Verve Poetry Competition

Verve Poetry Festival 2018 City Poetry Competition

Thank you all so much for your 2018 entries. The winners will be announced in the coming weeks and the authors of the best fifteen poems will be invited to read alongside six commissioned poets at our City Poetry Event at Verve 2018!

You can book your free tickets to said City Poems event here.


Acclaimed Birmingham poet Roy Fisher famously published his long poem City as a kind of poetic hymn to a city he often loathed but ultimately loved. Decades later, another poet with Brummie roots, Benjamin Zephaniah, wrote his City Psalms, placing verse covering the topics of politics, race and injustice in a resolutely city setting.

 A city centre poetry festival needs city poems! For this year’s competition we’d like to hear and read yours. But how will you write about the city, and will your city be real or imaginary? Will your city be your focus, or will you set your poem in your city with the cosmopolitan conurbation as a back-drop? Will your city be a positive, lively place, filled with energy and vigour? Will it be violent and threatening? Will you be alone in your city, or amongst friends? Will your poem take on the shape of your city? Will it be tall and thin like a sky-scraper? Or widen and narrow like your city’s river? Only you can answer these questions, but we can hardly wait to find out!

1st prize £500, 2nd £250 and 3rd prize worth £100.

Deadline and city theme
Verve’s poetry contest this year is for city themed poems. It opens on Sunday, 1st Oct 2017 and closes midnight Saturday, 25th Nov 2017.


Submissions have now closed for 2018.


The Judge

Luke Kennard has published five collections of poetry,  including The Harbour Beyond the Movie and most recently and to great acclaim, Cain. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2007. He lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. In 2014 he was selected by the Poetry Book Society as one of the Next Generation Poets. His debut novel, The Transition, was published in 2017 by Fourth Estate.

He closed Verve Poetry Festival in 2017, and will do so again in 2018 as part of Local Legends – our Birmingham Spoken Word Scene Night of Nights!

Luke will read all the entries and choose 3 winning poems and 12 commended poems. Luke will also attend the City Poetry event at Verve and introduce the poets.


1st Prize: £500
2nd Prize: £250
3rd Prize: £100
Commended: 12 commended poets will be invited to read their poem alongside the prizewinners and six commissioned poets at our City Poetry Event at Verve.

PayPal payment

The cost of entry to our competition is £5.00 for the first poem and £3.00 for each subsequent poem. Please pay using this Paypal link. Only online payment is accepted. 

Email Entries
Once your Paypal payment is completed you must email your poem(s) to, each on a separate Word or PDF document. Your personal details must not be anywhere on the document(s) containing your poem(s). In the body of your email, please leave your name, postal address, email address and telephone contact details, along with the receipt number for your PayPal payment.

Audio Entries

Because we wish to encourage entries from performance poets as well as those who write with the page in mind, we will accept audio entries of work on mp3 or .wma. ALL audio entries however must also be accompanied by a written version of the work and be emailed as described above.

Competition Rules

  • Poems must be no more than 80 lines long excluding title, and be typed on A4 paper. There is no minimum length for entries.
  • Poems should have a City focus or context.
  • Poems must be in English and your own original work.
  • The competition is open to anyone aged 16 or over.
  • Poems must be typed, in English, and unpublished. (They must not have been published, self-published or accepted for publication in print or online, broadcast, or have won or been placed in another competition at any time)
  • Poems must have a title, and be your original work. No translations.
  • All poems will be read and judged anonymously by Luke, cannot be returned, and may not be altered after submission. The judge’s decisions are final.
  • No person may win more than one prize.
  • The copyright of each poem remains with the author, although the organisers have the right to publish winning and commended poems on our website, on online social media, and once in any anthology of poetry that Verve Poetry Festival chooses to organise.

No travelling or accommodation costs can be paid in connection with any prize awarded or for attendance to read at Verve Poetry Festival.


Verve Poetry Festival 2017 competition winners

Thank you to everyone that submitted poems for Birmingham’s inaugural Poetry & Spoken Word Festival’s competition. Our guest judge, Hannah Silva, who read all entries, was looking for poems on a ‘Birmingham’ theme that surprised, delighted, and offered an original perspective on the city. We’re thrilled to announce the winners of the first year’s competition are:

1st Prize – £500 – Susannah Dickey
2nd Prize – £250 – Jenna Clake
3rd Prize – £100 – Gill Learner
4th Prize – £100 Waterstones Voucher – Tessa Foley

Huge congratulations to all poets and thank you to everyone that entered! You can purchase the new Birmingham-themed anthology, published by Verve partners The Emma Press, from their website.