Theme: Protest • Judge: Kim Moore! • Open 14/11/22 – 02/01/23


Theme: Protest • Judge: Kim Moore! • Open 14/11/22 – 02/01/23


Details of this year’s competition – open for entries 14/11/22 – 02/01/23!


With the announcement that VERVE will be returning in 2023 comes the news that our annual VERVE Poetry Competion is also returning, with a wonderful new judge and a brand new theme.

In our current climate, we ask ourselves these questions more and more: What is poetry good for? What does it do in the world? What are we working for and why? What are we working against? This year, we’re getting right to the point, and asking for poems on the theme PROTEST. Whether it’s a poem to be shouted in the streets or a poem to be whispered in secret defiance, we want to hear it. Poems in the form of letters of complaint, chants or (we assume, quite large) placcards also welcome. 

As always we are looking for fresh approaches to a broad subject, and a range of emotions. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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

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 your first 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, either as a Word doc or PDF. There is no minimum length for entries.
  • Poems should be on the theme of PROTEST.
  • 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 Kim Moore. 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 Protest Themed Anthology and invited to read their poem alongside the prizewinners and four commissioned poets at our Protest Poetry Event at VERVE, hosted by Kim! Those who attend will be given a free one day pass to enjoy ony of the other events on that day at the festival.

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

We returned in 2022 with a aptly themed competion: 'Beginnings' judged by Caroline Bird. Witht the highest number of entries ever, we were thrilled with the outcome of this new beginning for VERVE.

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.