The Troubadour Poetry Prize

£5,000 Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2014

Latest News: New £5,000 first prize for Troubadour Poetry Prize 2014 sponsored by Cegin Productions

Coffee-House Poetry are delighted to announce that long-standing poetry supporters Cegin Productions are now sponsoring a top prize of £5,000 for the Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2014. Second & third prizes have also been increased as have the 20 additional prizes. (For 2013 winners and details see below, for 2013 and all previous years’ winners and winning poems see our Poems page.)

Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2014

Sponsored by Cegin Productions

judged by amy wack & neil astley with both judges reading all poems

prizes: 1st £5,000, 2nd £1,000, 3rd £500
plus 20 prizes of £25 each
plus a spring 2015 coffee-house-poetry season-ticket
plus a prize-winners’ coffee-house poetry reading
with amy wack & neil astley
on mon 1st dec 2014
…for all prize-winning poets

submissions, via e-mail or post, by mon 20th oct 2014


  • Neil Astley has been editor of Bloodaxe Books since founding the press after graduating from Newcastle University in 1978. He received an Eric Gregory Award in 1982, & an honorary D.Litt from Newcastle University in 1995. He has published two poetry collections & two novels, The End of My Tether & The Sheep Who Changed the World. He has edited the popular & highly acclaimed poetry anthologies Staying Alive (2002), Being Alive (2004) & Being Human (2011) & has published over 300 books by 1000 writers from diverse poetic backgrounds, traditions & generations over the past 35 years, radically changing the image of UK poetry publishing.
  • Amy Wack was born in Florida, USA, raised in California, has a BA in Eng.Lit. from San Diego State University & MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, NYC. After working as Poetry Wales reviews editor, she was appointed Seren Book’s poetry editor in 1992: among many prize-winning titles produced under her editorship are John Haynes’ Letter to Patience (Costa Poetry Award) & Kathryn Simmonds’ Sunday at the Skin Launderette (Forward Best First Collection). She has edited several anthologies including Oxygen: New Poets from Wales & Burning the Bracken, as well as co-editing Women’s Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English.

both judges will read all poems submitted


  • General: Entry implies acceptance of all rules; failure to comply with all rules results in disqualification; submissions accepted by post or e-mail from poets of any nationality, from any country, aged over 18 years; no poet may win more than one prize; judges’ decision is final; no correspondence will be entered into.
  • Poems: Poems must be in English, must each be no longer than 45 lines, must fit on one side of one A4 or US-Letter-size page, must show title & poem only, must not show poet’s name or any other identifying marks on submitted poems (whether submitted by post or as e-mail attachment), must be the original work of the entrant (no translations) & must not have been previously broadcast or published (in print or online); prize-winning poems may be published (in print or online) by Troubadour International Poetry Prize, & may not be published elsewhere for one year after Monday 20th Oct 2014 without permission; no limit on number of poems submitted; no alterations accepted after submission.
  • Fees: All entries must be accompanied by submission fees of £5/€6/$8 per poem (Sterling/Euro/US-Dollars only); entries only included when payment received via EITHER
  • PayPal: see PayPal options at bottom of this page (PayPal account not required, no additional details required, please note your PayPal Receipt No.) OR
  • Cheque/Money-Order: payable to Coffee-House Poetry
  • NB: include PayPal name or cheque signatory name in e-mail or postal submission details, only if different from Poet’s Name.
  • By Post: No entry form required; two copies required of each poem submitted; please include the following details on a separate page —
    Poet’s Name & Address, Phone No, E-Mail Address (if available), List of Titles, No. of Poems, Total Fees, & EITHER PayPal Receipt No. OR cheque/money-order/postal-payment enclosed; no staples; no Special Delivery, Recorded Delivery or Registered Post; entries are not returned.
  • By E-mail: No entry form required; poems must be e-mailed to as attachments (.doc, .docx, .pdf, .rtf only); please include the following details in your e-mail message —
    Poet’s Name & Address, Phone No, List of Titles, No. of Poems, Total Fees, & EITHER PayPal Receipt No. OR send cheque/money-order/postal-payment by post, no Special Delivery, Recorded Delivery or Registered Post.
  • Deadline: All postal entries, and any cheque/money-order/postal-payments for e-mail entries, to arrive at Troubadour International Poetry Prize, Coffee-House Poetry, PO Box 16210, LONDON W4 1ZP postmarked on or before Mon 20th Oct 2014. Prize-winners only will be contacted individually by Mon 24th Nov 2014. Prize-giving will take place on Mon 1st Dec 2014 at Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour in Earls Court, London.
  • Acknowledgement/Results: E-mail entries acknowledged within 14 days of receipt of both entry & payment; postal entrants may include stamped, addressed postcard or envelope marked Acknowledgement &/or stamped, addressed envelope marked Results; results will be posted on website (& mailed to all postal entrants who included a Results envelope) after announcement on Mon 1st Dec 2014; no correspondence will be entered into.


Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2013

Sponsored by Cegin Productions

The following prizewinning poems were chosen by judges Deryn Rees-Jones & George Szirtes who read along with winning poets at our annual prizegiving event at the Troubadour on Monday 2nd December 2013:

  • First Prize, £2,500, Owl, Hideko Sueoka, Tokyo, Japan
  • Second Prize, £500, Bad Day in the Office, Mona Arshi, London W5
  • Third Prize, £250, Red Wing Correctional Facility, Tim Nolan, St Louis Park MN, USA

and, with prizes of £20 each:

  • Gloria, Linda K Thompson, British Columbia, Canada
  • The Bonsai Master’s Wife, Sharon Black, St Andre de Valborgne, France
  • Hare, Ross Cogan, Faringdon, Oxfordshire
  • Weathering, Eleanor Hooker, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
  • Balconies, Louise Warren, London NW3
  • Outside the window the wild world still calls…, Wes Lee, Wellington, New Zealand
  • Y2K On Koh Samui, David Condell, Glasgow
  • Midwife to Mother Shipton, AC Clarke, Glasgow
  • They Are Building a Pleasure Dome, Michael Blackburn, Lincoln
  • The human touch, Martin Haslam, Wokingham, Berkshire
  • Elk, Lia Brooks, Southampton
  • Still Life with Bougainvillea, Robert Peake, Whitwell, Hertfordshire
  • A Night in the Doll’s House, Katy Mack, London SW11
  • Teenager, Caroline Smith, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
  • Simpsons dept store, Toronto, Theresa Munoz, Edinburgh
  • The Barking Women of Josselin, Jo Hemmant, Kent
  • Main Street Goes Up In Flames, Alice Moore, Candor NY, USA
  • Vanishing Rivers of Punjab, Cristina Navazo-Eguia Newton, Swindon, Wiltshire
  • Word Ancestors, Aideen Henry, Galway, Ireland
  • The Waltzer in Sunlight, Marilyn Francis, Radstock, Bath

Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2013 — Judges Report

Deryn Rees-Jones

Poetry competitions are a test of poems, but they also test judges. They demand that you think hard about what you value, and why, and that has the ongoing and demanding consequence of making you assess and reassess your own work. The standard of poems submitted for this competition was incredibly high. The prize winning poems stood out especially because they had that special gift of being able to create their own imaginative universes. They were poems that felt almost hermetically sealed, complete in their structures and images and sounds and rhythms; all the shortlisted poems, were quite rightly poems that were in love with language; they felt in a strange way as if they had always been written. But they also took risks; formal risks, imaginative risks, and risks of feeling. The winning poem in particular combined these technical abilities with imaginative ones; and it was an especial pleasure to hear it read aloud.

George Szirtes

What do prizes achieve? A brief improvement in one’s cash balance and a certain prominence for a certain time, though not always. The person who won the National Poetry Competition the first time I judged it in 1988 is not a well-known name, but I remember the process quite clearly. At the judges meeting – the other judges being Edwin Morgan and Jonathan Barker – by which time we had individually reduced the thousands of poems to just 40 each, a long discussion went on that developed a certain dynamic. It was a dynamic in which each judge changed position several times, occasionally even arguing against his original suggestion. The longer the discussion went on the more different each poem looked – then, just as we were all reeling and critically punch-drunk, one poem emerged, like a ship out of a fog, a poem in which we suddenly saw the best and most brightest of virtues and the entire momentum swung behind it. The prize was won in the last twenty minutes of a four hour discussion and weeks of reading.

It is not satisfactory but it is what is humanly possible. Did we make the best choice? Did we leave out superior poems, did we entirely miss a major work? We might have done. We are, after all, human, not gods. Weeks of reading came down to this. One poem was going to get vastly more money than others that had closely rivalled it. One poet was going to have his or her name in lights, two others would receive a brief glow and the rest would vanish into the pre-competition darkness, the best of them to emerge in magazines and books at their own good pace, if lucky.

