L-R: Moniza Alvi (photo Steve Lyne), Gerry Cambridge (photo Alex Boyd), Jack Underwood (photo Hayley Madden).

Moniza Alvi

“A single step forwards, such as that of entering a competition, can be a crucial one, encouraging your own development as a writer, making you reflect intently on your poems. Having entered, you’ll surely read the winning poems with increased interest. Perhaps you’ll win a prize, or be shortlisted or longlisted? The steps in taking your poems seriously and doing your best for them are as important as winning or not winning.”

goodideas - transparentMoniza Alvi was born in Pakistan and grew up in Hertfordshire. After working for many years as a schoolteacher in London, she is now a freelance writer and tutor living in Wymondham, Norfolk. Her first collection The Country at My Shoulder (Oxford University Press, 1993) was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot and Whitbread poetry prizes and she was amongst The Poetry Society’s ‘New Generation Poets’ in 1994. Her later collections, published by Bloodaxe Books, include Europa (2008) and At the Time of Partition (2013). Both were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Moniza received a Cholmondeley Award in 2002.

Gerry Cambridge 

“Do poets ever write poems specifically to try and win competitions? I doubt it. A genuine poet will be as true to the energy of the poem as he or she can be; thereafter, its reception by readers or by competition judges has to be left to the Fates. So why enter? Well, for the possibility of winning £5,000 of course, or one of the other substantial prizes. But at least as much for the distinction having your poem chosen by a panel of your peers—because the judges read everything. And because those same judges are as keen to find genuine, powerful, and surprising poems as the poets are to write them and to have them recognised as such—and there is as good a chance that one of them could be yours as anyone else’s, whoever you might be.”

invisible-ink-transparentGerry Cambridge is a poet, essayist and editor with substantial interest in print design and typography as well as a background in natural history photography. His recent books include Notes for Lighting a Fire (HappenStance Press, 2012) and Aves (Essence Press, 2007)—a collection of prose poems about wild birds. The TLS, reviewing Notes for Lighting a Fire, wrote: “[Cambridge’s] poetry has something of Robert Frost’s tone and seriousness, but rings with a deeply personal Scottish resonance all its own.” Since 1995 Gerry has published and edited The Dark Horse, a twice-yearly transatlantic poetry journal. Dennis O’Driscoll called it “among the truly outstanding poetry magazines of the English-speaking world.”

Jack Underwood

“I’m hoping to find a poem that is guided by a strong sense of imagination, or does something with language that asks a new question, or puts a fresh skew on an idea. I think that risk and insight can make for more interesting reading than competency and polish. There shouldn’t be such a thing as a “prize-winning poem” if by that we mean it exhibits some predictable traits; poetry can easy fall into habits, tropes, idioms, predictable moves, so I will be looking for a poem that makes new space for itself to occupy, and that demands its formal arrangement instead of seeming constrained by it.”

tea-transparentJack Underwood was born in Norwich in 1984, and lectures in creative writing and English literature at Goldsmiths College. He received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2007, and was named a Faber New Poet in 2009. His debut collection, Happiness, was published by Faber & Faber in 2015. He was a founding editor of the anthology series Stop Sharpening Your Knives and has written criticism for both The Poetry Review and Poetry London.

Moniza Alvi photo credit: Steve Lyne

Gerry Cambridge photo credit: Alex Boyd

Jack Underwood photo credit: Hayley Madden

Past judges

2015: Sarah Howe, Esther Morgan, David Wheatley
2014: Roddy Lumsden, Glyn Maxwell, Zoë Skoulding
2013: Julia CopusMatthew SweeneyJane Yeh
2012: Vicki FeaverW.N. Herbert, Nick Laird
2011: Colette BryceJohn GlendayJackie Kay
2010: Sinéad MorrisseyDeryn Rees-JonesGeorge Szirtes
2009: Ruth PadelNeil RollinsonDaljit Nagra
2008: Brian Patten, Frieda Hughes, Jack Mapanje
2007: E.A. Markham, Michael Schmidt, Penelope Shuttle
2006: John Burnside, Lee Harwood, Alice Oswald
2005: Alison Brackenbury, Bernardine Evaristo, Mark Ford
2004: Ciaran Carson, Elaine Feinstein, Simon Smith, Denis MacShane MP (chair)
2003: Paul Farley, Medbh McGuckian, Grace Nichols, Debbie Taylor (chair)
2002: Simon Armitage, Suzi Feay, Selima Hill, Hugo Williams
2001: Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Michael DonaghyIan Duhig, Michele Roberts
2000: Lavinia GreenlawIan McMillan, Don Paterson, Germaine Greer (chair)
1999: John Agard, Robert Crawford, Ruth Padel, Michael Rosen (chair)
1998: Matthew Sweeney, David Dabydeen, Kathleen Jamie
1997: Roger McGoughAndrew MotionCarol Ann Duffy, Monizi Alvi
1996: Paul Durcan, Jo Shapcott, Paul Hyland
1995: Paul Muldoon, U.A. Fanthorpe, Andrew McAllister
1994: Fleur Adcock, Jackie Kay, Lemn Sissay, Susan Roberts (chair)
1993: Sean O’Brien, Helen Dunmore, Anthony Thwaite
1992: Maura Dooley, Simon Rae, Michael Longley
1991: Liz Lochhead, John Whitworth, David Dabydeen, John Heath-Stubbs
1990: Kit Wright, Grace Nichols, Simon Armitage
1989: Carol Ann Duffy, Fleur Adcock, Herbert Lomas
1988: Jonathan Barker, Edwin Morgan, George Szirtes
1987: Douglas Dunn, Edna Longley, Fred D’Aguiar
1986: Wendy Cope, John Fuller, Ken Smith
1985: Carol Rumens, Roy Fisher, Tom Paulin
1984: James Berry, George McBeth, Hugo Williams
1983: Vernon Scannell, Gillian Clarke, Kevin Crossley Holland
1982: Christopher Reid, Paul Muldoon, Frances Horovitz
1981: Roger McGough, Edwin Morgan, Peter Porter
1980: Patricia Beer, Douglas Dunn, George McBeth
1979: Brian Patten, Anne Stevenson, Craig Raine
1978: Ted Hughes, Fleur Adcock, Gavin Ewart