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“It reflects the dynamic role the Manchester Writing School plays in the broader UK poetry community”: Students and staff longlisted at the National Poetry Competition

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Featured image: Tracey Slaughter

Established in 1978, The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious poetry competitions, which accepts entries from all over the world.

Carol Ann Duffy, now Professor of Contemporary Poetry and Creative Director of the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Met, won in 1983 with her poem ‘Whoever She Was’. This was the beginning of what would become a long relationship between the competition and the Manchester Writing School.

The university’s connection with the competition remains as strong as ever, seen in the overwhelming presence of its students and alumni in this year’s competition.

The annual competition opened in the spring and closed at the end of October. Each year, a new team of judges (made up of three respected poets) is announced. The first prize is £5,000, and the top three winners are granted the honour of being published in Britain’s leading poetry magazine, Poetry Review.

This year, over 19,000 entries were received and Manchester Writing School staff, alumni and current students dominated the 2023 National Poetry Competition longlist and commended places, including:

Dr Brian Sneeden is a poet, literary translator, editor and lecturer at Manchester Met. Reflecting on Manchester Writing School’s representation in the longest and commended places, Sneeden said: “It’s really special to see so many poets with a Manchester Met connection in this year’s National Poetry Competition results, which reflects the dynamic role the Manchester Writing School plays in the broader UK poetry community.”

Poets connected with the Manchester Writing School also shared their perspectives on what this means for the School, including Antiguan American writer and nominee Shakeema Edwards.

Commenting on Manchester’s central place in the UK’s poetry landscape, Edwards said: “Someone once told me you can’t throw a stone in Belfast without hitting a writer, and I’m starting to believe that’s true of Manchester as well.

“I think creative people tend to congregate where they hope to find community or support for their art, and the Writing School no doubt plays a significant role in attracting writers to the city.”

Edwards added, “If Manchester Writing School alumni have had an impressive presence at the National Poetry Competition this year, I consider it a testament to the school’s ability to encourage writers – through teaching or its competitions – to believe in the medium and the things they have to say and to keep putting their work out into the world.”

Shakeema Edwards. PhotographyGbemisola Elegunde

Katie O’Pray, who was also shortlisted for last year’s Manchester Writing Competition, shared their experience being involved in the competition: “I’ve been overjoyed to receive recognition in both the Manchester Writing Competition and the National Poetry Competition – especially in such quick succession.

O’Pray added: “I’ve relished these opportunities to spend time in Manchester and London, two cities rich in literature; to cross paths with fascinating, admirable writers there and to play a small part in these prestigious prizes. I’m greatly encouraged by this support for my writing from MMU and the Poetry Society.”

Katie O’Pray. PhotographyGbemisola Elegunde

The National Poetry Competition 2023 winners were announced on 25th March at Art Workers’ Guild, London. Imogen Wade was awarded first prize for the National Poetry Competition 2023 by judges Jane Draycott, Clare Pollard and Will Harris for her poem, ‘The Time I Was Mugged in New York City’.

The judges described the winning piece as ‘An extraordinary and thought-provoking poem, whose paradoxical lyricism in the account of an abduction demands reading and re-reading.’

The 2024 National Poetry Competition 2024 will open soon – sign up to The Poetry Society mailing list to stay in the loop with the competition and follow its progress.

For more information about the Poetry at Manchester Met, visit Manchester Poetry Library: Manchester Poetry Library home page | Manchester Metropolitan University (, join the Poetry Library mailing list: Join our mailing list | Manchester Metropolitan University ( and follow @McrPoetryLib on Twitter.

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Amber Bermingham

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