The Winners of the 2018/19  International Book & Pamphlet Competition


We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2018/19 International Book & Pamphlet Competition as chosen by Neil Astley, Michael Schmidt and Amy Wack. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all entrants for letting us see your work.


S. K. Kim

for her collection Notes from the North


Hilary Menos
For her collection Human Tissue


Nick On
For his collection Zhou


Emma Simon
For her collection The Odds


Judges' comments

It was a real pleasure to debate the merits of many different kinds of collections with my fellow judges: we quickly achieved consensus as to which were the front runners, so much so that our favourites popped up on each others' shortlists, so that agreeing on our final four was relatively straightforward, although all three of us had to drop at least one candidate we would have picked had all the winners been chosen by just one judge. In my case I was particularly sorry to have to disappoint N. Flaw, a highly original poet with a vividly anarchic imagination whose highly original collection Oh be quiet was full of surprising poems which could delight, disturb or knock you sideways. Neil Astley


The judging was – as judging always is – a cause for anxiety. A great deal of contemporary poetry is plausible, not very much of it is good. Here, it seems to me, there was more good than I had a right to expect, and choices were hard. Agreement was more a matter of democracy than consensus, but that's the nature of three-person judging. Michael Schmidt


Thanks to both my fellow judges, I found it almost eerie how we mostly veered towards the same manuscripts, though I think we all retain affection for our 'outliers' – who didn't make the final cut. Michael was agreeably forthright, I rather enjoyed even his most withering opinions. Neil did some expert horse-trading amongst our finalists, bless him. I will disappoint conspiracy theorists by saying that I did excuse myself from picking one of the finalists as I know them and am familiar with their work, happily the other two judges liked this one enough for it to make the final list. Good luck to all the authors and a shout-out for the Poetry Business, whose exertions for the art should win them lasting gratitude from all. Amy Wack



S. K. Kim is author of Notes from the Divided Country, which won the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Whiting Writers' Award, the Northern California Book Award, and was a finalist for the Griffin Prize. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Poetry Review, Poetry London, The New York Times, Poetry, and The Paris Review among others. She lives in London.

These poems are urgent bulletins from an emergency, they are horrific, powerful, astute, full of passion and moral authority. Although we've heard about the brutal dictatorship of North Korea before, these poems surpass journalism and bring us the voices on the brink: the survivor, the personal witness. We follow a cleaner in the Imperial Palace, forced to clean up the unspeakable debris of the dictator's pleasure-party, we are with the starving as they are compelled to endure government propaganda urging them to eat 'two meals a day' when they have been reduced to eating insects and tree-bark to stay alive. These aren't easy poems to read, yet they have the compelling urgency of a diary of contemporary tyranny and the havoc it wreaks on this particular family. This is a scorched family album, rescued from the ruins. – Amy Wack


Hilary Menos was born in Luton in 1964 and studied PPE at Oxford and an MA in Poetry at MMU. She has worked in politics, journalism and theatre, and co-ran a 100-acre mixed organic farm in Devon. Her first collection, Berg (Seren, 2009), won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2010. She lives in France with her husband and one of her four sons.

There is a genuine pressure of content in the best of these skilfully managed and imaginatively engaged poems. The evidently real life story as it unfolds is quietly told and affecting. We all found it easy to agree that this was an outstanding collection, because of its material, but also because of its openness and artistry. It is a worthy winner and one that many people will engage with and appreciate.  from all the competition judges


Nick On grew up in Gloucestershire, moved to Newcastle upon Tyne after university and ever since has lived in the North East of England. He earns a living as a corporate lawyer, mostly in London. He is a recent graduate of the Writing Poetry MA at Newcastle University.


I liked my chosen poet because he seemed able to use the short line as a line with real skill. The fact that the subject-matter was engaging and that there was humour in the atmosphere his poems breathed was also heartening. But mainly it was his sense of the line and the forms he coaxed out of his material with it that attracted me. Michael Schmidt



Emma Simon grew up in Northamptonshire, but now lives and works in London as a freelance journalist and copywriter. She has been widely published in anthologies and magazines including The Rialto, The North, and Under the Radar. She has won both the Ver Poets and Prole Laureate competitions and her debut pamphlet, Dragonish, was published by The Emma Press in 2017.

