One of Britain’s best poetry competitions is back – now with a £600 first prize

One of Britain’s top poetry competitions is back – with a bigger prize fund and even more chances to win.

Deadline: February 25, 2018

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The 2018 York Literature Festival / YorkMix Poetry Competition launches today, with new judge, award-winning poet Andrew McMillan.

The prestigious competition, now in its sixth year, is established as a major national literary event.

The closing date for entries is February 25, 2018.

This year’s judge is acclaimed poet Andrew McMillan.

Born in South Yorkshire in 1988, Andrew’s debut collection, Physical, is the only poetry collection ever to win The Guardian First Book Award.

His second collection, Playtime, will be published by Jonathan Cape this year. He is senior lecturer at the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.

What makes a winner?

Winner of the 2017 competition Bernie Cullen with competition judge Antony Dunn

YorkMix asked Andrew what he might be looking for in a winning poem.

This was his intriguing reply:

“A few months ago we got a dog, and life settled into a kind-of routine. Wake up at 5am, lunch at 12noon, dinner at 6pm, and then out for a walk.

“The predictability of it all is quite reassuring.

“Every so often, though, something changes: the dog wakes up at 3am instead of the usual 5am when my boyfriend’s alarm goes off for work.

“Sometimes the rain means she simply refuses to go outside (and in Manchester this becomes a recurring issue), sometimes the outside world of fireworks or a car-alarm simply intervene.

“Why am I telling you this? Because I think most people think that a certain kind of poem will win a competition; a plausible one that sets off on a journey, maybe has one interesting encounter along the way and then ends with a flourish – a final line akin to a dog leaping back over the threshold of its home.

“I’ve never thought that was true. The unpredictable poem, the poem that wakes me up at 3am instead of 5am, the poem that refuses to go where you want it to go, the poem that interrupts itself – these are often the most memorable poems.

“Beyond that, I can only say I enjoy poems that are frank and direct, poems which don’t feel as though they are trying to be poems. Poems which surprise me, or seem as though they’re reaching out beyond the boundaries of their own limitations.”

In a frank and revealing interview in 2015, Andrew identified poetry influences from Thom Gunn, Sharon Olds and Diane Wakoski to Kenneth Patchen, Allen Ginsberg and Mark Doty.

For even more advice, read York poet and our former competition judge, Carole Bromley’s article here.

Entry and prizes

Our prize ceremony will be on a City Cruises York boat

The first prize rises to £600, with a runner-up award of £150, a third prize of £75 and a new, fourth prize of £50.

The Helen Cadbury Prize of £50 – formerly The York Prize – is renamed in honour of the York author, poet and friend of the festival who died last year.

The prize is awarded to an excellent poem from an entrant with a York (YO) postcode.

At the judge’s discretion, up to ten Highly Commended and 15 Commended poems will each win their writer a certificate.

The minimum entry fee is £6 for a single poem; £15 for up to two or three; £17.50 for four; £20 for five. There is no limit to the number of poems that can be submitted.

We have teamed up with City Cruises York to stage our gala prize-giving event aboard one of City Cruises York’s fleet, the River Prince on March 25.

Winning poets will be invited as guests at the event, with a very limited number of seats made available to the public.

The evening will feature all the winning and Highly Commended poems, followed by a reading of his own work by the judge, Andrew McMillan.

Boarding for the cruise starts at 5.30pm. The cruise departs at 6pm promptly, returning at 8.30pm.

There is a full bar on board the River Prince.

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