Past Winners


The 2016/17 Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition

JUDGES: Ian Duhig & Mimi Khalvati


Josephine Abbott was born and grew up in Manchester, went to Sheffield University and now lives in Derbyshire. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Agenda, Stand, Staple and other magazines. She has led poetry workshops and worked with a range of community groups. Competition successes include placings in the Mslexia (2011) and the Bridport (2009) and third prize in the National Poetry Competition (2013). Her first collection was 'Trying not To Levitate' (Blinking Eye, 2006).

Josephine Abbott’s The Infinite Knot, a sequence of mostly sonnet variants, doubling back on itself like a kind of knot, has radiance spilling all over it. With an ear finely tuned to cadence and syntax, Josephine listens ‘below the threshold of hearing’, reaching out for a deeper understanding of the world she lives in. A world she celebrates lyrically, forensically, and we celebrate her too for a pamphlet, delicate and precise in its parts, but with the reach of a full collection. — Mimi Khalvati


Katy Evans-Bush is a poet, critic, essayist and blogger. Born in New York City, she has spent most of her life in London, where she works as a freelance writer, editor and poetry tutor. She is the author of two poetry collections with Salt Publishing, 'Oscar & Henry' (Rack Press) and 'Forgive the Language: Essays on Poetry and Poets' (Penned in the Margins). She blogs at Baroque in Hackney, and is a Fellow of the George Orwell Foundation.

The best way to learn how to write well is to investigate how good writers write, not by trying to apply tiny rules” Michael Rosen advised recently and Katy Evans-Bush’s Broken Cities proved the wisdom of that for poets. Instead of looking for tricks and secrets, broad reading will deliver the sweep and originality that really makes new work stand out, as Katy’s did, for the sheer range of reading in English and US poetry enriching her poetry. From this platform, her joy, inventiveness and pleasure in the music of language really engages. It came as no surprise then when I first learned the author was a well-known poet, critic and teacher: with her, a reader is in good hands.— Ian Duhig


Ruth McIlroy grew up in Kingston, Jamaica and in Edinburgh, and now lives with her family in Yorkshire where she works as a freelance psychotherapist. She's a Quaker, and loves the idea of her literary forerunners stomping the North of England declaiming the vital necessities of silence and right speech. She does the Endcliffe parkrun most Saturdays and sometimes a 10k. Her poems have appeared in The Rialto, The North, and the Templar Poets Anthology. In 2015 she was highly commended in the East Riding Philip Larkin Poetry Prize, and in 2017 she gained second place in the York Literarture Festival Poetry Competition.

Ruth McIlroy’s Guppy Primer also stood out for its distinctive humour as well as the strengths evident in Katy’s work. I’d noted one of Ruth’s earlier this year picked as a major prizewinner in the York Literature Festival and thought how triumphantly it demonstrated the fallacy of the notion of a “competition” poem with its daring and originality, qualities we also see in Guppy Primer. Believe me, competition judges welcome originality not formulas and Ruth proves that, turning her collection’s themes and motifs through fresh new language, narratives and scenarios. Expect to see Ruth’s name on more prize lists in the future. — Ian Duhig


Lesley Saunders is the author of several books of poetry, and a new collection 'Nominy Dominy' is due out from Two Rivers Press next year. Having won the 2016 Stephen Spender Award for poetry in translation, she is currently working on a book of translations of selected poems by the acclaimed Portuguese writer Maria Teresa Horta.  She has performed her work at literary festivals and on the radio, and has worked on collaborative projects with artists, sculptors, musicians, photographers and dancers. 


