Theme: Diversity • Judge Andrew McMillan


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


1st Prize: The Dogs by Eleanor Penny

2nd Prize: Gaylord by Jack Parlett

3rd Prize: How To Wheel by Karl Knights 

Commended Poets:

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


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.

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.