Poetry Space Competition – Full results

Friday, 30 October 2020

I have now contacted all the winning poets and you can now read the top three winning poems and some comments from our winners. Congratulations to all three who received prizes of £500, £250 and £100 respectively, and also our shortlisted poets. The poets have all chosen a book prize from the Poetry Space shop and I will send those shortly. The top 20 poems will be published in a prizewinners’ anthology in due course. 


1st prize goes  Fionn Creber for An Axe. 

This is the first writing competition I’ve entered so I can’t stress how shocked and flattered I am to have won. Thank you to Bobby for seeing something in the poem, to Amy for her endless support and to those of you who read it and smile (or frown, I’m not fussy).


An Axe


I was thinking of taking an axe to the world. 

An old axe, a good axe. 

An axe that has known other hands than mine and marked them less. 

An axe whose handle had worn past being smooth and was now chipped and flaking splinters into my hands. 

I want to feel the weight of my decision in my shoulders and my elbows and my shattered

hands so that I know not to stop. 

I want to know the cost when I’m done, and my hands can’t feel. 

I want to look at them, bubbling and raw, a memory of skin and soft touches. 

When I think I am done I will hang up the axe that isn’t mine and it can wait there alone and I

won’t look at it again.

When I am done and my axe is hung, I will look at the world around me, my beaten and broken world, and I will build a palace from the waste. 

There’ll be better palaces later but I won’t see them, I will sit in a hall of mirrors made of pictures of me torn from time and I will not touch a single thing.

I will walk along the gallery naked under my robe of chain link fence and the fur of long dead animals that gasped in my arms as I told them they were good and kind and worth more than the world had to offer anymore.

I will sleep in the hollow of the broken chimney every night that I can and think about how my hands can’t trace faces in the memory of smoke.

The sun, chopped to pieces and stored in cages of shattered bronze, will warm me in the shade of its absence and when I die I want it to explode but it won’t.

I want the bronze to shred the air like shrapnel, desperate to devastate before it melts ahead of a world that’ll throb for less than a single, aching moment before it erupts.

I want to be gone and there be no memory of the earth, of the sun, of me, of you, of my

broken hands.

I want the axe to fade away from where it hangs and appear above the heads of distant civilisations. 

Leave memory for the heavens, they know when to leave something alone.


Fionn Creber


2nd Prize: Gareth Roberts for Nihilist 


I am delighted that my poem Nihilist has been chosen for a prize in the 2020 Poetry Space Competition.  This poem was motivated by an experience a while ago on the streets of London (Kensington High Street, I think).  The pavements were overflowing with people, each in their separate purposes but still within and part of the common stream of society; except for one man alone, angrily and volubly debating some heated argument with himself.  The stream of society parted around him, leaving him alone: an island; his own empty space with which to confront his demons.  This poem is for him and all that are left to face their darknesses alone.  I am struck by Bobby Parker’s comments in his Judge’s Report, particularly the sentence “There are lighthouses here, someone is always tending to the lamps…”. Yes: that is what poetry is for.




The last bomb that came was a quiet one,

a light ordnance device that rattled no windows,

blew down no walls, left no crater.


No blast or shockwave

ruffed the eager-ugly mouthy streets:

all eyes and feet.

Here, in the sunless duns, they felt nothing,

saw nothing.  Just me:


I saw it coming, nosing silent

through years coughed up like litter.

Through twisted froth

of final, spent and bitter words

it came.  A zero-perfect ballistic

homing in; my name on it.


I am a street of havoc; a ruined borough.

My mind is a rain of iron and fire,

my tongue choked on rubble. 

My blood: ash.  My guts

a spew of charred restraints and failed parts.

My brow is a search-light: blinding.

There are sirens.


I am cordoned off.


I am an exclusion zone.


Padded men poke me with long sticks

to see if I still tick.  Children taunt

from the safety of ice-creams;

their mothers each an Isis

flooding with cold, dark water.

I am set, a grim attraction:


digi me in for posterity

in some further Sunday

or the broken ends of bus-shelters.

Call me a name –

if it helps.


Gareth Roberts


3rd Prize: Greg Smith for The Laughing Buddhas.

I am delighted to have received third prize in the Poetry Space competition. This is the first time I have won a prize for my poetry and gives me great encouragement and confidence in my writing.


The Laughing Buddhas


That foxglove bell jerks on the half-stuck door 

however gingerly you enter. It disturbs 

a quiet that is more than just no sound. 

Everybody thinks in whispers 

as in a cathedral. Those same hours 

hurtling in the streets pass here


in one unbroken hush. There are more 

aromas than the memory can hold:

tea tree, lavender, jasmine, Japanese magnolia.

Is there some answer in the carved 

Teak room dividers, or the stillness

of the wind chimes in the indoor air?


