Theme: Diversity • COMPETITION NOW CLOSED – POEMS BEING JUDGED . Judge Andrew McMillan!


Theme: Diversity • COMPETITION NOW CLOSED – POEMS BEING JUDGED . Judge Andrew McMillan!


OUR COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED!!! Thankyou to the many, many of you who entered, mot of you on the deadline day of 31.08.19! 🙂 Here is the process from here on in….

1) All poems are being sent to Andrew McMillan to judge, having fist made sure that they are all anonymous as the rules dictate.

2) Andrew will select a first, second and third place poem, along with 21 commended poems to feature in the anthology. All poets selected will be contracted by 15.11.19. If you haven’t heard from us by this time, then on this occasion you have not been lucky.

3) Our winners and commended poets will be announced as part of our Festival 2020 line-up reveal on November 20 2019.

Good luck to poets who entered. We can’t wait to see your incredible entries! 🙂

Details of this year’s competition

Verve was originally conceived as a poetry festival for Birmingham – a city centre festival that appeals to the community in all its many and varied forms. We wanted to attract the young as much as the old, and to reach out and encompass the many cultural influences that abound in our city. Even now that we have started to appeal to a national audience, it is this initial idea that drives us. Poetry should be for all, not just the elite, and should be celebrated in all its forms, because as we know quality exists right across the poetry spectrum.

You won’t be surprised, therefore, to hear that this year, the theme for our competition is DIVERSITY. And we want this year’s poems to be a celebration of the variety, the multiplicity of approaches, the live and let live and by the way we have your back mentality that defines our festival, our approach to poetry and to life! We are looking for diverse subjects, diverse forms, diverse aims and achievements. We are looking for poetry that sings and growls, that rasps and squawks, that enjoys the feel of words on the tongue one minute and spits them out the next! We want poems that are a warm embrace and a shaking fist if needs be. We want it all (not too much to ask, is it?). We look forward to seeing and reading what you come up with!

The judge

Andrew McMillan’s debut collection physical was the first ever poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award. The collection also won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award (2016), an Eric Gregory Award (2016) and a Northern Writers’ award (2014). It was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Costa Poetry Award, The Sunday Time young Writer of the Year 2016, the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Polari First Book Prize. It was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Autumn 2015. Most recently physical has been translated into Norwegian (Aschehoug, 2017), a bi-lingual French edition, Le Corps Des Hommes (Grasset, 2018) and Galician (A Chan Da Polvora, 2019). His second collection, playtime, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2018. It was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Autumn 2018, a Poetry Book of the Month in both The Observer and The Telegraph and a Poetry Book of the Year in The Sunday Times. He is senior lecturer at the Manchester Writing School at MMU and lives in Manchester.

Andrew will read all the entries and choose 3 winning poems and 21 commended poems to feature in the anthology. Andrew will also attend and host the Diversity Poetry event at Verve and introduce the poets.

How to apply:

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 the Paypal button below. Only online payment is accepted.

Poem Options

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.


If you are a friend of Verve submitting a poem then you can submit 2 poems for the price of 1. For example if you want to send two poems then choose the option for 1 poem in the drop-down menu and send us two poems by email! 

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 be on the theme of DIVERSITY.
  • 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, 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), have a title, and be your original work. No translations, please.
  • All poems will be read and judged anonymously by Andrew. They 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.
  • There are three cash prizes: £500 for first place, £250 for second place and £100 for third place. 21 ‘commended’  poets will be included in our Diversity Themed Anthology and invited to read their poem alongside the prizewinners and four commissioned poets at our Diversity Poetry Event at Verve.

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

Previous competitions

The theme of our 2019 competition was ‘Community and was judged and hosted by the wonderful Joelle Taylor who was shocked both by the quality of the entries and the Brexit negativity that ran through the poetry – these communities were bemoaned rather than celebrated and the resulting collection, ‘Closed Gates or Open Arms?’ stands as a testament to a time of uncertainty that is with us still. Amy Acre, Jack Emsden and Oliver Fox were our three winners.

The theme for our 2017 competition was ‘City’. We figured that a city centre poetry festival needs city poems! We were inundated with entries of an amazingly high standard, giving the competition judge, Luke Kennard, a very tough task indeed. In the end, three winners were chosen: Consuela Marshall, Jacqueline Saphra and Claire Trévien.

These three poets, along with 21 commended poets, contributed to an anthology published by Verve Poetry Press in 2018 titled It All Radiates Outwards.

In 2016, our theme was Birmingham and our superstar judge was Hannah Silva. Entries contributed to a beautiful anthology, This is Not Your Final Form, published by The Emma Press.