Prole – interview with Brett Evans

prole11Earlier this month I caught up with Brett Evans, one of the editors at Prole and asked him a few questions about the magazine and the press.

When was Prole established and when did your first magazine appear?

Prole became a twinkle in both editors’ eyes over a few pints of Guinness in The Hope and Anchor in Heaton, Bolton, in the summer of 2009. My co-editor to be, Phil Robertson, and myself felt that many literary magazines were embracing an elite while distancing themselves from the general reader (only some I hasten to add. There are many that I admire and several I subscribe to) where style seemed to dominate accessibility and quality. We felt sure there was a space in the market for a journal which offered engaging and accessible poetry and prose. By accessible, I do not in any way mean lacking in quality. We quickly decided that we wanted our little baby to be fully independent, therefore we did not seek funding and decided to dig into our own shallow pockets.

Prole’s embryonic stages of doubt lasted until a business account was set up in February 2010 and issue 1 was born, to our delight, on April 6th of that same year – fathers and child all well.

What is it you look for in poetry submissions?

The short answer to that would be – great poetry. But poems can strike in so many different ways: the poem that grabs you by the throat with its first line and drags you along breathlessly, the more subtle and reflective poem that can appeal at once or become richer with every reading, the poem that lightly amuses or results in a belly laugh, but whatever the poem’s style or content it is weight and balance that are important. Is the poet verbose in what they are saying? And that old cliché, show don’t tell, still holds true.

Prole considers all poetry, and the wider the variety an issue contains the better, but it is the execution which must wow both editors. From the start our policy was that for a piece to be featured both editors would have to believe in it 100%. Contrary to popular belief editors are only human and sometimes a piece may be rejected not because it is bad writing but simply that the editors could not agree upon it. On occasion we have worked alongside contributors to strengthen a piece until editors and author all agree that it works better than when originally submitted.

You have very clear submission guidelines on your site, when it comes to a covering letter what information do you want to see?

Just common courtesy (and submissions to the correct address – poetry or prose – saves time). We get some submissions without so much as a ‘Hello’ which I find rude but if the work speaks for itself it will be considered.

Humour is always very nice to see in a cover letter or bio – even if the submission is not successful, making us smile goes a long way. We aim to respond to submissions within 3 – 4 weeks as both editors know what it is like to have publications sit on your submissions for months on end.

I’m really interested in the Prole Laureate competition, can you tell me more about it?

The Prole Laureate competition (along with its prose equivalent, The Prolitzer Prize) is an annual comp that offers cash and publication in Prole for the winner and two runners up. Each year there is a different judge (a poet we respect) and the editors filter the entries and send a selection of anonymous poems to said judge.

Unlike a lot of journals, Prole pays its contributors a profit share four months after each respective issue. As we do not rely on, nor seek any funding, the profits from our competitions go back into ensuring the continuation of Prole.

Outside of Prole, Prolebooks have published a handful of poetry pamphlets and collections with more to come later this year and in the new year. Our journey saw us starting on a steep learning curve. While we hope always to be learning more, it has been fun – our editorials outrageous fun at times – and we are pleased to have made positive and reaffirming relationships with our contributors and others. We hope to continue making many more. Prole never sleeps just passes out on occasion.

For further information our website can be found here http://www.prolebooks.co.uk/

and Prole can be followed on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prole/236155444300?ref=hl

and Twitter https://twitter.com/


Advice from a poetry judge: Pascale Petit interview


This year I was delighted when Pascale Petit agreed to judge The New Writer Poetry Competition. She has five collections, and her sixth, Fauverie is due out from Seren in 2014. Her eye for detail (she was editor of Poetry London for 11 years), expertise (she is a co-founding tutor of The Poetry School), and string of awards (including being shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize three times!) make her the perfect competition judge. Entering competitions can be costly, so it is important to get it right. Here are some suggestions from Pascale.

AM: What was the first competition you entered?

Pascale_Petit_credit Kaido VainomaaPP: This is so long ago that I can’t remember! But I do remember entering the South West Poetry Competition in 1993. I entered it because the judges were Peter Redgrove and Penelope Shuttle. There was the shock of the phone ringing to tell me I’d won and would get a cheque for £500, which was a lot of money then. I asked which poem they’d chosen because I’d entered several, and when they said ‘Eisriesenwelt’ (set in the Ice Giants’ Cave in Austria) I said to myself, “they’ve made a mistake”. I’d also entered a poem called ‘The Frozen Waterfall’ and thought that was better. It was instructive to reread my winning entry through the judges’ eyes after it had been severely criticised by a magazine editor. I must have stuck it in the batch just in case that editor was wrong. Five years later both poems appeared in my first collection Heart of a Deer.

