Archive of Poetry Centre stories

Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition – a second year of success

1-Poetry comp - vineThe Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre‘s second International Poetry Competition has been highly successful, receiving more entries from more poets than in 2015. The competition, which seeks to celebrate the great diversity of poetry being written in English all over the world, attracted close to 1000 entries from over 450 different poets and was truly international, with entries from over 30 countries including: Argentina, Canada, China, India, Iran, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, St Lucia, Taiwan, Turkey, and Uganda.

Winners of the top prizes of £1000 in each of the two categories: ESL (open to all poets over 18 years of age who speak English as Second Language), and Open (open to all poets over 18 years of age) and shortlisted poems will be announced in October. Our judge this year is the award-winning poet Daljit Nagra, the first poet to win the Forward Prize for both his first collection of poetry, Look, We Have Coming to Dover!, in 2007, and for its title poem in 2004, Daljit was also selected as a ‘New Generation Poet’ by the Poetry Book Society in 2014 and is Radio 4’s first ever Poet-in-Residence from October 2015-October 2017.

The awards evening, featuring readings from the winning poets and Daljit Nagra himself, will be held on Friday 25 November, and all are welcome to attend. Watch this space for more details. You can read about last year’s winners on the Poetry Centre website.

Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry – shortlist announced!

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Kate Clanchy with her students, pictured at the recent International Poetry Competition awards event – photography: Frank Dumbleton.

The shortlist for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry has just been announced, and Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is very proud to have partnerships with two of the six poets shortlisted by judges Jackie Kay, Andrew McMillan, and Ali Smith.

Kate Clanchy has been shortlisted for her collaborative radio programme We Are Writing a Poem About Home. Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 for National Poetry Day in October 2015, it featured a number of the students from Oxford Spires Academy who have been tutored in writing by Kate. The Poetry Centre has collaborated with and supported Kate’s work in Oxford for a number of years now, most notably with the creation of the role of Oxford City Poet, which Kate held from 2011-13, and during which she inspired hundreds of children across the city to write poetry. Three of Kate’s students also recently read at the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition awards event.

Speaking about the Ted Hughes Award, Kate said: ‘I am so delighted to have this shortlisting. The radio programme was a joy to make because it brought together seven years of writing at OSA l in what felt like a very natural, easy way; and a joy to hear because it framed all the students’ diverse voices so well. I keep telling the students that their poems are excellent not just as schoolkids’ work, but for a wider audience, and that their school, where there is no majority culture and where so many nationalities are brought together in a humane and loving community, is a very special place in the wider world, too. They don’t always believe me, but maybe the shortlisting will help. It definitely helps me, and encourages me in my work.’

Also shortlisted for the award is Chris Beckett, for his work on the exhibition Sketches from the Poem Road (after Matsuo Bashō’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North), which, thanks to the Poetry Centre, will be visiting the Glass Tank exhibition space at Oxford Brookes from 20 June to 15 July. The exhibition, first shown in the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, and accompanying pamphlet published by Hagi Press, Sketches from the Poem Road, are the result of a creative collaboration between poet Chris Beckett and artist Isao Miura. Poet and artist set off on an interpretative journey in the footsteps of Matsuo Basand his ‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’, which he undertook in spring 1689. Between them they travel from text to image, and often back again, creating an interwoven series of poems, translation, drawing and sculpture in the footsteps of the Japanese poet.

Chris commented: ‘I am thrilled that Sketches from the Poem Road has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. It is a great boost for Isao and my After Basho project! We hope it will encourage lots of people to come and see the multi-media multi-poetry show from 20 June to 15 July at the Glass Tank Gallery, sponsored by Oxford Brookes’ Poetry Centre, and also to participate in some of the exciting Haibun and Translation events that we are planning to accompany the show. Please have a look at the Glass Tank website and our project website for details.’

During the exhibition’s run at the Glass Tank, there will be a series of public events, including an evening about translation, an event celebrating the haiku and haibun, a poetry walk around Oxford designed to mimic Bas’s own walk, and a workshop at the Ashmolean Museum with students from Oxford Spires Academy. For more details, contact the Director of the Poetry Centre, Dr Niall Munro:

The Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry seeks to recognise excellence in new poetry. The Award acknowledges poetry that goes beyond just the page, highlighting exciting and outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life in 2015. This year the shaping and reshaping of themes ancient and modern converge into a shortlist of works in deep conversation with life and, thanks to their recognition here, with each other. This year’s winner will be announced in a ceremony in London on 31 March.

