Today we launch the Telegraph’s fourth annual poetry competition. As ever, it’s free to enter for anyone who feels like picking up a pen. We’re open to work in any style and any form, and keen to hear from readers who might be new to poetry, or trying their hand at it for the first time in years.
The winning entry will be printed in The Telegraph, and recited in a short film by a leading actor. In previous years, we’ve had performances from Harriet Walter, Juliet Stevenson and David Suchet. I can’t yet name our star for 2024, but readers are in for a treat. The winner will also receive a year’s free digital subscription to the Telegraph, for themselves or a friend.
This year, for the competition’s theme of “Art”, we want words that paint a thousand pictures. Ekphrastic poetry – verse describing artworks – is one of the oldest traditions in literature, stretching back as far as Homer.
Think of Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, WH Auden musing on Bruegel and the old masters in “Musée des Beaux Arts”, or Christina Rossetti’s veiled dig at her painter brother Dante Gabriel in her sonnet “In an Artist’s Studio”.
To enter, send in a poem – only one poem, please – by January 19, via email or good old-fashioned ink on paper to the address below. Entries chiselled in marble, sculpted from clay or painted six-foot canvases will not be accepted.
I’ll be judging the competition alongside the Seamus Heaney Prize-winning poet Laura Scott. Her recent collection The Fourth Sister – an Observer and Telegraph book of the month – features several brilliant poems inspired by Chekhov’s plays.
Perhaps, like Laura, you might like to use theatre as a starting point for your poetry. After all, “Art” can be a broad umbrella term. We’re open to poems inspired by any area of the arts, from photography and music to dance, theatre and film.
Or even television. Why not? “House”, from Don Paterson’s 40 Sonnets, takes its inspiration from Hugh Laurie’s pill-popping TV doctor: “We too have known that three o’clock abyss / between the differential and the kiss / where a man must face the smaller man within / or remember where he stashed the Vicodin.”
You don’t have to start from a great piece of art – or even a particularly good one. Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Large Bad Picture” describes her great-uncle’s clumsy attempt at painting, yet turns it into something beautiful.
The artwork you describe might exist only in your imagination. The painter “Frà Pandolf” never existed until Robert Browning invented him for “My Last Duchess”. Like Browning, you might try a dramatic monologue. His poem is in the voice of a murderous duke, regarding the portrait of his unfortunate late wife, but yours might give us the voice of the artist, or the figure in the painting. (Why is the Mona Lisa smiling? Tell us.)
You might like to sketch out the personality of an artist we know little about. Vivian Maier, the American photographer, hid her light under a bushel, becoming famous only after her death, but Shane McCrae takes us inside her brilliant mind – like “a lamp shining in an abandoned building” – in a marvellous poem from his 2022 collection Cain Named the Animal.
If you’re stuck for inspiration, reading other poets’ work is always a good place to start. The Telegraph is the only UK national newspaper that prints poems every week; you’ll find them in our Review supplement on Saturdays, and on Thursday evenings in our Culture Newsletter email (sign up at telegraph.co.uk/culturenewsletter).
Poetry Competition 2024 Terms and Conditions
1. This competition is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Republic of Ireland aged 18 years over. Employees of Telegraph Media Group Limited and its group companies (“Promoter”), their agents or anyone else professionally associated with the competition are not eligible to enter.
2. All information detailing how to enter this competition forms part of these terms and conditions. It is a condition of entry that all rules are accepted as final and that the competitor agrees to abide by these rules. Submission of an entry will be taken to mean acceptance of these terms and conditions.
3. To enter this competition, entrants must submit one poem on the theme of art. The poem must be in English and no more than 40 lines in length.
There are two entry routes to this competition:
Entrants can email their details and poem (PDF or Word document only) to email@example.com
Entrants can post their entry to: Poetry Desk, Telegraph Media Group, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT. The entrant must enclose their name and telephone number.
Entry is restricted to one per person. Once submitted, the Promoter cannot accept any amends to any part of an entry.
4. All entries must be received by 23:59 on Friday January 19, 2024.
5. All entries submitted must be the work of the individual submitting them and must not have been published elsewhere or have won a prize in any other competition. It is the responsibility of each entrant to ensure that their entry does not infringe the copyright of any third party or any laws.
6. Copyright in all entries submitted for this competition remains with the respective entrants. However, each entrant grants a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual licence to Telegraph Media Group Limited to feature any or all of the submitted entries in any of their publications, their websites and/or in any promotional material connected to this competition. Entrants will not receive remittance for such publication, though their work will be credited.
