Hosting for Poetry Rivals 2015

I was at the Royal Albert Hall in London the other day. Not this bit..

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But this bit instead..

Which is still pretty swish, right? I was hosting an event called Poetry Rivals - it's a poetry in performance competition that gathers thousands of entries each year. I've been helping out Bonacia (who run the competition) for four years now by shortlisting their entries and making sure that all entries get equal consideration for the grand final. This means that I spend a great deal of December and January going through thousands of poems, selecting the most exciting ones and assembling a shortlist. It takes up a lot of time, but every year I've found it really inspiring - and really useful in helping me to consider my own writing. I LOVE the final event too, as It means that I get to see what all the pieces I've shortlisted look like in the flesh. They always, always come out better than I expected too. The final event is probably one of my favourite events of the year, to be honest. It's sort of like

1. Christmas
2. First music festival of the summer
3. Royal Rumble
4. Poetry Rivals Final
5. Birthday, anniversary, pay day etc.
6. The rest of the year.

that's pretty high, right? And this year was, I think, the best year we've ever had for quality of entries. I would have paid good money to attend that final event. The pieces were stunning - and so varied too. We had poems about drunken affairs, misplaced pride, colonialism, family arguments and a really sweet and sincere ode to John Cooper Clarke. the quality of performance was really high too and our judges Johnny FluffyPunk, Vanessa KisuuleClive Birnie and Morgan Walton really had their work cut out for them. The winner in the end was Jamal Mehmood, with a stunning poem about family, identity, race and the power of language. He had the whole room hooked from start to finish, and I was so pleased to hear that he'd won. Jamal won a publishing deal with Burning Eye Books (the publishing house that put out my first collection) and, honestly, you want to get pre-ordering if you can. It's going to be a stunning book.

We wrapped up the night with an announcement that the competition will be back next year too, which is wicked. If you're interested in entering, why not click here and find out more about the competition?