Members’ Poems

The Members’ Poems competition sets Poetry Society Members the task of writing a poem or poems on a theme chosen by a leading poet.

Huge congratulations to Sarah Barnsley, Carole Bromley, Brian Clark, Mary Mulholland, Ellora Sutton and Jane Wilkinson, who were chosen by judge Rachel Long, as the winners of our latest members’ poems competition on the Keats-inspired theme of ‘Waking dream’. Rachel would also like to give honourable mentions to Patricia Ace, Scott Elder and Victoria Kennefick. Rachel said, “I selected the poems that sustained the dream state; poems that moved with an innate surrealism and grace; poems that felt palpable and present and were not afraid to be both uncanny and deeply honest.”

Our thanks and commiserations to all those who sent in poems but weren’t selected this time. Please don’t be discouraged – we receive hundreds of entries and our judge is only able to pick six. Details of our latest competition are published below.

Look out for videos of our six winners reading their ‘Waking dream’ poems, which we’ll make available shortly.

All poems published in Poetry News are also eligible for the Hamish Canham Prize each year and between 2014 and 2018, the Anne Born Prize. The latest winner of the Hamish Canham Prize is Jo Burns.

Poetry News summer 2021 competition: The lesser loss

Jenny Lewis. Photo: Ben Prestney

Our summer Members’ Poems competition, now closed for entries, will be judged by Jenny Lewis, who has chosen the intriguing prompt ‘The lesser loss’. The phrase is taken from a quotation by French scholar and translator Anne Le Fèvre Dacier (1647-1720), the first woman to translate The Iliad, in relation to rendering Homer into English. Dacier preferred prose over poetry, claiming that it “affords the lesser loss”. “Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle ‘The Art of Losing’ looks at ‘lesser losses’ too, from a very different, ironic angle,” adds Jenny. “There is also Lucy Locket who lost her pocket and any number of famous people, real and imagined, who regret or celebrate some kind of loss. I hope you will lose your inhibitions and enjoy the challenge!”

Jenny Lewis is a poet, playwright and translator who teaches poetry at Oxford University. She has had seven plays and poetry cycles performed at major UK theatres, including the Royal Festival Hall, Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, where she was a core writing tutor for twenty years, and (for children) the Polka Theatre, London. Her first book of poetry, When I Became an Amazon (Iron Press, 1996) was broadcast on BBC Woman’s Hour and first performed as an opera by the Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Company of Russia in 2017. Jenny has published three further collections including Fathom (Oxford Poets/ Carcanet, 2007), Taking Mesopotamia (Oxford Poets/ Carcanet 2014) and Gilgamesh Retold (Carcanet Classics, 2018) which was a New Statesman Book of the Year, a Carcanet Book of the Year, an LRB Bookshop Book of the Week and Carcanet’s first ever audiobook. Her work with the exiled Iraqi poet Adnan Al-Sayegh includes two chapbooks, published by Mulfran Press, Now as Then: Mesopotamia-Iraq (2013) and Singing for Inanna (2014), and the first major translation into English (with Ruba Abughaida and others) of extracts from Al-Sayegh’s 550-page epic poem, Uruk’s Anthem, published by Seren in 2020.

Submission details
  • The deadline for entries is 3 May 2021; poems must be unpublished as of our summer issue publication date of end June 2021.
  • Please send no more than two poems on the theme of ‘The lesser loss’ (any additional poems which will not be submitted to the judge).
  • Poems must be a maximum of forty lines, typed on A4, with your membership number, not name and address, at the foot. Entries that do not carry a membership number cannot be forwarded to the judge.
  • Please enter online via Submittable at thepoetrysociety.submittable.com/submit, particularly as the post is likely to be disrupted during the coronavirus epidemic. You will need to create your own Submittable account but this is a straightforward process.  If you have difficulties, please email Mike Sims, Editor, at [email protected]
  • Winners appear in Poetry News and win books and entry into the Hamish Canham Prize.