The full shortlist is: Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi and Sarah Maguire for He Tells Tales of Meroe; Chris Beckett for Sketches From the Poem Road; Elizabeth Burns for Clay; Kate Clanchy for We Are Writing a Poem about Home; David Morley for The Invisible Gift: Selected Poems; and Carole Satyamurti for Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling. You can read more about the award and the shortlist on the Poetry Society’s website.


Photography: Frank Dumbleton

International Poetry Competition awards celebration

Copy of International Poetry 38 smallAfter the success of its inaugural International Poetry Competition, which attracted nearly 900 entries from all over the world, the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre hosted an awards evening on Friday 19 February. The celebration featured terrific readings from three of the winning poets (pictured below): Siobhan Campbell, winner of the Open category, Marie-Aline Roemer, winner of the English as a Second Language (ESL) category, and Hanne Busck-Nielsen, Special Commendation in the ESL category, as well as video recordings from the other winning poets, Claire Askew (Open) and Armel Dagorn (ESL). Competition judge, Hannah Lowe, was extremely impressed by the very high standard of the submissions. She said,

“All of the poems I shortlisted had a sense of real urgency about them, of needing to be written and a quality of testimony to experience.”

Copy of International Poetry 14 small The event was attended by an enthusiastic audience, who also very much enjoyed Hannah’s reading from her acclaimed first collection, Chick, and her upcoming collection Chan, which will be published by Bloodaxe in June of this year. There were also wonderful readings of their work by three local young poets mentored by Kate Clanchy at Oxford Spires Academy: Tarzina Khatun, Rukiya Khatun, and Asima Qayyum.

All of the winning poems are available to read on the Poetry Centre website, as well as additional photographs of the event. The awards ceremony was livestreamed and recorded, and can be viewed on the Brookes website (fast forward to 14:30 to view the opening).

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Dr Niall Munro, Director of the Poetry Centre, also announced the date of the next International Poetry Competition: it will be open for entries from Friday 29 April to Wednesday 31 August.

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To find out more about the opportunities that you can gain from studying English or Creative writing here at Oxford Brookes, follow the links to our undergraduate and postgraduate
course pages.


Photography: Frank Dumbleton

Kate Clanchy celebrates young Oxford poets on BBC Radio 3


On Saturday 10 October, Kate Clanchy, Creative Writing Teaching Fellow on MA Creative Writing, will be appearing on BBC Radio 3 with a group of young Oxford poets in a programme entitled ‘We Are Writing a Poem About Home’.

The programme takes us into one of Kate’s inspirational lunchtime workshops at Oxford Spires Academy where she is the Writer-in-Residence, and introduces us both to her highly engaging teaching style and to twenty-two of her students, a number of whom have won or been highly commended in prestigious poetry prizes, such as the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, the Betjeman Prize, the Tower Poetry Prize, and the Forward Young Responses Prize. Kate and her fellow teachers have also produced a downloadable anthology called The Poetry Takeover, which sets poems from the Forward Book of Poetry alongside students’ own poems in response.

Commenting on ‘We Are Writing a Poem About Home’, Kate said: ‘I love this programme: it celebrates the diversity of my students, their humour, and their sheer brains through their own voices. Brookes has supported me in my work at OSA for seven years now and I hope lots of staff and students will tune in. This is your community too.’

In addition to her role as a Teaching Fellow at Brookes, Kate was also Oxford City Poet between 2011-13, a post created by the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre and sponsored by the Centre and Oxford City Council. During her tenure, she worked with more than twenty schools and arts organizations across Oxfordshire, and hundreds of young people. Building on the success of the City Poet role, one of Kate’s students at Oxford Spires, Azfa Awad, was appointed as the first Oxford Youth Ambassador for Poetry, and Azfa’s work features in this Saturday’s radio programme.

The programme is to be broadcast on Radio 3 on Saturday 10 October from 9.30-10pm, and will be available for 30 days afterwards to listen to again.

