed in contact with the Hospice, from which they continue to derive comfort and support. A Woman’s Verse poetry book is available, via Amazon Paperback and Kindle. Proceeds will go to Princess Alice Hospice and Cancer Research.


Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition closes 31st October

Details: This competition is for original, previously unpublished poems in English language, on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long. Visual poem are welcome as long as the image fits into a single page. Poems posted on members-only non-public groups for review/critique as part of the creative process are not deemed to have been previously published. Poets of all ages, gender or nationality living in any part of the world are eligible to enter.

Judge: Roger Elkin is the author of 12 poetry collections including Pricking out, No laughing matter, Points of Reference, Bird in the Hand, Chance Meetings, Dog’s Eye View, Fixing Things, Marking Time and Sheer Poetry (September 2020). Elkin has won over 250 prizes and places – 61 firsts – in national and international poetry competitions.

Prizes: £250 (1st), £100 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £30 x 3 (High Commendation), £15 x (Commendation), 3 x SLQ Paperback (Special Mentions)

First Prize winner will also be entered into the The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2021 for a chance to win £1,000.00

Fees £5/1, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4, £14/5, £16/7, £22/10)

Details of how to enter HERE