(if you have recently had a prize, do let us know.  Scroll down to see previous successes.)


closing date: 31 January 2022
Judge: Katrina Naomi


The Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize Competition 2022
(Two competitions in one)
will close on January 31st 2022
First prize: publication & 70 copies of your pamphlet
Cash for 2nd, 3rd & 4th placed poems
Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition
Judge: Mark Totterdell, author of Mollusc
Closing date: 31st January 2022
Slipstream Poets Competition 
Closing date 28th February 2022


for other current poetry competitions, browse:

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(If you have had a publication, or a prize, do tell me – see Contacts page … Peter)

Jean Hall‘s  sestina ‘Waiting for Violet’ is Highly Commended in Indigo Dreams’ Wild Nature Poetry Award 2021.

Jenna Plewes is the Winner of the Hedgehog Press ‘Nicely Folded Paper – Sept’ Pamphlet Competition.

Pam Job has a Commendation in the Teignmouth Poetry Festival 2021.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad was pleased to be Commended in Suffolk Poetry Society’s Crabbe Poetry Competition. 

Pam Job is Highly Commended in Ver Poets Competition 2021.

Alex Toms is Commended in the Kent and Sussex Open Poetry Competition, for her poem ‘Etiquette for Living with Angels’.

Pam Job wins First Prize in the Grey Hen Poetry Competition 2021.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy was shortlisted in the Hedgehog Poetry Press ‘White Label – Six’ First Collection competition 2021.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy‘s poem I have heard the sad, dead voices is long-listed in the Dempsey & Windle Summer competion What Next 2020.

Rosie Sandler’s poem 120 Bricks: highly commended in the Poetry Society’s inaugural Art to Poetry Award (2020) in partnership with Artlyst. This is a new ekphrastic poetry competition.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy has had three poems long-listed in the Fish Poetry Prize 2020: they were Girl with long hair / You can have the Lamborghini / Wall artist. The judge was Billy Collins, and the total entry was 1,952.

Alex Toms has been highly commended in the Acumen Poetry International Poetry Competition 2020 for her poem Paracetamol.

Pam Job has won 4th prize in the Kent and Sussex Poetry Society Open Competition 2020 with her poem The Natural History of Fireflies.

Tim Gardiner is in the European Top 100 Haiku poets for 5th year running

Alex Toms‘ poem, Daedalus in Therapy has been awarded 3rd prize by Malika Booker in the Mslexia/Poetry Book Society Women’s Poetry Competition 2019

Pam Job is commended in the Crabbe Poetry Competition 2019

Pam Job is commended in the Second Light Poetry Competition 2019

Peter Ualrig Kennedy’s poem Man of Ice made the short-list in the Fish Poetry Prize 2019 (West Cork Literary Festival) judged by Billy Collins.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy was commended in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize 2018.

Pam Job is placed second in the prestigious Magma Poetry Competition 2017/2018 with her poem ‘The Raku Helmet’.

Bryan Thomas won First Prize in the Friends of Lowestoft Library Creative Writing Competition 2016 with his poem ‘State of the Union’.

Pam Job won, for the second time, the Crabbe Memorial Competition 2016 and had a second poem commended.
(For a full list, see

Alex Toms has won a runner’s up prize in this year’s (2016) Mslexia Women’s Poetry Competition, judged by Liz Lochead, with her poem The Poacher’s Daughter.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy was represented in the Poem for Europe feature in The New European on January 20-26, 2016, with his poem After the Fall.

Alex Toms won First Prize in the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition 2015 with her poem Lessons for an Apprentice Eel Catcher.

Alex Toms took second place in the Crabbe Memorial Poetry Prize 2015 with her poem The Last Lady Eel Catcher.

Bryan Thomas awarded First Prize in the ‘The only way is Essex’ category of the Age UK Essex Writers Poetry and Prose Competition 2015 for his poem Maritime 1935-75.

