Announcing the Winners of the 2022 International Book & Pamphlet Competition

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2022 International Book & Pamphlet Competition. Thank you to all entrants for letting us see your work, and congratulations to the four winners as chosen byJonathan Edwards and Romalyn Ante:

Karen Downs-Barton for her collection, Didicoy

Jon Miller for his collection, Past Imperfect, Future Tense

Zoë Walkington for her collection, I hate to be the one to tell you

Luke Samuel Yates for his collection, The Mystery Shopper

Congratulations also to Peter Allmond and Selima Hill, whose collections were Highly Commended by the judges. The four winners will receive editorial support from The Poetry Business towards the publication of their winning pamphlets in February2023. The winners will receive a launch reading at The Wordsworth Trust and both the winners and highly commended entrants will be published in The North 69 (winter 2022). The 2023 International Book & Pamphlet Competition will open for entries in October 2022.

Judges’ Comments 

It was a privilege and a pleasure to be involved with judging the 2022 International Book & Pamphlet Competition, and a particular pleasure to work alongside Ann and Peter Sansom. The competition has a legendary role in the poetry of the last few decades, in unearthing and giving space to brand new voices. From this point of view, it was so exciting to discover so many voices that approach the poem in new and unpredictable ways and fantastic to see, when the names were revealed, that a number of successful writers would be given their first chance at pamphlet publication. The competition was extremely hard fought, testament to the strength of new writing and the vitality of poetry. There were so many entries that would have made worthy winners, and which will find alternative avenues to success and a wide readership. The pamphlets that made it to the top have a range of tones, are able to make us laugh or to feel a real emotional punch, and have language which zings with personality or impresses with its formal achievement. More than anything, in every instance, this is writing that has to be published, and it’s an honour to be involved in the process which makes that happen.

Jonathan Edwards & Romalyn Ante 

Karen Downs-Barton

For Didicoy

Didicoy by Karen Downs-Barton offers us poems of huge emotional impact. The ability to take subject matter of great importance and express it through significant formal gifts makes the impact of these poems breathtaking. The collection is wonderfully peopled, with an unforgettable portrait of a mother and a powerful and important depiction of life in a children’s home. Writing like this, which combines real expressive skill with material which must be expressed, really reminds us what poetry is for. – Jonathan Edwards 

The poems in this collection often made me pause to reflect on how graceful a line was written, and the revelatory heart of the poem. The poems navigate through  rich and painful narratives of a mother, and vulnerable children. They are simply astonishing:  ‘look across / the ruddled city / In the corner / a dove / shot-down / I thought I was tough’. – Romalyn Ante 

Karen Downs-Barton is an award-winning Anglo-Romani writer. After a peripatetic early life including times in state child care she is now based in Wiltshire. Karen is a PhD candidate at Kings College London writing a magic realist poetry collection set in a metropolitan revue bar. Her work has been widely anthologised and appeared in magazines including Tears in the Fence; The High Window; Rattle; Ink, Sweat and Tears; and The North amongst others.. 

Jon Miller

For Past Imperfect, Future Tense

Past Imperfect, Future Tense by Jon Miller compels from its very first poem. The writing is crammed with life and very good on people. From a wonderful observation of youngsters on a train platform, through a small-yet-huge interaction of a couple at a French café table, to the arrival home of ‘the first man / to swim round the world’, the poems allow us to know a wonderful set of characters. Like lots of great writing, it might look like these poems are words on a page, but I say they’re so much more. I say they have lives in them. – Jonathan Edwards 

Here, the poet makes the seemingly mundane scenes and interactions extraordinary, with stunning language and unforgettable images. Whether the poet talks about ‘My cousin with the sensitive ears / winces as he unbuckles his memory / listens to wallpaper peeling’ or a Nativity play where ‘Straw lies about as if someone has detonated a scarecrow’, the poet showcases remarkable skills in exploring deep, human relationships. – Romalyn Ante 

Jon Miller lives near Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands and has recently stopped teaching to concentrate on his writing. His poetry has been published in a range of literary magazines and anthologies and he has also indulged in reviews and literary criticism. He was short-listed for the Wigtown Poetry Prize in 2021. His pamphlet ‘still life’ was published by Sandstone Press and a further pamphlet was published in an installation/exhibition in collaboration with the artist Peter White entitled ‘Echo’. 

Zoë Walkington

For I hate to be the one to tell you

I hate to be the one to tell you by Zoë Walkington introduces a powerful and distinctive voice. From a mistress brought home by her lover to meet his family, to a decimal point error which results in an extraordinary mass delivery of milk, these poems offer us highly original takes on familiar domestic situations. The precise directness of the language creates real comic and emotive impact, in poems crammed with great ideas and unforgettable endings. This is writing which really excites. – Jonathan Edwards 

The poems in this collection erupt with beauty and emotional resonance. These are graceful meditations on human relationships with each other and with themselves. The voice of the poet is strikingly unique, but there are also moments when it seems to be coming from within us, from the place of personal wonder: ‘Outside a wood-pigeon coos monotonously / its slung together nest is hidden from view, / just like your knickers are, mostly, / and your feelings about your mother.– Romalyn Ante 

Zoë Walkington lives with her whippets in Woburn Sands in Bedfordshire. She is a psychologist at the Open University, specialising in the psychology of police investigations. She regularly advises the police on interviewing suspects, and acts as an academic advisor to the BBC on factual crime content. She has had poetry published in Hinterland, Strix, and The North magazines. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing. 

