Book & Pamphlet Competition 2016/17


The Poetry Business 2016/17 International Book & Pamphlet Competition 

Judged by Ian Duhig & Mimi Khalvati 


We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2016/17 International Book & Pamphlet Competition as chosen by Ian Duhig & Mimi Khalvati. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all entrants for letting us see your work.


Judge's Comments

Judging the 2017 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition was every bit as interesting as I anticipated. Those I have taught in recent years know I advocate pamphlets for allowing their authors to really develop; to follow that metaphor through, a single poem too easily offers only a snapshot but a pamphlet encourages you to make a film.

The high standard of entries showed this form of publication is flourishing here and internationally, for there was great sophistication in the way themes and motifs unified these collections. Women did very well, yet again, something reflected in numerous competitions I have been involved and which I have commented on elsewhere. An obvious point, but the best showed wide reading, abroad as well as at home: no intellectual Brexit here.

Finally, as TS Eliot said, there can be no real competition in poetry; what people do with the art is now so various, so needing to be judged by different rules or tastes it is itself in the process of creating that as judges we can only exercise our negative capabilities as best we can. Congratulations to our winners but every manuscript on this shortlist is well worth reading and I’m glad the Poetry Business gave me the opportunity to do so. I know too there are good poets who didn’t make the shortlist this time: sorry, good luck, your time will come. All entrants made this competition a celebration of poetry, your art. Well done all. — Ian Duhig


It was a real pleasure to co-judge this year’s Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition with Ian Duhig. Though most people would agree that Ian and I are very different as poets and as people, the fact that our choices coincided to a huge extent can only be reassuring: fine poetry speaks for itself and will always rise to the top, no matter who is judging it.
There was so much fine poetry here, and so much of it by women! I won’t say it was therefore difficult to pick the final winners, because they really did stand out. But it was heartening to read an exceptionally strong shortlist of writers who are seriously engaged with poetry, who have read widely and are working so hard, and so winningly, on their art.
Warmest congratulations to everyone who entered and who may well make it next time, and to the deserving four winners, blessed to be having their pamphlets published by one of the best-loved  publishers in the country. — 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 Wordsworth Trust Single Poem Prize

This June the shortlisted poems for the Wordsworth Trust Prize will be featured on The Poetry Business website and The Wordsworth Trust's website and in a small, attractive pamphlet which will be widely distributed.

These poems will highlight and showcase the best single poems by entrants to the 2016/17 International Book & Pamphlet Competition as chosen by the competition judges.  

Readers are invited to vote for a first, second and third prize winner.

The votes will be counted and the winning poems will be revealed on 1st July as part of the Poetry Business Competition event at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

The three winners will receive £1000, £250, and £50, and will be invited to read alongside the Winners of the Main Competition at the Wordsworth Trust. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize winning poems, will be published in the North magazine in 2017.



About The Wordsworth Trust 

The Poetry Business gratefully acknowledges support from The Wordsworth Trust for The Wordsworth Trust Single Poem Prize.  

The Wordsworth Trust is a living memorial set up to celebrate the works of William Wordsworth. The organization - now an independent charity, was set up to celebrate the contemporary as much as remember the past. It offers much in the way of contemporary visual art and poetry readings, alongside the historical home of Wordsworth, Dove Cottage (1799-1808). The Wordsworth Trust also looks after an important collection of works by Wordsworth and the other writers and artists of the period.  

The Wordsworth Trust’s activities today include producing special exhibitions on particular writers, artists or themes, enabling schoolchildren to enjoy poetry, leading activities in local communities, and presenting a year-round events programme.




About The International Book & Pamphlet Competition

The International Book & Pamphlet Competition was the first pamphlet competition of its kind in Britain. Now in its 31st year, it has launched the careers of many well established and successful poets; including Daljit Nagra, Michael Laskey, Allison McVety, Pascale Petit, Kathryn Simmonds and Catherine Smith.

The four winning collections are beautifully produced in the renowned smith|doorstop house style. The collections are promoted widely, reviewed in high-quality literary magazines and national newspapers, entered for all eligible awards and prizes and sold in bookshops throughout the UK and through online stockists of smith|doorstop. The 2017/18 International Book & Pamphlet Competition will launch in October 2017.


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