Lesley Saunders’ Angels on Horseback at first catches you off-guard, seduces you with gorgeous vocabulary, then leads you unerringly through ‘ordinary treasure’ made wondrous and extraordinary to culminate in a chilling intensity. Lesley ranges through her pantheon of heroines, exploring the violence done to them, by others and themselves, not through worn rhetoric but through defamiliarising tropes of disturbing beauty and pleasure. It is a rare to find poems as perfectly controlled, a pamphlet as assured and startling, as this.— Mimi Khalvati



The 2015/16 Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition

JUDGE: Billy  Collins


Stephanie Conn is a former primary school teacher from Northern Ireland. She is a graduate of the MA programme at the Seamus Heaney Centre and a recipient of an Arts Council NI Career Enhancement Award. Her work has been widely published. In the last year she was highly commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue Poetry Competition and won the Yeovil Poetry Prize, the Funeral Services NI Poetry Competition and the inaugural Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. Her first collection The Woman on the Other Side was recently published by Doire Press. Find out more at

'This collection deserves a high place in the tradition of the poet as naturalist. Precise description rendered in physical language lifts these poems off the page and into the sensory ken of the reader.  One poem, "The First Lighthouse" should be read in every classroom.' – Billy Collins 


 John Foggin has been a teacher, lecturer and LEA English/Drama Adviser. He lives in West Yorkshire where he jointly organises Puzzle Poets Live in Calderdale, and writes a weekly poetry blog, the great fogginzo’s cobweb. His work has appeared in The Interpreters House,  The New Writer, The North and Prole, and among others. 

His poems have won first prizes in competitions including The Plough (2013,2014), and The McLellan (2015).  He has authored four pamphlets : Running out of space , Backtracks, Larach (Ward Wood Publishing 2014), and his latest is Outlaws and fallen Angels (Calder valley Poetry 2016).  He has ten grandchildren, is addicted to Poetry Business Saturday Writing Days, and would live on the Isle of Skye if they had a Rugby League team.

'This poet knows how to guide the reader through a poem by using clear diction and transparent rhetorical design; yet the poems often touch on the mysterious. A sensitivity to natural life results in the ego becoming secondary to the wondrous details of the experiential world.'  – Billy Collins 


Born in South Africa in 1947, John Eppel was raised in Zimbabwe, where he still lives, teaching English at Christian Brothers College in Bulawayo. His first novel, D G G Berry’s The Great North Road, won the M-Net prize and was listed in the Weekly Mail & Guardian as one of the best 20 South African books in English published between 1948 and 1994. His second, Hatchings, was chosen by the Times Literary Supplement as one of the most significant books to have come out of Africa. His other novels are The Giraffe Man, The Curse of the Ripe Tomato, The Holy Innocents, Absent: The English Teacher and Traffickings.

John's poetry collections include Spoils of War, which won the Ingrid Jonker prize, Sonata for Matabeleland, Selected Poems: 1965 – 1995, and Songs My Country Taught Me

His short stories and poems have appeared in many anthologies, journals and websites, including six poems in the Penguin Anthology of South African Poetry. His poem, ‘Jasmine’ was chosen as ‘Poem of the Week’ in the Guardian; and ‘Vendor and Child’ was chosen by New Internationalist for Fire in the Soul, the best 100 human rights poems from across the world over the last 100 years. 

'Ample proof that good formal poetry is very much alive, this poet uses run-on lines and counter rhythms to allow the rhymes to be the undersong of the poem rather than its striking measure.  Lovely poems here about sex, arts, spiders, flowers, and yes, birds.' – Billy Collins 


Mary King is relatively new to writing poems seriously. She was brought up in Tower Hill and was a Science teacher there and in Hackney. With no time for what had been her favourite subject at school she took her students to the theatre and on school trips to Italy. She is married with children and grandchildren. Mary joined a writing class when paid work finished and this spurred her on to begin to learn the craft and to write more regularly.  She now lives in Staffordshire and is working with Keele Poets at Silverdale. 

'Here is a collection controlled deftly by the poet as savvy ornithologist.  Precisely focused observations bring these birds alive, notably when a flock of godwits suddenly fills a page.  A bonus is the best poem about a hen you can hope ever to encounter.' – Billy Collins


The 2014/15 Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition 

JUDGE: Billy Collins 


Basil du Toit

Born in Cape Town in 1951, Basil du Toit has been living in Edinburgh since 1980 and sees himself as an increasingly Scottish poet. His poems have appeared in Poetry ReviewStandNew Writing Scotland and Flora Poetica, The Chatto Book of Botanical Verse.

