Hampstead poetry lovers launch lockdown competition

Performance Poet Jehane Markham is one of the judges of the poetry competition

Performance Poet Jehane Markham is one of the judges of the poetry competition - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Call by Hampstead volunteer, who handed out poetry anthologies during lockdown, to submit pandemic poems which will reveal ‘the mood of the nation’

Hampstead radio producer
Piers Plowright is one of the judges of the poetry competition

Hampstead radio producer Piers Plowright is one of the judges of the poetry competition - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Isolated households countrywide have sought solace in creative projects during lockdown - including reading and writing poetry.

Now Camden poet Jehane Markham, and Hampstead-based radio producer Piers Plowright are encouraging them to submit their pandemic poems for a competition.

Business consultant and part time poet Martin Connolly came up with the idea after the success of a scheme to hand out poetry to shielding Hampstead residents.

“There’s been so much interest in poetry in the pandemic,” said Connolly.

Hampstead resident Martin Connolly is running a poetry competition for people to submit their pandem

Hampstead resident Martin Connolly is running a poetry competition for people to submit their pandemic poems - Credit: Archant


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“As part of the Hampstead volunteer group I delivered 150 poetry anthologies to people shielding. I approached Neil Astley the editor of Bloodaxe Books who heavily discounted them, and the feedback was overwhelming. It’s been absolutely cathartic for a lot of people.”

Connolly, who serves on the Council of Governors for the Royal Free Hospital, says

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the competition is endorsed by the London Arts In Health Forum.

“It’s vital to give people a creative outlet in lockdown, it helps well-being and mental health and provides a lot of comfort. There’s a real sense that poetry is good for you, to find lyrical solace to dip into, revisit classics or find new poems.”

Entries of 40 lines or less are encouraged from writers of all ages, walks of life, on any theme or style.

Plowright, Markham and poet Sean Street will judge them anonymously: “We’ve had entries from students, the unemployed, frontline NHS workers, and children as young as 14,” says Connolly, who moved to Hampstead three years ago.

“Subjects reflect the national mood, themes of loss, nostalgia, separation between parents and children, but also hope for the future.

“The level of talent is phenomenal, from very polished poets to people who have never submitted their work before. The beauty is each stands on its own and is judged on its merits.”

Eight cash prizes are up for grabs pus the chance to be published in what Connolly believes will be “a unique anthology of a very strange time”.

“We want to reach as diverse a group of writers as possible, there’s a huge community of aspiring poets writing during lockdown and we hope they will take the chance to enter.

“Even if they are not a prize winner, the best of the rest will be included in our anthology so it’s a wonderful opportunity to become a published poet.”

£10 entry is open to UK or Irish citizens and free for the unemployed or half price for students and NHS workers. Entries close December 15.

www.folklorepublishing.co.uk or instagram @folklorepublishing.

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