AM: If a new poet wants to enter the competition market what advice would you give?

PP: Follow the rules carefully. Submit your best poems. Edit them until they are their best, proofread them with a ruler, to catch all typos, so as not to appear careless. But before you enter any competitions, read contemporary poetry widely and deeply. See what your peers are doing, what’s possible, how they use language, construct a poem. Read contemporary and classical poetry in translation as well – see what other cultures are doing with poems. Think about what you have to offer that is yours. Then check that each of your lines is, as Robert Frost said, “a fresh look and a fresh listen” at your subject. Keep a record of what you send where, a logbook helps.

AM: Do you think entering competitions is a good way of becoming recognised?

PP: It can be, though luck is most of it. It’s harder to win competitions than get published in magazines, because of the sheer volume of entries, but the advantage is that you enter anonymously, so your reputation or lack of one is irrelevant.

AM: What competitions have you judged and what did you get out of them?

PP: I’ve judged a few, including the InterBoard Poetry Community (IBPC), the Guardian workshop, the Café Writers, and this year I’m judging the Poetry London competition. When I was poetry editor at Poetry London I used to be one of the sifters for the thousands of entries to find the top 500 for the judge. Judging gives me an insight into what makes a poem stand out, though it would be hard to define what that is, and each winning poem often extends my idea of what that might be. The final shortlist of ten or twenty are the ones I live the longest with, trying to decide which gets what and why.

AM: Should an entrant swot up on the judge’s work before entering their competition?what_the_water_gave_me_cover

PP: I don’t think an entrant should enter poems that they think are closest to the judge’s tastes. I do notice a lot of people seem to do that! I see many poems that are ekphrastic or ‘confessional’, just because I’ve been labelled as those things. My tastes are broad and I’m not really looking for poems like mine. I want to be surprised.

AM: Is it best to begin by entering small local competitions or hop straight into the biggies?

PP: Probably, as there’s more chance of getting a prize, fewer entrants, fewer published poets entering. But why not try the biggies as well?

AM: Thank-you!


The Bridport Prize



Closing date May 31st

All entries submitted can be on any subject, and written in any style or form.  However, we do not recommend poems or stories written for children.

Flash Fiction

Judge: David SwannDave_Swann

Word limit: 250 words (no minimum). Title not included.

Entry fee:  £6 for each flash fiction submitted.

Prizes: 1st £1,000, 2nd £500, 3rd £250 + Highly Commended 3 x £25

What is flash fiction?

Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some are as low as 250 words (such as ours), while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction.

Other names for flash fiction include sudden fiction, micro fiction, micro-story, short short, postcard fiction and short short story, though distinctions are sometimes drawn between some of these terms; for example, sometimes one-thousand words is considered the cut-off between “flash fiction” and the slightly longer short story “sudden fiction”. The terms “micro fiction” and “micro narrative” are sometimes defined as below 300 words.

Flash-fiction often contains the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. However, unlike a traditional short story, the limited word length often forces some of these elements to remain unwritten – that is, hinted at or implied in the written storyline.

Short Stories

Judge: Michèle Robertsmimi_pic_1

Word limit: 5,000 words (no minimum). Title not included.

Entry fee:  £8 for each short story submitted.

Prizes: 1st £5,000, 2nd £1,000, 3rd £500 + Highly Commended 10 x £50



Judge: Wendy Cope

Line limit: 42 lines (no minimum). Title not included.wendy cope

Entry fee:  £7 for each poem submitted.

Prizes: 1st £5,000, 2nd £1,000, 3rd £500 + Highly Commended 10 x £50

Entry details here


The Christopher Tower Poetry Prize 2013 – closing date March 1st


The Christopher Tower Poetry Competition, the UK’s most valuable prize for young poets, is once again open for entries, and this year students between 16-18 years of age are challenged to write a poem on the theme of ‘The Details’.

Established in 2000, the Tower Prizes are recognised as among the most prestigious literary awards for this age group. The first prize is £3,000, with £1,000 and £500 going to the second and third prize-winners. In addition to individual prizes, the students’ schools and colleges also receive cash prizes.