Pam Job: awarded a ‘Commended’ in the Enfield Poetry Competition judged by Ruth Padel.

Eliza Kentridge won (jointly with Nkosinathi Sithole) the UJ Debut Prize, for her collection Signs for an Exhibition. This University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing in English is given annually for “the best original creative work in English published in the previous calendar year”. This is the first time a prize has gone to a book of poetry.

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Roger Caldwell ….. FIRST PRIZE
Peter Kennedy ….. SECOND PRIZE
Alex Toms ….. THIRD PRIZE


Stephen Boyce won FIRST PRIZE in the poetrywivenhoe Poetry Competition 2014.

Rosie Sandler won FIRST PRIZE in the Southwell Bramley Apple Festival poetry competition 2014.

(See below)

(If you hear of any other local successes, do tell us – see Contacts page)

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(Results first, then some background stats below)

1st Prize ~ £200.00
Stephen Boyce, Winchester, Hampshire
(see the Poems Page to read Stephen’s poem)

2nd Prize ~ £100.00
Joan Michelson, London

3rd Prize ~ £50.00
Anthony Watts, Hatch Beauchamp, Taunton, Somerset


Candyce Lange (twice), Clacton-on-Sea, Essex
Pat Borthwick, Kirby Underdale, East Yorkshire
Rosie Sandler, Langford, Maldon, Essex
Patricia Bloom, Colchester, Essex
Derek Taylor, North Hykeham, Linconshire
Chris Waters, Littlehempstone, Totnes, Devon
Children’s Prizes (£10.00 book token each)
Hope Kevlin-Alderton, St Osyth, Point Clear, Essex
Miles & Teresa Black, Wivenhoe, Essex

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Roger Caldwell … FIRST PRIZE in the Essex Poetry Competition 2014 for ‘John Steed in Retirement Remembers Mrs Peel

Peter Kennedy ….. SECOND PRIZE in the Essex Poetry Competition 2014 for ‘The Eve of the Wedding

Alex Toms ….. THIRD PRIZE in the Essex Poetry Competition 2014 for ‘The Eel Catcher Dreams of Horses

Roger Caldwell for ‘The Tunnel: a Question in Philosophy


The Southwell Bramley Apple Festival poetry competition 2014, sponsored by Southwell Folio magazine, has been won by Rosie Sandler.

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OTHER COMPETITIONS For a really comprehensive list of poetry prize competitions we suggest you go to:



** Pam Job has won the Crabbe Poetry Prize 2013, she has been Commended in the Second Light Open Poetry Competition, and her poem Day without End has been published in ‘London Grip New Poetry Autumn 2013’. AND her most recent success has been to win second prize in the prestigious Plough Poetry Competition, judged by Andrew Motion, with her poem Benjamin Britten Walks Out in Spring. Karen Dennison too had a Commendation in the Second Light Open Poetry Competition 2013 for her poem Wayfaring. Alex Toms received a Commendation for her poem Becoming Sei in the Poetry London Competition 2013, judged by Pascale Petit (published in Poetry London 13 this autumn). Roger Caldwell had a Commendation in the 2013 Larkin and East Riding Poetry Competition for ‘Letter from Teheran‘. The judge was Jackie Kay. Phil Cohen has been Commended in the Fosseway Writers Poetry Competition 2013. * Alex Toms was among the winners of the Essex Poetry Festival’s 12th Open Poetry Competition 2012 (adjudicator: Pascale Petit) with her Highly Commended poem On Entering the Eel Catcher’s Workshop. Joan Taylor — runner-up in New Zealand poetry competition, Poems in the Waiting Room 2012. Peter Kennedy Highly Commended in the 2012 Camden/Lumen Poetry Competition judged by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.


THE WIVENHOE POETRY PRIZE 2011 prizewinners:

First Prize: Martin Malone
Second Prize: Joy Winkler
Third Prize: Chris Waters
Merits: Stephen Boyce, Diana Hirst, Candyce Lange, Leslie Tate, Hazel Humphreys


So, you have your poems ready for a poetry competition. But, before you send them off, take some time to have a look at them again.

