Press Release: 8 April 2008

Your chance to judge the National Poetry Competition

The announcement of Sinéad Morrissey winning the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2007 on 27 March 2008 also marked the competition’s 30th winner.

The first ever National Poetry Competition was back in the ‘Winter of Discontent’ (1978) and the then judges Fleur Adcock, Gavin Ewart and Ted Hughes chose as their winning poem the very aptly named ‘Dole Queue’ by Michael Hulse.

Since then the competition has earned itself a well deserved reputation for turning the spotlight on rising stars of the poetry world. One of the first black writers in Britain to achieve wider recognition, James Berry rose to prominence in 1981 when he won the National Poetry Competition with ‘Fantasy of an African Boy’. In 1983, another young poet who was just starting to cause a few ripples in the poetry world, won the competition with a poem called ‘Whoever She Was’-  she was Carol Ann Duffy.

For the already established poet, winning the competition can be both encouraging and validating, as Stephen Knight explains about his winning poem 'The Mermaid Tank' in 1992. “I believed [this was] a departure from the poems in my then recently completed first book; winning the National Poetry Competition was a timely encouragement to continue down the new path it opened up”. Ruth Padel felt a similar thing about her win in 1996 with ‘Icicles Round A Tree in Dumfriesshire’, “it was amazing and validating to win with a poem – I had been doing new things in it that I felt were risky.”

To celebrate 30 successful years, which have made the National Poetry Competition one of the most important prizes in the poetry calendar, we would like to give visitors to the Poetry Society website the opportunity to have a go at judging this highly prestigious prize by voting for their personal favourite of the past winners.

By going to the Poetry Society website visitors can read and vote online for their favourite winning poem.

The winner will be announced on the website on Friday 1 August 2008.

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Notes to Editors

  • You can read the winning poems on the Poetry Society’s website at
  • The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2008, with judges Frieda Hughes, Jack Mapanje and Brian Patten will launch on 14 April 2008. You will be able to enter online or download an entry form at or send a stamped addressed envelope to Competition Organiser(PR) 22 Betterton Street London WC2H 9BX.