Submissions for the 2020 Keats-Shelley Prize are now closed.
The theme of 2020’s Keats-Shelley Prize is Songbird.
This marks two landmark bicentenaries in Romantic poetry. The composition 200 years ago of PB Shelley’s To a Skylark and the publication in book form of John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale.
While these songbirds have achieved immortality through art, today’s reality is that the skylark and nightingale both face serious threat of extinction, lending grim ironies to Romanticised lines like ‘Thou wast not born for death immortal bird’ or ‘And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.’
Our hope for this year’s prize is that we can celebrate the glory of these songbirds, while participating in the wider political and artistic efforts to bring attention to ever-escalating climate crisis.
2020’s Prize Chair is Simon Barnes, award-winning sportswriter and acclaimed author of How To Be A Bad Birdwatcher, The Meaning of Birds, Epic, and most recently On the Marsh: A Year Surrounded by Wildness and Wet.
2020’s Keats-Shelley Prize Judges are the poets Professor Deryn Rees-Jones and Will Kemp, and Professors Sharon Ruston and Simon Bainbridge.
Total Prizes worth over £5000.
Submissions are now closed
Chair of Judges
Simon Barnes is an award-winning journalist, writer and novelist. In a 32-year career at The Times, he wrote mainly about sports, covering seven Olympics, five World Cups, a Superbowl and the World Chess Championship. His profiles included everyone from David Beckham to Red Rum, his publications range from novels about Hong Kong to a biography about England off-spinner Phil Edmunds. It was Simon’s talent for elegantly encapsulating the drama simmering underneath the action and within the players that won him readers, admiration and awards: ‘With Sampras the beauty was subtle, the tactics and execution obvious. With Federer, it was exactly the other way around,’ as he wrote in his 2018 career-spanning retrospective, Epic.
In addition to becoming The Times’ Chief sportswriter in 2002, Simon wrote columns about wildlife and birdwatching. These ushered in his second act as a writer of the natural world. Notable titles include Flying in the Face of Nature (1990), the bestselling How to be a Bad Birdwatcher (2004), and has continued with 2016’s The Meaning of Birds, Rewild Yourself (2018) and most recently On the Marsh: A Year Surrounded by Wildness and Wet. Simon was born in Bristol and grew up in London, returning to his birthplace to read English at Bristol University. In 2007, the university awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Simon’s website is here.
Professor Deryn Rees-Jones was born in Liverpool with family links to North Wales, where she later studied English at the University of Bangor, before completing a literature PhD at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is Professor of Poetry at the University of Liverpool
She won an Eric Gregory award in 1993 and ‘The Memory Tray’ (Seren, 1995) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Her other works are ‘Signs Round a Dead Body’ (Seren, 1998), ‘Quiver’ (Seren, 2004), and a groundbreaking critical study of twentieth-century women’s poetry, ‘Consorting with Angels’ (Bloodaxe, 2005), which was published alongside her accompanying anthology ‘Modern Women Poets’ (Bloodaxe, 2005). Deryn’s selected poems, ‘What It’s Like to Be Alive’, was published in 2016 and is a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation.
In 2004 Deryn was named as one of Mslexia’s ‘top ten’ women poets of the decade, as well as being chosen as one of the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation poets. In 2010 she received a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors. ‘Burying the Wren’ was published in 2012; it was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and a Times Literary Supplement book of the year.
A regular collaborator with contemporary artists, her most recent work is ‘And You, Helen’ (Seren, 2014), a book and animated poem made with the artist Charlotte Hodes about the wife and widow of the poet Edward Thomas. She recently won a prestigious Leverhulme Research Fellowship.
Her current projects include working on a book about the literary narratives which inform the pictures of the artist Paula Rego, which is forthcoming from Thames and Hudson. Other smaller projects include essays on the uses of repetition in the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, on poemfilms, and end-of-life writing. She is the editor of the new Pavilion Poetry series, for Liverpool University Press. She also co-directs the University of Liverpool’s Centre for New andInternational Writing (www.liv.ac.uk/new-and-international-writing/).
Deryn has considerable experience as a poetry judge, including the National Poetry Competition, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Costa Prize (Poetry) and every two years chair the judging panel for the English Association’s Michael Murphy Poetry Prize for a best first collection of poetry.
Visit Deryn’s website here.
Her profile page at the University of Liverpool is here.
Will Kemp has won the Keats-Shelley Prize (2016), the Cinnamon Pamphlet Competition (2014), the Debut Collection Award (2010), the Envoi International (2010) and the Cinnamon Short Story Award (2015). He has also been runner-up in the Keats-Shelley Prize (2013) and the Poetry Society’s Stanza Competition (2011), and highly commended in other competitions, including the Bridport and the Plough. Will regards a commendation in the Keats-Shelley Prize 2006 as the turning point in his writing career since it spurred him on during a time of self-doubt.
Cinnamon Press has published his collections to date, Nocturnes (2011), Lowland (2013) and The Painters Who Studied Clouds (2016), as well as his award-winning pamphlet, The Missing Girl (2015). His poems have been published in various journals, including: Ambit, Envoi, The Guardian, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, Magma, The North, Obsessed with Pipework, Orbis, Other Poetry, Poetry News, Poetry Scotland, The Rialto, The Times and Smith’s Knoll.
Professor Sharon Ruston
Professor Sharon Ruston is a long-standing Judge of the Prize essays. She is Professor of English Literature at the University of Lancaster, having previously taught at Bangor, Keele and Salford.
Her research specialism concerns the relations between the literature, science and medicine of the Romantic period, 1780-1820. Her first book, Shelley and Vitality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), explored the medical and scientific contexts which inform Shelley’s concept of vitality in his major poetry. Since then, she has worked on Mary Wollstonecraft’s interest in natural history, William Godwin’s interest in mesmerism, and Humphry Davy’s writings on the sublime. These form chapters of her most recent book, Creating Romanticism: Case Studies in the Literature, Science, and Medicine of the 1790s (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
Professor Ruston is currently co-editing the Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy and his Circle.
Visit Sharon’s profile page at the University of Lancaster here.
Professor Simon Bainbridge
Professor Simon Bainbridge is a long-standing Judge of the Prize essays. He teaches and writes at the University of Lancaster.
His main research interest is in the relationship between the writing of the Romantic period and its historical context. He is the author of Napoleon and English Romanticism (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and British Poetry and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (Oxford University Press, 2003) and the editor of Romanticism: A Sourcebook. He has published in journals such as Romanticism, Romanticism on the Net and The Byron Journal and has written essays and entries for An Oxford Companion to The Romantic Age: British Culture 1776-1832, Romanticism: An Oxford Guide, The Blackwell Companion to European Romanticism, and The Oxford Handbook to English Literature and Theology. Among other current projects he is working on the literature and culture of mountaineering in the Romantic period.
Visit Simon’s profile page at the University of Lancaster here.