Boxing John Clare: Literature professor in new film about the poet


A film about England’s most significant poet of the natural world, John Clare (1793-1864), featuring an Oxford Brookes academic, is released in cinemas this week.

The 83 minute feature By Our Selves is the culmination of a collaborative art and performance project led by award-winning filmmaker and artist Andrew Kötting (Gallivant, This Filthy Earth, Ivul). It was filmed in part, on the University’s Headington Campus and features Oxford Brookes Professor of English Literature Simon Kövesi.

What Andrew has made out of all of this creative, collaborative chaos is magnificent. The way he folds Toby and Freddie Jones into one another as Clare – young and old – is incredibly moving.

Prof Simon Kovesi, Head of Department of English and Modern Languages, Oxford Brookes University

By Our Selves, which has been given a four-star rating by Time Out magazine, follows Clare’s desperate escape from an asylum in Epping Forest in the summer of 1841 to his home 80 miles away in Helpston, Cambridgeshire.

Simon, who has a long-standing research interest in Clare, appears in By Our Selves as an academic/boxer, fighting a straw bear. Simon explains how this came about: “Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair presented early rushes of their film at a conference I ran at Brookes last year. By way of thanks, I sent them some books and articles, all about Clare in 1841 and his obsession at that time with Byron and boxing. A few months after that, I ended up being filmed in a boxing gown, covered in plastic flowers, fighting a bear.

by-our-selves-3“My bit aside, Andrew’s film conveys a rich sense of Clare’s tactile understanding of the natural world, and the brutal qualities of the countless intrusions of modernity into the landscape, against which Clare was the first poet to protest.

“The mysterious relationship Clare has with the straw bear – played by the director – is Beckettian in its absurdity yet somehow speaks to Clare’s persistent desire for community and love – with animals, nature, and women. The bear also embodies Clare’s blank loneliness in 1841. When the bear danced at Brookes, and sprayed straw all over our new lecture theatre, I thought Clare might want to punch it as a boxer. So that’s what I end up doing in the film. What Andrew has made out of all of this creative, collaborative chaos is magnificent. The way he folds Toby and Freddie Jones into one another as Clare – young and old – is incredibly moving.”

By Our Selves stars Toby Jones (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Berberian Sound Studio, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and his father Freddie Jones (The Elephant Man, Dune, Wild at Heart) as Clare at various stages of life; Freddie Jones last played Clare in a 1970 BBC TV drama-documentary about the poet.

by-our-selves-2The poet’s long-lost love Mary Joyce is played by poet and performance artist MacGillivray and music is by sound artist Jem Finer (formerly of The Pogues), with the dancing and drumming of David Aylward (drummer in Blurt). The film features graphic novelist Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) and writer Iain Sinclair (London Orbital, Ghost Milk), whose book about Clare, Edge of the Orison (2005), was the inspiration for the film. All of these contributors have written pieces for a fully-illustrated book of the film, By Our Selves (badbloodsibyl, 2015), which is launched at the Bloomsbury Festival in London on 23 October.

At the FID documentary festival in Marseille in July, By Our Selves received the ‘Mention Speciale’ in the international documentary competition. It is officially released by Soda Pictures on Friday 2 October. Cinema listings can be found on the Soda Pictures website.

The trailer for the film can be viewed below.

Information about courses in English Literature, Drama, Languages and Postgraduate Creative Writing and English can be found on the Department of English and Modern Languages webpages.

Final call to enter the International Poetry Competition

International-Poetry-CompetitionThe deadline is fast approaching for the Oxford Brookes University International Poetry Competition, but there is still time to enter.

Launched by the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre in May, the competition has two top prizes of £1000 on offer. The competition seeks to celebrate the great diversity of poetry being written in English all over the world.

The Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize is a prestigious and timely way of enhancing Brookes’ reputation, founded on the Poetry Centre’s long-standing track record of poetry and public engagement.

Dr Eoin Flannery, Director of the Poetry Centre, Oxford Brookes University

Dr Eóin Flannery, Director of the Poetry Centre at Oxford Brookes said: “The Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize is a prestigious and timely way of enhancing Brookes’ reputation, founded on the Poetry Centre’s long-standing track record of poetry and public engagement.”