A gathering of smart poems, sophisticated in their spot-on phrasings, their elegant formal designs, and their clever ironies. A few of these acutely musical poems belong in an anthology titled 'Best All-Time Sexy Poems'.  Billy Collins



Paul Stephenson

 Paul Stephenson was born and grew up in Cambridge. He studied modern languages and linguistics. In the 2012 Troubadour international poetry competition he won second prize. In 2013 he took part in the Arvon/Jerwood Mentoring Scheme, and in 2014 the Aldeburgh Eight. He teaches European Studies and currently lives in Paris.'

Funny and quite serious at the same time, these poems cast a fresh, ironic eye on contemporary life and find a wild variety of fields in which to play. The colloquial tone and satiric brilliance might make a reader wish to hear more, ideally over a pint or two. – Billy Collins


David Tait

David Tait lives in Guangzhou, China, where he teaches English. His first full collection “Self-Portrait with The Happiness” (Smith/Doorstop, 2014) was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and received an Eric Gregory Award from The Society of Authors. Poems appear in Ambit, Magma, Poetry Review, The Rialto and The Forward Prize Anthology. His pamphlet Love’s Loose Ends was a winner in the 2010 Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition. 

If the pastoral is not dead, it is at least badly wounded, these upsetting poems remind us. Instead, the scene is a vast polluted city, where nothing grows but anxieties. This poet disturbs us with his content and pleasures us with his stark language and thoughtful formal designs. Put on your face-mask, and dig   in. – Billy Collins


Luke Yates

Luke Samuel Yates lives and works in the North-West. His poems have appeared in The Rialto, The North, THE SHOp, Magma and on the London Underground. Past work includes a first pamphlet written in twenty-one days in a warehouse residency in north Philadelphia, and The Pair of Scissors that Could Cut Anything, published by The Rialto. 

Here is a poet who has learned how to be clear and mysterious at the same time. Another pleasure offered here is the way the poems guide us through themselves, as good poems should, one solid line after another. A truly exceptional gathering – Billy Collins



The 2013/14 Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition

JUDGE: Carol Ann Duffy 


Holly HopkinsHolly Hopkins lives and works in London. Her poems have appeared in Poetry ReviewThe RialtoThe NorthMagma and Verse Kraken.Her work has also featured in anthologies including Dear World & Everyone In It: New Poetry In the UK (Bloodaxe Books) and Lung Jazz: Young British Poets For Oxfam (Cinnamon Press). Holly is reading an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway. She received an Eric Gregory Award in 2011. Her personal website is at



Ben WilkinsonBen Wilkinson was born in Stafford in 1985, and now lives in Sheffield. He is the author of a pamphlet of poems, The Sparks (tall-lighthouse, 2008) and his writing has been shortlisted for awards including the inaugural Picador Poetry Prize and the Poetry Society’s Geoffrey Dearmer Prize. His poems have appeared in Poetry ReviewThe GuardianThe Spectator and, more recently, Liverpool FC magazine. Among other things he works as a critic, reviewing new poetry for The Guardian and The Times Literary Supplement.


James CaruthJames Caruth was born in Belfast and lived there until 1982 before moving to Cape Town, South Africa. He now lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. His first collection, A Stones Throw, was published by Staple Press in 2007 and a long poem sequence, Dark Peak, was published in pamphlet form by Longbarrow Press in 2008. Marking the Lambs was published by Smith|Doorstop in 2012.



Rebecca FarmerRebecca Farmer is studying for an MPhil/PhD in creative writing at Goldsmiths, with a focus on Radio Poetry Drama. Her work has appeared in The London Magazine, The North, The Rialto, Poetry Review, The Warwick Review, and other journals.