These are poems by a versatile poet, drawing on a wide range of subject-matter and making use of an impressively handled variety of forms, including her own energetically updated version of Anglo-Saxon stress metre. Throughout the collection her working of the line is impressively tuned to what she evokes, from one poem’s staccato measure tracing the thoughts racing through the mind of a disbelieved Harvey Weinstein victim to another enacting the hopping and sliding of a frog, from couplet to couplet. These two examples show something of the breadth of range in The Odds: in between we meet a latter-day Lady Macbeth, visit a poisonous laboratory (a tour de force, this one), walk on water, break down on the motorway, and find ourselves descending through space as earth-bound astronauts. All in all, a collection celebrating what MacNeice called ‘the drunkenness of things being various’ – and with style and panache. – Neil Astley 


Poems by all four winners of the 2018/19 International Book & Pamphlet Competition will be featured in the forthcoming issue of The North magazine, issue 62, which is out this August.

The four winning pamphlets will be published in February 2020, and a winners launch reading will he held at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere in Spring 2020.

The 2019/20 International Book & Pamphlet Competition will open for entries on 1st October 2019.



About the Judges


The Poetry Business 33rd International Book & Pamphlet Competition was judged by Neil Astley, Michael Schmidt and Amy Wack.


The Poetry Business International Book & Pamphlet Competition is the oldest and most prestigious competition of its kind in the UK. It continues to discover and publish outstanding new poets, many of whom go on to publish widely and to celebrate successful writing careers.


We were particularly pleased this year to have as judges three writers who are also among the most discerning and experienced editors in the poetry world:  Neil Astley of Bloodaxe Books, Michael Schmidt of Carcanet and Amy Wack from Seren. Each of these editors has a strong vision of what poetry is in Britain today.   


Neil, Michael and Amy will each select one winner from the entries and will then decide among themselves on their fourth choice.


Neil Astley, editor of Bloodaxe Books 

Neil Astley, Hon. FRSL, is the founder and editor of Bloodaxe Books. His books include novels, poetry collections and anthologies, most notably the Staying Alive trilogy. He received an Eric Gregory Award for his poetry in 1982 and was given a D.Litt from Newcastle University for his work with Bloodaxe Books in 1995. He is a trustee of Ledbury Poetry Festival and a Visiting Fellow at Newcastle University.





Michael Schmidt, editorial director of Carcanet


Michael Schmidt OBE FRSL is the founder and editorial director of Carcanet Press and General Editor of PN Review and is currently teaching at the University of Manchester, having been Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University and then at the University of Glasgow, and writer in residence at St John's College, Cambridge. He is a poet, novelist, literary historian and anthologist.




Amy Wack, editor of Seren


Amy Wack was raised in California, attended San Diego State University and has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University in Manhattan. She has worked for Seren press since the early 90s. She was Reviews Editor for Poetry Wales magazine for fifteen years. Under her Editorship Seren has published many prize-winning poetry collections.





About the Presses

Bloodaxe Books has revolutionised poetry publishing in Britain over four decades. Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, our authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, from the T.S. Eliot Prize and Pulitzer to the Nobel Prize. And books like the Staying Alive trilogy have broken new ground by opening up contemporary poetry to many thousands of new readers.


Originally a literary magazine founded in 1962, Carcanet’s list now includes new writers from all over the world as well as major authors from the twentieth and earlier centuries, figures about whom readers and writers need to know if they are to get a hold on the Modern and its aftermaths. Carcanet enjoys Arts Council support and can range more widely than commercial publishers dare to do: dedicated to discovery, appraisal and reappraisal, Carcanet is a unique survivor in the precarious world of literary imprints. Our editorial continuity has generated a list of deep coherence and innovation, not only among the authors rediscovered but also among the new authors we publish.


Seren is Wales’ leading independent literary publisher, specialising in English-language writing from Wales. With a list spanning poetry, fiction and non-fiction, many of our books are shortlisted for - and win - major literary prizes across the UK and America. At the heart of our list is a good story told well or an idea or history presented interestingly or provocatively. We’re international in authorship and readership, though our roots remain here in Wales, where we prove that writers from a small country with an intricate culture have a worldwide relevance.

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