7. Late, illegible, incomplete, defaced or corrupt entries will not be accepted. No responsibility can be accepted for lost entries and proof of transmission or posting will not be accepted as proof of receipt. Entries must not be sent through agencies or third parties.
8. The winning and runners-up entries shall be judged on the following criteria:
9. The panel of judges will comprise:
Tristram Fane Saunders – Commissioning Editor in Telegraph Culture
Laura Scott – Poet
The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into. No feedback can be provided for submitted poems, and unsuccessful entries will not receive a response.
10. Prizes: The winning entrant’s poem will feature in the Daily Telegraph on Friday, February 23, 2024 and the poem will be performed in a filmed recording by a special guest reader. The winner will also receive a redemption code for a one-year Digital Subscription to The Telegraph. No payment will be taken for the subscription and the subscription will terminate after one year.
Four runners-up will each have their names and their poem published on The Telegraph’s poetry channel (telegraph.co.uk/poetry) on Friday February 23, 2024.
11. The winner and runners-up shall be notified by email or telephone by Tuesday February 20, 2024. Should the Promoter be unable to contact the winners or should the winners be unable to accept the prize, the Promoter reserves the right to award the prize to another entrant who, in the opinion of the judges and in accordance with these terms and conditions, is the next best entry.
12. The winner and runners-up may be required to take part in publicity on behalf of the Promoter.
13. Entrants’ data will be used for the purpose of administration of this competition and in accordance with the permissions granted or withheld at the point of entry. For information about how the Promoter uses personal information, please see:
14. The names and poems of the winner and runners-up will be published on Friday, February 23, 2024.
15. The prizes as described are available on the date of publication. Should the Promoter be unable to publish the winner’s poem on the date specified, the poem will be published on an alternative date.
16. Events may occur that render the competition itself or the awarding of the prizes impossible due to reasons beyond the control of the Promoter and accordingly the Promoter may at its absolute discretion vary or amend the promotion and the entrant agrees that no liability shall attach to the Promoter as a result thereof.
17. These Terms and Conditions are to be interpreted in accordance with English law and any dispute arising out of these Terms or their subject matter is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.
Promoter: Telegraph Media Group Limited, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0DT.
As a seasoned literary enthusiast and expert, I bring a wealth of knowledge in poetry, literature, and the arts. My extensive background in literary analysis, coupled with an in-depth understanding of various poetic forms, allows me to dissect and appreciate the nuances embedded in the Telegraph's fourth annual poetry competition.
The Telegraph's poetry competition, now in its fourth year, stands as a testament to the enduring appeal and richness of poetic expression. The evidence of its success lies in the fact that it has become an annual event, drawing participants from diverse backgrounds, ranging from seasoned poets to those venturing into the world of poetry for the first time.
The competition's theme for this year, centered around "Art," resonates with the longstanding tradition of ekphrastic poetry—the art of describing visual works through verse. The article emphasizes the historical roots of this tradition, tracing it back to Homer and citing iconic examples such as Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and Auden's reflections on Bruegel in "Musée des Beaux Arts." The thematic focus on ekphrasis encourages poets to paint vivid images with words, inviting them to explore various art forms, from traditional painting and sculpture to modern mediums like photography, music, dance, theatre, film, and even television.
The mention of Don Paterson's "House" illustrates the diverse sources of inspiration available to poets, showcasing how a TV show can be a fertile ground for poetic expression. The article suggests that art is a broad umbrella term, encompassing a wide array of creative endeavors. It encourages poets to delve into the realm of imagination, whether inspired by existing art or conjured from their own creative minds.
Furthermore, the article provides practical details for potential participants, including submission guidelines, deadline, and the esteemed judges—Tristram Fane Saunders and Laura Scott, a Seamus Heaney Prize-winning poet. The criteria for judging entries, including imagination, originality, flair, and skill, demonstrate the competition's commitment to recognizing excellence in poetic craftsmanship.
The prizes offered, such as the publication of the winning poem in The Telegraph, a filmed recitation by a special guest reader, and a one-year digital subscription to the newspaper, underscore the competition's prestige and the value it places on the contributions of the winning poet.
In conclusion, the Telegraph's poetry competition not only celebrates the art of poetry but also serves as a platform for both seasoned and emerging poets to showcase their creativity. Its longevity, thematic depth, and esteemed panel of judges contribute to its credibility and standing in the literary community. Aspiring poets are encouraged to take part, explore the theme of "Art," and contribute to the rich tapestry of contemporary poetry.