Young Romantics Prize

Submissions - Enter the Prize

2021’s Young Romantics Poetry and Essay Prizes are open.

Two Writing Competitions open to anyone aged between 16 and 18 years old.

Total Prizes worth over £5000.

Entry is free.

NEW PRIZE DEADLINE: 12th April 2021.

  • Watch Giuseppe Albano, Keats-Shelley House Curator, launch 2021’s Prize from beside John Keats’ grave in Rome’s Cimitero Acattolico

2021’s Prize Chair is Simon Barnes, the award-winning journalist and author of The Meaning of Birds, Epic, and most recently On the Marsh: A Year Surrounded by Wildness and Wet. The Young Romantics Prize Judges are the poets Professor Deryn Rees-Jones and Will Kemp, and Professors Simon Bainbridge and Sharon Ruston.

Winning entries will be published in the Keats-Shelley Review or on the Keats-Shelley website.

Visit the Keats-Shelley Blog for our new Young Romantics Resource page (links to articles, poems, videos).

Poetry Prize

The theme of 2021’s Young Romantics Poetry Prize is ‘Writ in Water’.

Our inspiration is John Keats’ gravestone in Rome, whose epitaph reads: ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’ The 2021 Young Romantics Prize is part of our wider KS200 programme, commemorating the death of John Keats, aged just 25 years old, 200 years ago on 23rd February 1821.

Poets can interpret ‘Writ in Water’ freely – whether about water, writing, death, immortality, time, or any combination thereof. Poems can be comic or serious, avant garde or traditional, but the judges do advise that works drifting too far from the theme will not be considered.

Deryn Rees-Jones adds. ‘For me good poems adhere to no rules…except the one necessary to their own creation. Often a poem will stand out because of its precision and its ability to harness and also liberate a particular kind of energy. I think that’s to do with being able to feel and know something which is acute and subtle at the same time. The poem will be able to say something that only it can say.’

Rules and Formatting

Poems should be:

  • no more than 30 lines in length.
  • must fit onto a single A4 page.

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.

Entry is free.

Click to visit the Keats-Shelley Resource Page for students and teachers: videos, articles, websites, readings about 2021’s theme, John Keats and Romanticism.

Essay Prize

2021’s Young Romantic Essay writers are asked to address this question (preceded by two quotations):

‘Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul?”
John Keats

‘The sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.’
PB Shelley, To a Skylark

How can poetry – especially the poetry of John Keats and Percy Shelley – help us cope with adversity?

Professor Sharon Ruston writes:I want to read a well-organised, lively, and well-expressed essay. It should be arguing a point and offer persuasive evidence in its case. We are also looking for someone who has a creative interest in Keats, Shelley, and their circle.’


Your response can take whatever form, mood or tone you choose: literary criticism, political commentary, personal essay, opinion piece, the script for a podcast. You can agree or disagree.

Entries must be no shorter than 750 words and no longer than 1000, including quotations.

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. All sources must be acknowledged.

Visit the Keats-Shelley Resource Page for students and teachers: videos, articles, websites, readings about 2021’s theme, John Keats and Romanticism.

The Keats-Shelley Blog has podcasts, poems, articles and playlists inspired by 2021’s Prize theme: ‘Writ in Water’.

Conditions of Entry

NEW PRIZE DEADLINE: 12th April 2021.

You must be 16 and no more than 18 in July 2021.

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

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

How to Enter

All entries must be submitted via the website. The website will will close on 12th April 2021 at Precisely!

Clicking the green button below opens the Entry Page. Scroll down and complete the Entry Form. Please remember to attach your entry and click the box agreeing to the GDPR and Copyright conditions. Click the green ‘Submit Prize Entry’ button.

You will see a ‘Thank You’ page and your ID number. This is confirmation that your entry has been received.

Email questions regarding the 2021 Prize 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.

    Listen to Simon consider what nightingales meant to John Keats and John Clare at the Keats-Shelley Podcast

    Simon’s website is here.

    Follow him on Twitter.

  • Poetry Judges

    Professor 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.

    Deryn’s most recent book is Paula Rego: The Art of Story, the first full-length survey of one of the most distinctive and important modern artists.

    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).

    In 2020, Sharon published (with Tim Fulford) the four volume Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy and his Circle with Oxford University Press. Read a Q&A with Sharon and Professor Fulford at the BARS Blog.

    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.