There are two categories in the competition which are open to both new and established poets aged 18 and over from across the globe.

The two categories are:

  • ESL category (open to all poets over 18 years of age who write in English as a second language
  • Open category (open to all poets over 18 years of age).

Part of the prize funding for the competition came from Oxford Brookes’ 150th anniversary small grants programme which was launched in 2014. The small grants programme has helped to fund projects which best supported staff, students and the local community, enhanced Brookes’ international reputation and celebrated 150 years of success.

The competition deadline is midnight on 31 August 2015. There is a cost of £5 to submit a poem or £4 per poem for more than three entries. Entrants may submit up to ten poems and all entries must be unpublished work.  Full competition entry criteria and terms and conditions can be found on the International Poetry Competition webpage.

The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is based within the Department of English and Modern Languages at Oxford Brookes University. The Centre hosts an annual programme of events for members of staff, students and the local community including conferences, research seminars, workshops, exhibitions and community projects.

Radio documentary by Brookes Lecturer explores poetry of James Berry OBE


A radio documentary, A Story I Am In, by Hannah Lowe, MA Creative Writing Teaching Fellow at Oxford Brookes, explores the poetry of James Berry OBE who came to the UK from Jamaica in 1948.

In the documentary Hannah Lowe, herself of part-Jamaican origin, examines how James Berry’s poems look to his childhood in rural Jamaica and reflect on the shock of an England that didn’t always know how to accept him.

Berry started to write about his experiences and came to play a key role in bringing Caribbean voices into British poetry, editing two seminal anthologies, Bluefoot Traveller and News for Babylon. Now just turned 90, he is slipping into the hidden depths of Alzheimer’s Disease but, as A Story I Am In shows, he is aware of the people and nature around him.

Fellow poets John Agard, Grace Nichols and Linton Kwesi Johnson explain how Berry’s work and the man himself came to have such a strong influence on them, while Hannah Lowe finds that the poems have helped her trace her own father’s journey from Jamaica to London.’

Hannah was also recently filmed for BBC2’s Poetry Between the Lines: The Romantics, speaking about Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.


Brookes lecturer is named as a Next Generation Poet


Brookes Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing, Hannah Lowe, has been named as a ‘Next Generation Poet’ by the Poetry Book Society. The list of twenty poets, which is drawn up only once a decade, was selected from 241 submissions from poetry publishers. The list represents the most exciting new voices in poetry, published over the last decade and inclusion in the past has launched the careers of many of today’s leading British and Irish poets, including Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage.

Next Generation Poet

Hannah says that receiving the award was especially important for her as she was a late starter as a poet: ”I didn’t write anything until I was 30,” she says. “Lots of the writers in this generation 2014 are the writers I was reading five years ago, thinking: ‘I want to be like you’, and so to be in their esteemed company is fantastic.”


Hannah was inspired to write poetry having read Staying Alive, an anthology of contemporary poetry (published by Bloodaxe Books) and through her teaching of poetry to her sixth-form English students. But it was the subject matter from her own past – the life of her late Chinese- Jamaican father, an elusive presence in her youth – which drove her to find a poetic voice.

Hannah explained: “The collection for which I was selected for Next Generation is Chick, the collection about my Dad. He was Chick, that was his nickname. I think I had this very strong compulsion to write about him and it was a relief really when I finally realised I had a medium to express this stuff and it kind of went from there; I couldn’t stop writing. I signed up for creative writing classes; I think at one point I was doing three classes a week.”

Poetry is the reaching out of the literary arts

The importance placed on poetry at Brookes through the work of the Poetry Centre and individual academics is appreciated by Hannah who sees Brookes’ involvement in the artform as part of the University’s inclusive ethos. She describes poetry as “the reaching out of the literary arts” and says, “I feel that poetry in its short digestible forms despite its reputation of being difficult obtuse and undecipherable is actually incredibly inclusive. Poetry is essentially heard language with all its concerns with the way words sound together with metre and rhyme and rhythm. It has the most basic appeal to all of us.”

She strongly believes poetry is mainly written to be heard and says,“That trait is really evident in the rise of live poetry readings and spoken word performances, which are incredibly popular and Oxford certainly is a place where there is a lot of energy around those scenes.”