2012/13 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Simon Armitage


Emma Danes - Dress of Shadows

'Dress of Shadows is a particularly accurate and inviting title for this collection, the poems saying one thing, their meanings and inferences lying elsewhere, away from the limelight of the words and their actual subjects. Each poem reads as a worked, crafted and above all measured unit, conscious of the space it occupies on the blank page and the density of its language, tempting the reader to a focal length far beyond its surface. Striking, memorable, confiding and occasionally disturbing poetry penned with a dark ink.'  — Simon Armitage


David Attwooll - Surfacing

'I especially like those passages where the sardonic and the poignant are almost impossible to separate or tell apart .... Geographically, linguistically, thematically and stylistically this is a varied and rich collections of poems; Attwooll has a keen eye and a sharp tongue but ultimately (I think) a sympathetic mind. – Simon Armitage


Kim Lasky - Petrol, Cyan, Electric

Kim Lasky’s collection combines a conversational tone with passages of linguistic intensity to take on the big subjects: light, love, life. Her domestic settings and the characters which populate them are particularly satisfying. I also enjoy the way the poems dabble or flirt with form and technique – couplets, half rhyme, the sonnet – before ultimately spinning on their heel and waltzing off in another direction. The poems asked me to accompany them and I went willingly.'  – Simon Armitage 


David Grubb - Ways of Looking 

'Wallace Stevens’s poem ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ has offered a writing template to many subsequent poets, and David Grubb’s spin on the original is as inventive as any. Imagism and ‘the moment’ lie at the heart of these fragmentary sequences, though narrative always feels possible, even insistent. A reminder that poetry might be extracted from everywhere and anything. And that every poem, no matter how brief, is ‘a small story.’ — Simon Armitage 


2011/12 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Carol Ann Duffy

Rosie Shepperd — That So-Easy Thing

'These poems have a real originality both in form and content- from sestina to surrealism, villanelle to vignette- and are erudite, well-travelled, witty and sexy.'— Carol Ann Duffy

"I'm so very thrilled to have won the Poetry Business Competition and especially thrilled to be in the company of so many very fine poets. This means the world to me." — R.S


Suzannah Evans — Confusion Species

'Tough/tender lyric poems in which the language crackles with life whether addressing the urban or the rural and possessed of a truly exciting inventiveness.' — Carol Ann Duffy

"I am over the moon - winning such a prestigious competition is hugely exciting and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I can't wait to see the finished pamphlet." — S.E.


Julie Mellor — Breathing Through Our Bones

'Poems with a real ability to own their subject- whether spontaneous combustion or the collective thought of geese- and which remain to intrigue long after reading.'— Carol Ann Duffy

"Having this pamphlet selected in the Poetry Business Competition is, for me, the icing on a very rich fruit cake laced with brandy. I like to think of poetry as a serious hobby; I do it when I can; and when I can’t, I’m not the best person to be around! I love poetry for the way it can solve questions you don’t always know you’re asking, and I feel a huge debt to Ann and Peter; it’s the inspiration and discipline of their workshops that has helped me hone my writing. I also owe a lot to my fellow Penistone Poets, who meet once a week to share writing – and cake!" — J.M.


Kim Moore — If We Could Speak Like Wolves

'These are terrifically assured poems- sensual, perceptive, entertaining- which bridge the gap between feeling and utterance with a genuine lyric gift.' — Carol Ann Duffy

"I'm really excited to be one of the winners of the Pamphlet Competition. Its given me a huge confidence boost-but still can't quite believe it yet! It means a lot to me, especially with Carol Ann Duffy being the judge. What it actually means is being able to go to readings and read from a lovely shiny pamphlet instead of scraps of paper which is going to be great!" — K.M.



2010/11 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Simon Armitage


Paul Bentley — Largo [read more]

"A remarkable, technically sophisticated blend of parody and elegy, personally felt poems interwoven with popular culture, party politics and history both naturaland unnatural. Mischievous and moving." — Simon Armitage


Christy Ducker — Armour

"Unsettling and edgy, these poems have the strangeness of myth and the zany logic of nursery rhymes, but for adult ears. A real zest for language and startling imagery." — Simon Armitage


Maitreyabandhu — The Bond

"Nostalgic, but not sentimental or wistful, the poems have a real sense of the here and now. They strike home." — Simon Armitage


David Tait — Love's Loose Ends

"Careful and concise poems, like glimpsed scenes and small, intense dramas, full of knowing detail and telling lines. Tender but shrewd." — Simon Armitage