Firstly, are these poems suitable for this particular poetry competition? For example, poems that are essentially comic rarely win general competitions (which is not to say that a sense of humour or a vein of wit doesn’t help.). There are competitions (and sometimes sections of competitions) that specifically invite comic poems. But where there is a straight fight between a good comic poem and a good serious one it is the latter that is most likely to win.

Similarly, there are certain subjects that are likely to invite suspicion as being over-familiar: for example, if you are going to write a poem about your pet you had better make it damned good to have any chance of success. (I know of one editor of a poetry journal who banned poems about cats and about God. Though obviously there have been good poems about cats and [rather more] about God in the past, I presume his ban was one based on present experience – that they tend to result in especially bad poems in the present.)

Nor is serious subject-matter or strong feeling any guarantee of poetic worth. Poems about such subjects as the holocaust should not be content to direct our emotions where they are directed anyway, but should have something in them that also makes us think afresh. For that, coming at a fresh angle is required. Don’t forget either that, just as it is possible to make an essentially trivial poem about a serious subject, it is possible to make a serious poem about an overtly trivial subject.

In general, do your poems work on the page? That is, what may go over well in oral presentation doesn’t necessarily succeed in printed. Remember, the judge hasn’t heard your work, what he or she has to go on is only what he or she can read, and faults that may be passed over in an oral rendition, particularly if the reader is an especially persuasive one, such as the odd weak line or tired epithet or faulty rhythm, are not going to be overlooked by the judge who reads the poem on the page.

Are you presenting your poem in the best way? Entrants are advised not to use fancy fonts or decorative curlicues: this will usually be interpreted as a mark of desperation and treated with suspicion. A poem of any worth doesn’t need to advertise itself as such. Similarly, poems with handwritten additions or alterations suggest that the writer hasn’t thought enough about them in advance. A straightforward unmessy presentation is preferred. The clean clear copy is often a sign of professionalism; one hard to read, and with last-minute changes, is not.

Some sorts of poems can get by without punctuation. Most can’t. The point of punctuation is make it straightforward to follow the order of thought, and (in a poem at least) to guide its rhythm. (A full stop will indicate a long pause, a comma a short one, etc.) This is elementary enough, yet it is surprising how often it is neglected.
A properly-punctuated poem is, again, a sign that the poet has thought about what he or she is doing.

Punctuation should also be consistent. In some cases it is merely conventional.
For example, it was once common for poems to have the first letter of the first word of each line capitalized; now it is commoner not to do so. The one way is not better than the other: the point is that you choose your convention and stick to it – or if you deviate from it should be for a reason.

There is an element of serendipity about poetry competitions, but in most cases,
I suspect, the judge is conscientious enough, and, though good poems may be overlooked in any one competition, they are unlikely to be overlooked forever – at least not if they are properly presented. But the point is to make the poem good in the first place, and the only way to do this is to become increasingly self-critical (even your best friends won’t tell you everything!), and the only way to become more self-critical is to read more good poetry – not only contemporary poetry – and not to copy but to learn from it.

It is sometimes said that poetry competitions tend to play things safe and to exclude anything seen as too daring or too original. However, what is daring and original needs to work as a poem, and of course it is not going to win if it is inchoate or in an unfinished state. In general, it is fatally easy to think a poem is finished when it is not: quite small considerations can make the difference between a good poem and a bad one. Reading your work one more time before entering it may exhibit a glaring mistake, or an absurdity you had overlooked, or offer a chance to generally overhaul it. Remember: it is not the judge’s job to correct solecisms: what a judge has to work on is what is before them: it is their function to judge poems, not to re-write poems.

Right, you have done all this: time to send your poems off with the conviction that you have done your best. It is now time for the judge of the competition to do theirs. Good luck!

Roger Caldwell