It was a difficult task then, and it is now. My impression is that the level of competence has risen year on year for various reasons so the question the judge is forced to ask is not whether this or that poem is good but whether it is a potential winner. If I were teaching I would have to think of ways of explaining the virtues and problems of a poem to the writer, and half-consciously, I still feel I should and it is wearing. All human life is in the poems. There are poems that write with grace of the most dreadful things and one feels dreadful rejecting them. We are used to dealing with people, not anonymous numbers.

In this case both judges felt the pull of the adventurous and idiosyncratic, of poems that tried to do something very difficult, or even something simple, in an original way. There were many lovely poems and it was hard to make the best stand out. Some quality of the voice arrests us. Some utter clarity. The sound of something breaking that sounds just right. Everything on our commended list has great virtues, some might have superior virtues to the three we chose. Time will tell.

Third Prize poem, Red Wing Correctional Facility is, oddly enough, about teaching poetry, not, you might think an important subject. The voice begins novelistically, the speaker enters and simply talks, and it all seems pretty well what you’d expect, then half-way through it mentions the soul, in italics with capital letters, and now we are looking at inmates as they begin to write – and what they write, and how they write, defines their broader masculinity and their relationship to nature. The stakes have risen now and the poem is no longer about teaching Poetry with a capital P but about people: about who they are, where they are and what they do with those facts.

If the third placed poem dealt with one aspect of masculinity, the poem in second place, Bad Day in the Office deals with a traditional feminine problem, looking after household and children, everything needing attention at once. ‘Everywhere there is the stink of babies’ says the poem. That ‘stink’ permeates everything, the rabbit that tops itself, the tulsi plant at the doorstep, the curry, the dock-leaves, the radio announcer’s voice, and the orang-utans, down to that ‘sodding bunny’. These are the murderous suburbs of domesticity delivered in a sharp but tender voice, following the trail of clichés by which it must live but which it must – and does – transform into memorable, original lines..

We held our breath before deciding on our winner, Owl. The poem consists of three sonnets organised into three quatrains and an end couplet. But that was not the issue: we had a good number of other more than competent sonnets and sestinas. It was what the formal device did. It captured sound. The names Mr GP and Mr GA meant nothing to me at first (they were there in the footnote) but the owl did. Mentally I detached the poem from its provenance as a piece of delightful lyrical Oulipanism. The voice was clear, funny, scholarly, slightly on edge yet masterful, and the noises of the owl became ever more important. The missing out of the letter e – that forms the reference to Georges Perec and his translator, Gilbert Adair – came to me later. But, beyond that, what was becoming ever more solid before us was simply an owl, an owl in language. In Elizabeth Bishop’s wonderful poem, The Fish, everything by the end is “rainbow, rainbow, rainbow”. Here it was all owl calls. The third sonnet ran a vast risk with its phonetic evocations, a vast, original, probably unrepeatable risk. But as far as I was concerned, the fog had cleared, our ship had arrived. We held our breath, decided to fall in love with it, and dived in.

Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2013 — Prize Details

Sponsored by Cegin Productions

judged by deryn rees-jones & george szirtes with judges reading all poems

prizes: 1st £2,500, 2nd £500, 3rd £250
plus 20 prizes of £20 each
plus a spring 2014 coffee-house-poetry season-ticket
plus a prize-winners’ coffee-house poetry reading
with deryn rees-jones & george szirtes
on mon 2nd dec 2013
…for all prize-winning poets

submissions, via e-mail or post, by mon 21st oct 2013


  • George Szirtes (b. Budapest) came to England as a refugee aged 8: since his work first appeared in Faber’s Poetry Introductions in 1978, he has published over a dozen poetry collections, plus selected poems, new & collected poems, essays, art criticism, selected prose, libretti, poems for children, & public lectures (in Fortinbras at the Fishhouses, Bloodaxe, 2010); has edited anthologies; & has translated poetry, drama & fiction. His latest collection is The Burning of the Books and Other Poems (Bloodaxe, 2009). Among numerous prizes he has been awarded the Gold Star of the Hungarian Republic, & the TS Eliot Prize for Reel (2005).
  • Deryn Rees-Jones (b. Liverpool) spent much of her childhood in North Wales & now lectures at Liverpool University. She published her first collection, The Memory Tray, in 1994, followed by Signs Round a Dead Body (1999) & Quiver: A Murder Mystery (2004). Co-founder of LUPAS, a network which aims to bring together scientists & poets for creative collaboration, her critical study Consorting with Angels: Essays on Modern Women Poets was published by Bloodaxe in 2005. Chosen as a PBS Next Generation poet in 2004, she has won an Eric Gregory Award & her latest collection, Burying the Wren (Seren) was shortlisted for the 2012 T.S. Eliot Prize.

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