Luke Samuel Yates

For Mystery Shopper

The Mystery Shopper by Luke Samuel Yates is poetry that is in love with the full potential of language. Personality bursts from this voice, and the writing is able to wow us multiple times in a single sentence. Great poetry changes the world, and we can never quite look at anything in the same way, after reading these poems. There’s a wonderful tenderness for people in this work, and the poet’s unique way of seeing makes spending time in his company an endless pleasure. – Jonathan Edwards 

Rich and arresting work. The poet’s voice, the language, the imagery: everything is astounding, giving colours to the characters, to the usually ordinary corners of the Midlands, to their hopes and heartaches, and unforgettable narratives. – Romalyn Ante 

Luke Samuel Yates was born and lives in North-West England. A four times Poetry Society Foyle Young Poet, he was selected for the Aldeburgh Eight and has published two previous pamphlets, The Pair of Scissors that Could Cut Anything (The Rialto, 2012) and The Flemish Primitives (a winner of the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition 2015). His work has appeared in magazines such as Poetry Wales, Ambit, The North, The Rialto, The Moth, Spelt, Finished Creatures, Poetry Salzburg Review, some anthologies of ‘new’ poets, and on the London Underground. He has performed work on Radio 4, at Aldeburgh, Ledbury, Kendal Calling and Carefully Planned festivals, and from inside a wooden box suspended from the ceiling of the Philadelphia Institute for Advanced Study, where he held a residency in 2009. A lecturer in Sociology, he also teaches and writes about political movements, consumption and everyday life.

Highly Commended

Selima Hill, for The Surly Mothers of Successful Men

We love The Surly Mothers of Successful Men because of the w​ay it’s so packed with life, personality and wit. The link between the words on the page and the lives they record is so direct and immediate as to be electric. The poems made us laugh aloud a number of times, and this is also really innovative writing, which offers the reader huge immediate rewards, as well as fashioning exciting new directions for what a poem and a pamphlet can be.– Jonathan Edwards and Romalyn Ante

Peter Allmond, for Winged This Side of Heaven

In Winged This Side of Heaven, the poet fashions a versatile lyric language which draws substantial power from its themes of family, memory and the natural world. We admired these poems for their observations of nature, their glimpses of birds and flowers. Poems like ‘Looking through John McGahern’s Window’ and ‘Afterthoughts’, powerfully evoke loss and longing, and this is a pamphlet which compels because the writer has something important to say, and the language in which to say it. – Jonathan Edwards and Romalyn Ante

About the International Book & Pamphlet Competition

The International Book & Pamphlet Competition was the first of its kind in Britain. Now in its 36th year, it has launched the careers of many well-established and successful poets, including Daljit Nagra, Michael Laskey, Kim Moore, Pascale Petit, and Catherine Smith.

The four winning collections are beautifully produced and promoted widely, and entered for all eligible awards and prizes. They are also sold in bookshops throughout the UK and through online stockists of The Poetry Business publications.

The Judges

Jonathan Edwards’ first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014), received the Costa Poetry Award, the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award, and was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. His second collection, Gen (Seren, 2018) received the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. He has read his poems on BBC radio and television, recorded them for the Poetry Archive, and led workshops in schools, universities and prisons.

Romalyn Ante’s pamphlet Rice & Rain (V Press) won the Saboteur Award in 2017, and her first full length collection Antiemetic for Homesickness (Chatto & Windus) was an Irish Times Best Poetry Book of 2020, an Observer Poetry Book of the Month and a Poetry School Book of the Year. She is the first East-Asian to win the Poetry London Prize (2018) and the Manchester Poetry Prize (2017). She also won the Creative Future Literary Award 2017.

Ann and Peter Sansom are directors of The Poetry Business and editors of The North magazine and Smith|Doorstop books. Ann’s publications include Romance and In Praise of Men & Other People (Bloodaxe) and Peter’s include Writing Poems (Bloodaxe) and Selected Poems (Carcanet).

See the list of past winners.

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Each and every year The Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition discovers and publishes exciting and substantial new poets…There’s no doubt that this is a career-changing poetry competition. If you’ve got a solid body of work that you’re pleased to have written, there’s nowhere better to send it.

The Poetry Trust

One of the career milestones for very many poets of note

Anne-Marie Fyfe

I’ve judged a lot of contests, but I can’t recall any where the quality of the poems – one manuscript after another – was so high

Billy Collins, 2015 competition judge