Bristol Poetry Prize 2016 Results


Judge Liz Berry's statement

Liz Berry competition judgeA parcel in the post is always sweet with possibilities and the Bristol postmarked packages that arrived on my doorstep in March were no exception. In the midst of a rainy grey week here were poems poems poems!

A poetry competition provides a snapshot of what's on the minds of writers and I was interested to see how the most ancient of concerns (love, death, nature) bumped up alongside the most modern (Aldi red wine; mums at soft play, texting - guilty on both charges!) I was struck again and again by how many of us use our poems as a way to try to connect or to say those things we are unable to say in life - I love you, I am sorry, you have hurt me so much, I wish I could have been better, I miss you all the time. There were poems to parents, to children born and unborn, friends, beloveds and strangers. I was often moved and in tears more than once, sometimes even the clumsiest poems shone with the sincerity of their intent. There were many sequences and long poems, one delightfully short poem which I still have pinned to my board. I love wild and raw poems and there were plenty of those too - many of which made it through to the final rounds. I was also heartened to see a good few poems concerning global political issues and the lives of those beyond our shores. Although none were quite polished enough to make it through I was glad that these subjects were in our minds and poems.

Choosing the top twenty five was joyful - such good poems! - but the final whittling down was very hard as they were all so accomplished and so different. Judging is always essentially subjective and so I did it the only way I know how - by carrying the poems with me and reading them again and again to see which compelled me the most, which stuck. I read them over breakfast, in the garden, in the car with a sleeping baby in the back, in the night when all the house was briefly asleep. I wish there were twice as many winning places but here are the poems I loved the most, the ones I wished I had written, the ones which carried that strange thrill, that electricity that a good poem carries.





Lois P. Jones (South Pasadena, California, USA)



Liz Berry: From the moment I read this dark, extraordinary poem it haunted me. It's mysterious, unsettling, blends the mythic with the real and is just so beautifully written. It's full of emotional charge and is taut with intensity and violence.
And that ending, oh my goodness that ending!







The Wedding Guest

Kathleen Jones (Appleby, Cumbria, UK)

kathleenjoneswebLiz Berry: Another poem I loved from first reading. The poet conjures a wonderful lucid voice here and uses it to tell a beguiling story of a century of change, of rise and fall. Fantastic stuff.









My Sister and the Wolves

Kim Moore (Barrow-in-Furness, UK)

KimMoorewebLiz Berry: I found myself returning again and again to this poem and it's delightfully odd, dark story which is very cleverly developed and sustained. It gets better and better as it goes on, until we reach that fantastic, wild final image. Bravo!






Highly Commended

(in no particular order)


The Dyer's Hands

Mara Adamitz Scrupe (Philadelphia, USA)

Liz Berry: Lush, complicated, richly written and intense. Every time I read this I discovered something new.

Jessica Wisenfield (London, UK)

Liz Berry: I found this poem very moving and thought it soared at its best moments.

Revisiting the National Collection of Clocks and Watches

Caprar Swire (Malvern, UK)

Liz Berry: A poem as charming as its subject and full of well crafted images.


Girl with Child on a Swan's Wing

Angela Carr (Dublin, Ireland)

Liz Berry: Rich, lyrical and full of music. An enchanting poem.


Spring and the Pig Mother

Diane Mulholland (London, UK)

Liz Berry: Oh I loved this wild, strange folkloric poem and wished I had written it, especially those wonderful final lines.

The New House

Ron Carey (Dublin, Ireland)

Liz Berry: Tightly written, curious and full of cracking lines and images. I found myself wondering again and again about this poem, trying to unpick its mystery.


James Nixon (London, UK)

Liz Berry: Punchy, witty and building up to a wonderfully unexpected ending.