Theme: Protest • Judge: Kim Moore! 


Theme: Protest • Judge: Kim Moore!



We were thrilled with the massive response to this year’s competition theme of PROTEST and to our judge for this year, the wonderful Kim Moore! SO many entries, of such high quality. Kim spent most of January reading ALL the poems (anonymously of course!) and she has selected her first, second and third prize winners, along with 21 commended poems, all of whom will feature in our annual competition anthology (published by sister press, Verve Poetry Press) and appear, should they wish, at our Competition Event at VERVE 2023 where they can meet and be introduced to our audience by Kim!




1st PRIZE – WENDELIN LAW for her poem ‘Ovation’.

Wendelin Law (she/her) is a poet and writer born and raised in Hong Kong’s concrete jungle. This city of monstrous high-rises taught her about freedom and protest. She was shortlisted for Magma Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2022 and was awarded 1st prize of Professor Shirley G.L Lim Poetry Writing Scholarship 2018. Her poetry and review have appeared in Hillfire Anthology, Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, PN Review and elsewhere. She holds MScs in Literature & Modernity and Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. Feel free to share protest poetry with her on twitter @wendylawwrites!

Kim’s thoughts on the winning poem: ‘In this deeply subversive poem, the poet wields satire as a weapon, exposing the fault lines and lies of dictators and the regimes they build around themselves. This poem seemed rich in references as well – I heard echoes of John Donne in here in the repeated ‘Oh my dictator, my dictator’ which made me think of ‘O my America, my newfound land’ and of course Tina Turner later on: ‘Rivers and oceans are deep, but not as deep as the love of a tyrant.’ I think it is a wonderful and original poem in its own right, but to send an ode that apparently lavishes praise on a tyrannical leader into a competition asking for ‘Protest’ poetry was a wonderfully bold and irreverent move.

2nd PRIZE – MIRANDA LYNN BARNES for her poem ‘In The Pines’.

Miranda Lynn Barnes is a poet and researcher from the US, now living near Nottingham. Her debut pamphlet, Blue Dot Aubade (V. Press) was published in 2020.

3rd PRIZE – CASEY JARRIN for her poem ‘When They Ask For Proof’

Casey Jarrin (she/they) is a poet, artist, educator, survivor who was shortlisted for the 2022 Bridport Prize. She’s completing her debut manuscript, The Naked Dinner. 


Becky Balfourth – Gemma Barnett – Fiona L Bennett – Hannah Burrows – Sujana Crawford – Glyn Edwards – Jack Emsden – Christopher Horton – Perla Kantarjian – Stephen Lightbown – Arji Manuelpillai – Nicholas McGaughey – Steve Pottinger – Julie Runacres – Sue Spiers – Caroline Stancer – Scarlett Ward – Iain Whiteley – Spencer Wood – Ros Woolner – Ruth Yates.

HUGE congratulations to them all! And thankyou to everyone who entered our competition with poems of such high quality! Our PROTEST themed event at VERVE 2023 (Sunday 19th Feb 11:00am – 12:30pm), hosted by Kim, is FREE to attend but tickets must be booked to ensure your place is kept as it is always hugely popular. This event will have BSL interpretation and will be LIVE streamed for those who wish or need to attend remotely. Tickets available NOW! VERVE 2023 Line-Up | Verve Poetry Festival

The judge

Kim Moore’s pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2011 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. Her first collection The Art of Falling (Seren 2015) won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Her second collection All The Men I Never Married (Seren, 2021) is currently shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection.  Her first non-fiction book What The Trumpet Taught Me will be published by Smith/Doorstop in May 2022. She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.

“Judging a poetry competition is one of my favourite gigs – it’s like being given permission to look through hundreds of windows and into people’s front rooms.  Having said that, I’m never quite sure what I’m looking for – I’m equally attracted to looking through a window and seeing for example, a cave, or a forest or a living room with textured wallpaper and paisley carpet.  

I’ll be looking for poems where the form supports the content or the thematic material, poems where it feels as if that poem couldn’t have been in any other form other than the one they’ve been written in.  I’m obsessed with white space and line breaks, so this is something I always pay close attention to when reading.   

 Life as protest. The body as protest. Silence as protest. The voice as protest. Language as protest.  Focusing on the tiniest of things – a flower, a leaf and refusing to look away in a world that constantly tells us to move our attention onward is an act of protest. Please interpret the theme of Protest as widely/wildly as you like, and most of all, enjoy writing. I’m really looking forward to reading your poems.”

Kim Moore

2023 Judge

Previous Competitions

FOR 2022 the theme of our competition was ‘Beginnings’ and the judge was none other than Caroline Bird! We hoped that this year’s poems would reflect the pause that the pandemic that shall not be named has forced upon us all, some violently, some peacefully, but all of us together, pausing. We hoped they would also, in part, be a celebration of the opportunities that this brief pause might have given us, the new directions that may have emerged as a result. But the pandemic has been a harrowing thing for many, with loved ones lost, careers ended, financial struggles, and these things won’t just disappear with a vaccine and the return of live arts events. With every beginning there is also an end, and not all that is new is for the best.


1st Prize: Eden the Robot Gardener by Ben Rhys Palmer

2nd Prize: Cruelty by Luke Palmer

3rd Prize: When I Marry a White Man by Helen Quah 

Commended Poets:

Kathryn Bevis . Julian Bishop . Helen Bowell . Rachael Chong . Maria Ferguson . Catherine Gander . Katie Hale . Tania Hershman . Christopher Horton . Julie Irigaray . Christopher M James . Ellie Jenkins . Prerana Kumar . Vanessa Lampert . James McDermott . Estelle Price . Tom Sastry . Matt L.T. Smith . James Trevelyan . Rushika Wick . Annina Zheng-Hardy.

For our 2020 festival, the theme for our competition was Diversity (what better for a festival with diversity at its heart?). The quality of the entries was sky high and gave judge and event host Andrew McMillan a real problem when it came to selecting his top three and his commended titles.(see the results in full below). We wondered with our theme how celebratory the poems might be, and the feeling was fairly unanimous that while diversity should be celebrated, it wasn’t yet time to ignore the struggles and misunderstandings that often surround diverse approaches to love and life. However these poems also carried a determination to communicate the frustrations as well as the positives of varied approaches to living and ways of being, and the feeling was of a quest to create understanding and tolerance not yet over. There is work to be done! We hope the anthology that contains all the winning poems from the competition will help carry on that fight by helping to communicate diverse stories and approaches to the world.

1st Prize: The Dogs by Eleanor Penny

2nd Prize: Gaylord by Jack Parlett

3rd Prize: How To Wheel by Karl Knights 

Commended Poets:

Isabelle Baafi, Estelle Birdy, Dale Booton, Claire Collison, Jack Cooper, Natalie Crick, Jade Cuttle, Miles Fagge, Samuel Green, Roma Havers, Prerena Kumar, Paul Howarth, Christopher James, Tim Kiely, Zosia Kuczynska, Maria Leonard, Stephanie Papa, Michael Saunderson, Thomas Stewart,, Kat Payne Ware, Hilary Watson, Natalie Whittaker.

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.