“outlandish elements”: a new National Poetry Competition writing resource from Joe Dunthorne

The National Poetry Competition 2021 is in full swing, and the entries are starting to stack up. As the competition progresses, The Poetry Society is commissioning writing guides from prize winners about poems that have been placed in the competition in past years.

Joe Dunthorne. photo: Tom Medwell

The latest of these is by Joe Dunthorne, who was commended in the competition in 2019. He examines the way that ‘Mum with Sword’ by Jack Nicholls and ‘I know you only invited me in for a coffee, but’ by Natalie Shaw bring the surreal into otherwise ordinary situations. Dunthorne says:

“I chose these two poems for how they make surrealism feel real. I love that their outlandish elements – a woman eating houses and breathing fire, a mum pottering around the garden with a ‘four-foot bastard sword’ – serve to help us understand the emotional force of seemingly mundane realities. These poems use surrealism, not for the sake of it or to be quirky, but to refresh our understanding of the world.”

Download the writing guide here. 

Begun in 1978, the National Poetry Competition is one of the biggest international competitions for a single poem in the English language. Previous winners include Helen Dunmore, Ruth Padel, Carol Ann Duffy, Jo Shapcott and Tony Harrison.

The Poetry Society will be commissioning more guides like this between now and the competition deadline, all of which can be found on the resources page of the National Poetry Competition website, along with even more resources from previous years. These guides are all free to access, and are designed to help poets in their own creative practice, whether or not they are planning on entering the finished poem into the competition.

Enter the National Poetry Competition here before the closing date of 31 October.

22 July 2021