The entries will be judged this year by poets Bernard O’Donoghue, Carrie Etter and Peter McDonald. At the launch of the latest competition, Carrie Etter said: “I expect ‘The Details” to be a wonderfully fruitful topic. After all, one of the great pleasures of poetry lies in the perfectly precise or unexpected detail. I look forward to such encounters among the submissions.”

The 2013 competition will build on the success of earlier competitions. Previous prizewinners such as Caroline Bird, Helen Mort, Richard O’Brien, Charlotte Runcie, Anna Lewis and Annie Katchinska are now gaining further acclaim in other competitions or within the publishing/ writing world.

The competition is open to all 16-18 year-olds who are in full or part time education, and students and schools can find out more information about the prizes and associated future events at www.towerpoetry.org.uk/prize, or email info@towerpoetry.org.uk or call 01865 286591. Follow us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tower-Poetry/101808106554586?ref=hl or @TowerPoetry on Twitter or YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/christophertower1 . The closing date for entries is Friday 1 March, 2013

Notes to editors:

  • Bernard O’Donoghue is a noted contemporary Irish poet and academic. Born in Cullen, County Cork, Ireland in 1945, he moved to Manchester, England when he was 16, where he attended St Bede’s College. He has lived in Oxford, England since 1965. O’Donoghue is currently fellow and tutor in Old English and Medieval English, Linguistics and the History of the English Language at Wadham College, Oxford University. He was previously Reader at Magdalen College, Oxford, and was a colleague of John Fuller and David Norbrook. He supports Manchester City Football Club. In 2006, Penguin Books published O’Donoghue’s new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. O’Donoghue has a wide range of specialities. He has written on courtly love, Thomas Hoccleve and Seamus Heaney. His published poetry collections include Poaching Rights (1987), The Absent Signifier (1990), The Weakness (1991), Gunpowder (1995, which won the Whitbread Prize for Poetry), and Here Nor There (1999), Poaching Rights (1999) and Outliving (2003).
  • Originally from Normal, Illinois, Carrie Etter obtained her MFA in creative writing and PhD in English from the University of California, Irvine. Since 2001 she has lived in England, where she is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The New Republic, Poetry Review, Stand, TLS, and numerous other journals and anthologies. She has published two collections, The Tethers (Seren, 2009), winner of the London New Poetry Award 2010 for the best first collection published in the UK and Ireland in the preceding year, and Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011); she also edited Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010). She reviews contemporary poetry for The Guardian and has blogged since 2005 at carrieetter.blogspot.com.
  • Peter McDonald is the Christopher Tower Student and Tutor in Poetry in the English Language at Christ Church, Oxford. His publications include Louis MacNeice: The Poet in his Contexts (1991), Mistaken Identities: Poetry and Northern Ireland (1997), Pastorals (2004) and The House of Clay (2007). His latest volume of poetry Torchlight was published by Carcanet in February 2011.
  • The Christopher Tower Poetry Prizes were launched following a bequest to Christ Church which provides for the promotion of the art of writing poetry in English. The prizes aim to encourage the writing of poetry amongst young people in the 16-18 age group by establishing an annual set of prizes for the best poems on a set theme.
  • The Christopher Tower Poetry Prizes 2012, on the theme of ‘Voyages’ attracted hundreds of entries from young poets across the country. There were six shortlisted poets who attended a prize-giving ceremony at Christ Church in April 2012, where 17 year-old Sarah Fletcher of The American School in London was named as the overall winner with her poem Papa’s Epilogue. The winner of the second prize was Bethan Smith (South Essex College, Southend-on-Sea) with Balloon-song and the third prizewinner was Millie Guille from St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury, Berkshire with her poem Maiden Voyage. 
  • The other short-listed winners were: Hannah Tran (Dalriada Gramar School, Ballymoney, Co.Antrim) with The Sirens Tell their Tale, Lucy Hely-Hutchinson (Benenden School, Cranbrook, Kent) with Postcards, and Jack Whitehead (Wells Cathedral School, Somerset) with The Water Boatman from Veules-Les-Roses. 
  • 31 Longlisted poets from 2012 have agreed to have their poems published on the Tower Poetry website at http://www.towerpoetry.org.uk/prize/longlisted-poems-2012