2009/10 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Andrew Motion



Nina Boyd — Dear Mr Asquith

'A collection of cleanly-written and well-organised poems that, for all their efficiencies, are capable of leaving us with an appealing sense of mystery and unfinished business.' — Andrew Motion



Sue Boyle — Too Late for the Love Hotel 

'The title* proposes an idea of modesty – which is certainly present in the humble attentiveness these poems pay to their subjects, but is also belied by the range and strangeness of the book’s interests.'  — Andrew Motion

*Originally 'Unregarded Lives'


Alan Payne — Exploring the Orinoco 

'An exotic and ambitious collection, in which deceptively simple structures are built to carry an impressive weight of interest and reference.' — Andrew Motion

Jane Aspinall — American Shadow 

'Bravely-written poems which, as they cover their wide range of subjects, manage to pull off the difficult trick of sounding at once valiant and vulnerable.'  — Andrew Motion 



2008/09 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Michael Longley



Michael McCarthy — At the Races



Sally Goldsmith — Singer

Anna Woodford — Party Piece

Carole Bromley — Skylight



2007/08 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Alison Brackenbury


Julia Deakin — The Half-mile High Club

'Sharp and knowing, these poems dance before the reader in their exuberance and sudden dark. They are bold, irreverent and wickedly funny.'  — Alison Brackenbury


Yvonne Green — Boukhara

'These enthralling and lovely poems begin with rich recollections of another country (“so we ate so we loved”), but darken into the shock of domestic violence. This collection is absolutely straightforward to read, but quite unforgettable.' — Alison Brackenbury


Padraig O'Morain — You've Been Great

'This is a quiet poetry, strong with the humours and occasional horrors of country life, affectionate but never sentimental, its music grave and necessary as time.' — Alison Brackenbury


Ann Pilling — Growing Pains

'Through childhood, loss and living, these poems carry the reader with them, through pain, through the warmth and wisdom of their final lines. They bring bravado, biscuit tins and balloons. They bring hope.' — Alison Brackenbury



River Wolton — The Purpose of Your Visit

'Many of the poems in this collection were full of life and promise.' — Alison Brackenbury



2006/07 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Vicki Feaver



Allison McVety — The Night Trotsky Came to Stay

'The territory of these vivid and sensual poems is a childhood shadowed by a families memories of war and persecution and displacement. But paradoxically the effect of the collection as a whole is of lives lived so intensely and imaginatively that the dark anecdotes are outweighed by anecdotes of humour and tenderness.' — Vicki Feaver



Andrea Holland — Borrowed

'...a questioning intelligence, a self that feeds on art and literature and autobiographical experience to create poems that are not only vividly observed but also interesting and moving.' — Vicki Feaver


Judith Lal — Flageolets at the Bazaar

'The effect is startling, like a brilliant tapestry, or as if Edward Thomas had met Rabindrath Tagore. But the voice is thoroughly modern, warm, engaging, full of insight and wonder.' — Vicki Feaver


Patrick McGuinness — 19th Century Blues

'These beautifully wrought poems are meditations on time. Whatever the subject he capture that sense, as he so brilliantly puts it, that "Somewhere the Angel of Oblivion, radiant, leans his face into the wind/that turns the pages".' — Vicki Feaver



2005/06 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Simon Armitage



Padraig Rooney — The Escape Artist



Paul Batchelor — To Photograph a Snow Crystal

Ed Reiss — Now Then

Pam Thompson — Show Date and Time



2004/05 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Gerard Benson



Patricia Debney — How to Be a Dragonfly



Carole Bromley — Unscheduled Halt [read more]

Hugh McMillan — After the Storm

Hilary Menos — Extra Maths

Pascale Petit — The Wounded Deer [read more]



2003/04 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: Gillian Clarke



Mike Barlow — Living on the Difference



Tim Dooley — Tenderness

Stephen Duncan — Ghost-Walking

Sam Gardiner — The Picture Never Taken

Kathryn Simmonds — Snug [read more]



2002/03 Book & Pamphlet Competition Winners

JUDGE: David Constantine


Daljit Nagra — Oh My Rub!

Tim Liardet — The Uses of Pepper [read more]

Chris Jones — Hard on the Knuckle




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