Stephen Boyce, Chair of Winchester Poetry Festival, talks about the development of the Winchester Poetry Prize which is now in its fifth year.
Entering poetry competitions is a way of providing vital support to poetry promoters, publishers and festivals. And if you’re lucky enough to be selected it’s an excellent way to draw attention to your work.
When we first introduced the Winchester Poetry Prize in 2016 – thanks to the enthusiastic prodding of Festival Manager, Madelaine Smith – we knew we had to stand out from the crowd. For this we had three criteria: we should employ a highly respected judge, we should offer a significant prize, and we should treat all our entrants well. The last of these meant making the process as straightforward as possible, providing an enjoyable reading opportunity for commended poets and publishing their work in an appealing format.
We achieved over 1400 entries in the first year and quickly committed to running the Winchester Poetry Prize on an annual basis. In 2018 we were proud to welcome Paris Smith as sponsors of the prize and we introduced a category for best poem from a writer living in Hampshire sponsored by Warren & Sons.
It’s important to us that the judge should read all the entries so that every poem has an equal chance of commending itself to them. All our judges have commented on the rich variety of entries, the originality and craft on display, and the delight to be found in unexpected discoveries. Below we have reproduced the winning entries from the last four years of the Prize, selected respectively by Mimi Khalvati, Sarah Howe, Liz Berry and Helen Mort. The anthologies in which these and all the winning and commended poems appear are available through our online shop.
On the Prize pages of this website you can also find a helpful steer from this year’s judge, Andrew McMillan, on what he’ll be looking for in making his choice. The closing date for the 2020 competition is 31 July. Do consider entering – and the very best of luck.
Winchester Poetry Prize Past Winners
2016 - Eve Ellis - 'Haint'
2017 - Caleb Parkin - 'Somewhere to Keep the Rain'
2018 - Inua Ellams - 'Plight'
2019 - Peter Iveson - 'Mother's milk'
All of the previous winners can be read here.