Rediscovering creativity

Hannah says writing poetry is like rediscovering her love of creativity from childhood.

“For me poetry is closer to music and art than it is necessarily to fiction,” she says, “The poetry I love and try and write is always strongly visual. I try to paint with words. When I write, I think ‘this is the image that’s in my head and how can I make you see it as well?’ And that’s what a painter does. Poetry is also strongly musical, not that prose fiction can’t be, but poetry lends itself more to that. For me it has always overlapped those things I loved as a child – painting and playing music and so to come to poetry later in life it really is like rediscovering the things that I let go when I was younger.”

The next ten years

Next Generation poets are listed once a decade; looking forward to poetry’s direction in the next ten years, Hannah believes there will be ever more diversity: “I think there’s a broader range of voices than ever in this next 2014 list, so for example Kei Miller who has just won the Forward poetry prize is a Caribbean voice. And the spoken word has become more and more popular, so the presence of a voice like Kate Tempest is interesting. I expect there will be more of this kind of poetry, which is closer to rapping.

“In terms of my own writing, I have an interest in the experimental, and thematically, I think writing from the left-wing and anti-racist perspective, which was there in Chick, will continue to guide my work. I am also more and more interested in subversive histories – writing against the main grain of history – so my new pamphlet, for example, tells a different story about British migration challenging the centrality of the Windrush in post-war Caribbean migration.”

Hannah Lowe’s new work Ormonde will be launched on 4 November.

Hannah will be reading her work at the Reading Poetry Festival on 7–9 November as part of an Oxford Brookes event.

Hear Hannah reading from ‘Chick‘ below.

Poets Hannah Lowe and Jennifer Wong to take part in the Reading Poetry Festival


The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is delighted to announce that it will host an event at this year’s Reading Poetry Festival. The event will be a combined poetry reading by Hannah Lowe, Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing, and Jennifer Wong, PhD student in English and Creative Writing, on Saturday 8 November.

This year’s festival also features a reading by Kate Clanchy, Senior Research Fellow in Creative Writing, reflections on the work of the American poet John Berryman by, amongst others, Kate Clanchy and Steven Matthews (former Director of the Poetry Centre), and a reading by Jamie McKendrick, who featured in an event with Poetry Centre Director, Eóin Flannery, as part of the Oxford Human Rights Arts Festival earlier this year.

Further information about the festival, and details about how to obtain tickets, can be found on the festival website.

Hannah Lowe will be reading alongside Peter Robinson at a lunchtime poetry reading at Brookes on Wednesday 19 November.

National Poetry Day: pop-up readings at Brookes and beyond

MemorablePoemOxford Brookes will participate in National Poetry Day with a range of events this year. On Thursday October 2, the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre will run a series of ‘pop-up’ poetry readings at venues in the city and on the Gipsy Lane, Wheatley and Harcourt Hill campuses.

Run by the Forward Arts Foundation, National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by William Sieghart, and has engaged millions of people across the country in reading, writing and listening to poetry.

In Oxford, twenty local and regional poets will perform at the Old Fire Station, Gloucester Green, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Broad Street, Albion Beatnik Bookshop, Jericho and the Castle Quarter. The day will conclude with a grand finale of performance poetry at the Catweazle Club on the Cowley Road in the evening, beginning at7.30pm.

On campus listen out for poetry readings at The Forum in JHBB, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Simon Williams Undergraduate Centre at Wheatley and at Harcourt Hill.

This is the first time that the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre has organised such a range of events to celebrate National Poetry Day, and it is an important role to undertake in order to underline, and to facilitate, the widespread interest there is in poetry across the city and the region. Poetry is not just confined to books and classrooms, and our aim is to remind people, firstly, of the entertainment value to be gleaned from the sharing of poetry and, secondly, of the merits of public, performed poetry.

Dr Eóin Flannery, Reader in Irish literature and Director of Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre

The event is further celebrated by the release of the Memorable Poem video project, in which students and staff discuss their favourite poems or see below, which includes contributions from students and staff, including the Vice Chancellor.

The Poetry Centre will also launch a campus-wide creative writing competition on the day on the theme of ‘Well Being’ with free entry for all staff and students.