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National Poetry Competition and a Finished Creatures launch

Just grabbing a few minutes on Easter Saturday to write this. There’s only so much gardening you can do before needing a break. So, now I’ve tackled the wayward honeysuckle…

Last week, Peter Kenny and I treated ourselves to an informal ‘works do’ by going along to the prize giving for the National Poetry Competition on the South Bank in London.  We were  armed with a handful of home-made business cards for Planet Poetry, just in case, I and even gave a couple out, but we didn’t do any ‘roving mic’ interviews or anything, as I’m not sure we’re organised enough for that. But we enjoyed hearing the winning poems and (naturally) dissecting everything on the train home.

We talked about it on the podcast, so I won’t repeat myself here. The winner was Lee Stockdale, an American poet who we heard had entered the competition many times before before nailing the jackpot. Of course, hearing each poem read, just once, wasn’t nearly enough time to appreciate any of them properly. Certainly, there were poems (including the winner) which left me a bit nonplussed by on the night, but I warmed to them subsequently after reading them in the Winners’ Anthology.

Poetry competitions are a bit nuts, aren’t they? But lovely if you win, of course, and even a ‘commended’ or a ‘longlisting’ in the National can be a boost. But to keep entering all the competitions and never win anything I guess you need to have a thick skin and healthy self-belief. I think you have to remind yourself there is always, always an element of luck, and even if your poem does well in a competition it’s no guarantee everyone will like it. I speak as someone who once had a poem longlisted in the National, which I then confidently submitted over and over again to magazines and not a single editor would touch it. Some you win, some you lose!

On to this week and I was back at the Betsey Trotwood again, this time for the launch of Finished Creatures 7. I was very grateful to Jan Heritage for taking a wee poem of mine for this, the ‘shelter’ issue. As always, Jan managed the time splendidly while keeping things  relaxed and informal. I was very pleased to hear reading a good number of poets I’d never come across before, such as Katie Byford and Steph Morris

It also made my day when Jefferey Sugarman came up to tell me how much he appreciates my submissions list. Thank you, Jeff!

By the way, do have a listen to this week’s Planet Poetry episode, which includes an interview with the delightful Liz Berry about her new book The Home Child.


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One Comment

  1. Peter Jackson Peter Jackson

    Thanks for this Robin. I too am bemused by the winning poem (a frequent experience these days). Is this really the best we poets can offer to a younger generation and a broken world?
    Easter blessings

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Robin Houghton 2024