Young Romantics Prize

Submissions - Enter the Prize

Scroll down to enter 2020’s Young Romantic Prizes. Or click here.

Please note. We have extended the deadline for submissions until 31st January 2020.

The theme of 2020’s Young Romantics Prize is Songbird.

This marks two landmark bicentenaries in Romantic poetry. The composition two hundred 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 been granted 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 wider political and artistic efforts to bring attention to ever-escalating climate crisis.

See 2020’s Young Romantics poster here. Read more about 2020’s Young Romantics Prize here. For 2020’s Keats-Shelley Prize, click here.

2020’s Prize Chair is Simon Barnes, the award-winning journalist 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.

We are thrilled that 2020’s Keats-Shelley Prize is presented in association with the RSPB.

Poetry Prize

Poets are asked to write on the theme of Songbird.

This can be interpreted freely – whether about birds, song, birdsong or any combination thereof. Poems can be comic or serious, avant garde or traditional, but the Judges do advise that works flying too far from the theme will not be considered.

Rules and Formatting

Poems should be:

  • no more than 30 lines in length.
  • must fit onto a single A4 page.
  • be justified in the left-hand margin

Entries must be original. Plagiarism will not be accepted. The poem must
not have been published previously, either in print or online or in any other
media, nor previously submitted to us.

Poets can enter up to 2 poems. Please submit each poem using a separate online form.

Entry is free.

Essay Prize

2020’s Young Romantic essayists are asked to address this question:

‘The world should listen now as I was listening then.’
PB Shelley (sort of)

How can the poetry of PB Shelley and/or John Keats help us in our current climate crisis?

Your answer can take whatever form you choose: a literary critical essay, a political comment piece, a polemic for your personal blog. But the article should be no shorter than 750 words and no longer than 1000.

Read PB Shelley’s To a Skylark here.

John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale here.


Entries must be original works. Plagiarism will not be
accepted. They must not have been published previously, either in print or
online or in any other media, nor previously submitted to us.

Conditions of Entry

Deadlines for entries 31st January 2020.

All entries must be submitted via the website.

Shortlisted entries will be announced on the website and Twitter in March.

The winners will be announced in London at the Keats-Shelley Prize Awards in April 2020.

You must be 16 and no more than 18 in July 2020.

Entries may be submitted from any part of the world, but must be in English.

Poems and essays are sent to the judges anonymously so please do not put your name on your actual

They must be in Microsoft Word format.

In adherence with GDPR, your details will be held on a secure database and will not be released to any third party without your explicit and written consent. We may contact you by email with details of the next year’s competition and any other relevant information that may be of interest. Read our Privacy Policy here.

All questions regarding the 2020 Prize should be emailed to


  • Chair of Judges

    Simon Barnes

    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.

  • Poetry Judges

    Deryn Rees-Jones

    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 (

    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

    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.

  • Essay Judges

    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.