In the window, melon-bellied Buddhas,

in a range of sizes, laugh together 

at some shared two-thousand-year-old joke.

Among the onyx trinket boxes 

and the soapstone elephants, a horse-brass Shiva,

dances at the centre of its five-inch universe.


In one corner lies the lifeless tiger of a wasp.

All day on the roundabout, cars 

miss each-other in unending synchronicity.

Pedestrians stride along imagined corridors.

Elsewhere birds free-wheel and lit clouds 

form or die away, each equally unique.


Greg Smith


Judge’s report

I think the best way for me to start this report for the Poetry Space competition 2020 should be to thank everyone who entered. In reading these poems, I found myself in a maelstrom of grief, pain and suffering that obviously cannot be compared to the lives lived behind them. There was humour too, and joy, but the overall feeling was one of longing for a happiness that often feels lost or too slippery to hold.

So to all who entered, I commend you for your bravery in committing to paper that which so many of us strive to keep hidden. Rest assured, the beauty and transcendence of your submissions not only overwhelmed me, it also taught me some valuable lessons in what it is to be human, and how we are to carry our heavy baggage of living into an increasingly uncertain future. Thank you, and please keep writing and sharing your wonderful work.

As for the prizewinners, I have to admit it was a tough call, made easier only by the manner of which my choices were made. By which I mean, no matter how technically brilliant or seemingly good a poem may be, the ultimate deciding factor will always be my own personal preference. And what can be easier than going with our instinct? Especially if that instinct has proven valuable in the past.

There was so much great work here to fall in love with, but in the end I had to stand by the poems that spoke to something in me that I barely understand, even though I trust it implicitly. I hope this gathering of poems helps in some way to give an example of the quality of writing that what was submitted and also the things that are currently influencing the common consciousness. Let these poems in. Let them heal, surprise and frighten us in equal measure. We are not alone. There are lighthouses here, someone is always tending to the lamps, and their stories are universal.

Bobby Parker, October 2020

1st:  An Axe – Fionn Creber

2nd : Nihilist: Gareth Roberts

3rd: The Laughing Buddhas: Greg Smith 


Highly Commended:

An Unexpected Bereavement: Fionn Creber

Moving Foster Homes Again, Yet I am Not Dead – Rosalie Alston

My Neighbour’s Brain- Marion Hobday

His Grandfather who Used to Address The Rain – Marion Hobday

Handiwork – Sharon Black

Choice Cuts – Colin Pink


Other shortlisted poems:

Neighbourhood Pyrotechnics – Lizzie Ballagher

Sitting Opposite the Wheelchair- Belinda Singleton

Fruit of her Womb- Naoise Gale

Bait – Gareth Roberts

Seeing Artemis- Tamsin Hopkins

Merdhil – Greg Smith

OCD- David Punter

In Praise of Zopiclone  Alison Love

We all fall down – Simon Alderwick

Radioactive – Alison Love

Mum- Angie Butler


Feedback on the top three poems

First prize:

An Axe

This poem stayed with me the way a film or song goes round and round in my head until I’m almost mad with it. I read it over and over, which was my first indication that it was definitely going to end up in the top 20. I enjoyed reading it so much that the technical skill of its internal rhymes, repetition and imagery didn’t occur to me until much later. This, for me, is a very good sign. I fell in love with the voice first. The feeling it gave me, which at first was to put the poem down and start writing myself. As a reader and a writer, I don’t think it gets much better than that. To inspire and be inspired is what nourishes the ecosystem of art and creativity. Admiration for the architecture of the piece came afterwards. And it just kept giving. And it stunned me. This is a poem I know I will keep coming back to. I’m looking forward to reading more work by this poet in the future.


Second Prize:


Choosing the poems for second and third place was the most difficult part of judging this competition. Poems were chosen and taken away and put back again. This went on for a week or so. The apocalyptic effects of this particular poem appeared to me as fireworks on the page and echoed in my mind long after I had finished for the day and put the papers temporarily back on the shelf. An excellent piece, Nihilist spoke to me as darkness speaks, with lights passing through like emergency sirens in the night, and all the shapes and shadows in between.


Third Prize:

The Laughing Buddhas

After spending the last few weeks engaged with poetry that explored mental illness, addiction, death, disability and loneliness, The Laughing Buddhas blew a calm breeze through my soul at a time when the pain was becoming a little too much. I needed it, and what it communicated was akin to chilled, fresh water after drinking nothing but rain or shots of strong spirits. It is a poem that brought sounds and smells that soothed me at a time when everything else was a little too cacophonous. This poem is a room I’d like to sit and think in. A place to escape, take a moment to consider ourselves and appreciate the complexity of living and the simplicity of being.”