Jenny Mitchell, Antony Owen and Trisha Heaney receive Bread and Roses Poetry Awards

Culture Matters, sponsored by Unite, have awarded Bread and Roses Poetry Awards to Poetry Society Members Jenny Mitchell and Antony Owen. There’s a prize of £100 each and an anthology of the poems of around a further 20 entrants will be published later in the year. The judges, Andy Croft of Smokestack Books and Mary Sayer from Unite, picked seven rather than five poems which they thought worthy winners of the Award. So Unite have kindly agreed to provide additional prize money this year for all seven poems. In addition, the mentoring package this year will be offered to fellow Poetry Society Member Trisha Heaney.

It is hard to write about the injustices of contemporary society without slipping into easy denunciations, second-hand phrases and borrowed anger. The best political poetry should also be painful to read, interrogating itself and challenging what the reader thinks they know or believe to be true.

The entries to this year’s Bread and Roses competition certainly share a sense of impatient rage and revulsion at the way the world works; but they are also distinguished by intellectual ambition, literary technique and political resilience. And they say what needs to be said about the subjects that matter most – inequality, work, unemployment, solidarity, struggle, homelessness, racism, illegal wars, environmental disaster. – Andy Croft, publisher of Smokestack Books

I was listening to Linton Kwesi Johnson on the radio the other day when he said ‘poetry doesn’t change the world, only people can do that’. Reading these magnificent, resonant poems and thinking about the people who wrote them and the people who will read them – gives me hope that massive and meaningful change in these overwhelming times is possible. – Mary Sayer, Unite in Schools Coordinator

Culture Matters aim to create new opportunities for working people to write poetry, and to encourage poets to focus on themes which are meaningful to working-class communities. In addition, they offer a mentoring and support package for writers who have not yet published a collection. Up to 3 of these entrants – who may or may not have won one of the main prizes – will be linked to an experienced, published poet, and they will be helped to produce their first published collection. The mentoring package this year will be offered to Trisha Heaney.

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4 August 2020