Wild Poem Competition 2020

Anna wild with ben 

Short-listing Judge Anna Saunders and
Main Judge Ben Ray announce the winners

Ben Ray writes:

It has been such a privilege and a wonderfully enjoyable and transporting experience to read and judge all of these poems – thank you to everyone who has taken the time and effort to draft, to write, to edit, to submit.

Creating and sharing poetry is one of life’s joys, and to be witness to the joys of others truly is a beautiful thing.

First place: Lady Hurricane by Tammy Armstrong

The combination of masterly handling of poetic free-form and the sheer richness of language here almost blows you away on the first approach – quite the match for its subject matter. This poem challenges the reader, demanding several read-throughs simply to luxuriate in the various poetic devices used and the word-paintings created. Tough issues are tackled with deceptive lightness amongst a maelstrom that leaves the reader almost dizzy with the sheer energy of the piece. It is only when the reader has been spat out the other side that one can discern order amongst the chaos, with the abstract colliding with the minute and ultimately creating a poem one experiences as well as reads.

Second place: Flamingo by Sue Finch

This poem is so warm, so immediately loveable and welcoming– it almost flows off the page when read. Imagery and colour is used intelligently and carefully here, employed at just the right moments across the piece – as a reader you can feel the pinkness and sensation of feathers seeping through the words! The narrative poem format can often be heavy, but is used with such expert lightness of touch here, with a strong fairy-tale element giving the structure a deeper resonance that questions initial interpretations. The storytelling is deliciously dark, with a fantastic twist at the ending catching the reader unawares. 

Third place: Fenland Water Village by I. Patterson 

There is a beautiful succinctness and delicacy to this piece – the reader is immediately drawn to the playful use of spacing within the tight, rigid couplet form, making the poem much more than first meets the eye. This creates a fascinating experience, with slightly different shapes created by the piece each time it’s read. The subject matter is powerful and boldly painted, with each word crisp and carefully picked – absolutely nothing is wasted here. The overall sensation of unexpected gaps amongst the flowing regularity brings to mind the flat, rolling fenland itself – the reader finds themselves in the trench alongside the poet, amongst the mud and discovering treasures. 

The short list

There was nothing tame in the hundreds of entries in Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s Wild Poems competition. Judges Ben Ray and Anna Saunders worked extremely hard to develop a shortlist of 14 excellent poems, each of their authors vying for the prestige and value of a prize.
Anna & I have had great fun, and some quite fiery debates, drawing up a shortlist. [Ben Ray]
Shortlisted titles
Towards Earth
Wild Goose Barnacle Chase
Take Me Away Takeaway
The Last Day
When Lightning Struck Our Mare
Roe Deer
The Labours of Athena

In keeping with the Wild! theme of our 2020 festival, we held a contest for a poem inspired by that theme. We asked for poem(s) to be as unruly and untamed as the poet liked when interpreting the theme.

The winning poet receives £200, the second £75, and the third £25.

Winners and shortlisted poets will be honoured at a special online Wild Poem Competition event on 30 May 2020. All the winning and shortlisted poets are honoured for their success and invited to read their successful poem.

Judges: Poet Ben Ray* and Poetry Festival Founder and CEO Anna Saunders read all entries anonymously.

Our sponsors for this competition are two wonderful independent shops in Cheltenham.

*Ben Ray

Ben is the 2019 New Poets Prize winner with The Poetry Business and was long-listed for the 2019 National Poetry Prize. An accomplished young poet, he comes from the Welsh borders with ‘a fresh and original poetic voice – full of wit, twists, surprises, echoes and challenges’ (Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian). His second collection ‘What I heard on the Last Cassette Player in the World‘ is released with Indigo Dreams Publishing, and he has work published with Seren Books. His third collection ‘The Kindness of the eel’ will be published with The Poetry Business in 2020.

Competition Rules

Opening: 15 November 2019 Closing : 11.59pm 29 February 2020

  • Open to all poets from anywhere in the world.
  • To maintain anonymous judging, there must be no identifying marks on any poem or title..
  • All poems must be entirely the entrant’s own work and must not have been published in print or online before the closing date of the competition.
  • All entries must be in English and no translations are permitted unless the poet has translated their own original poem.
  • Your entry should contain no more than 70 lines.
  • You may submit up to four entries, provided an entry fee is paid for each. Each poem must be in a separate file in Word or  Rich Text format.
  • Each poem must have a title for reference in judging. Each file’s name should be the title of its poem, or the first four words if the title is long.
  • Entries should be emailed after paying an entry fee and completing an entry form.
  • Do not put any identification on the work. The competition administrator will match your entry title to your email address after anonymous judging is complete.
  • Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but a poem must be withdrawn in the event of it winning a prize or publication elsewhere. Entry fees are not refundable once an entry has been received.
  • Work will not be returned, so please keep a copy.
  • We are unable to give feedback on individual entries or on the results of the competition — the judges’ decisions are final.
  • The shortlist will be emailed to all contestants by 30 March 2020 and published on this web site. Winners will be announced at the 2020 Cheltenham Poetry Festival.
  • The fee is £4 or £14 for four entries. The Early Bard lower entrance fee rate expired on 14 January.
  • Fees must be paid before entries are submitted. Once you have paid and completed your entry form and paid your entry fee(s), you will be be able to click on the link below and attach your entries to an email.