The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre recently ran its 2022 International Poetry Competition to celebrate the power of poetry across the world! Over 1,500 entries were submitted this year - more than ever before - and our judge, Caroline Bird, has announced the results. Huge congratulations to all the winners and to our shortlisted poets for this year too!
2022 Winners and shortlist
We hosted an online awards event on 10 January and you can watch a recording of it by clicking on the video below.
To watch the video, we recommend that you click on the full screen option in the bottom-right of the image (the broken box icon). You can click on the arrow at the bottom of the video to view the live chat from the event, and click on the stream button in the top-right of the screen (it looks like a page with lines on it) to view the text of the poems alongside the video of the poet. Closed captioning is also available at the bottom of the screen. If you have any difficulty viewing the video, do let us know.
Many thanks indeed to everyone who entered this year's competition. We were grateful to receive and read such a wonderful range of writing and we are always excited to see the great richness of poetry across the world. Caroline tells us that she found making a selection of winning poems very difficult because of the high standard of entries!
in the bed where we conceived a collection of paper codeine and fingers
seven weeks and six days you shove four pills inside on red oily sheets
a house evacuating in three to six hours like olive trees shedding fruit as they burn
towel upon towel thick pads and hands over crotch
the clots come like fish in the bathroom floor at this stage you will not see anything recognisable
still the fruit have faces as they gulp drop get caught on tissue
the wall contracting in Athenian earthquake style bleak door frames standing lathered in soap
the ice clatters two more pills dissolve contract the leaks on fabrics early years making
oranges growing through the windowsill the dark birthing with some grey feathery blossoms
this fullness emptying out of you like sand measured in maxi pads and water marks
We rehearsed what we were going to do if we were ever asked to denounce one another but we didn’t understand that
it depended on how much sleep we were going to get in the concrete annexe at the back of the militia station, where we could still hear
the echoes of schoolchildren singing the national anthem at 9 in the morning. We were all kept in cold rooms
to repeat what we'd heard at home. We’d noticed our parents never said much to each other, we never spoke about our hunger, nor about the men
who watched us from street corners as though we were small animals that turnstones found & ate. & when our tongues went numb, our parents said
they’d rather have us mute & at home. We thought about them as we breathed in the mildewed darkness & forgot the words that made us soft.
We could only talk inside our own heads, though our mothers were still there, not quite believing how far we'd had to take the idea of loneliness.
When we returned to our homes, we turned our TVs on & kept them on mute to warm ourselves up as we tried to trace the wires in our bedroom walls.
She howls in pain shaking her fist at the god she hopes exists: it’s time to die, skin flaking on the floor.
Outside the passing cars hum like tanks, her body still remembers hiding as a five-year-old in a potato field dirt in her mouth, bullets flying over her mother’s body stacked on hers.
First Hitler didn’t kill me, then Stalin didn’t, I’m now afraid to put the kettle on.
At night she doesn’t sleep, rubbing remedies onto crooked fingers, wanting to grasp at something solid, like crochet tablecloths or baked red bricks. The neighbours’ orgasms pulse through the walls, still on the cross, chipped Jesus looks away.
Men came hoping to marry me, I rubbed my feet in chicken shit, tangled hay in my hair.
She unties her hair in the orchard, the thud of apples on the ground, we gather to collect the ripe fruit.
Having grown up in the war, I couldn’t imagine having children.
We eat plums, then run to the wooden toilet just beyond the barn. Inside a pile of newspapers and an old copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, not to read but to tear out pages from.
In a block of flats shit can come up the pipes at any moment. But in the village it stayed down in the ground. When I die I am only afraid of being eaten by worms.
I cut my hair so the roots grow black but still the king desires me.
“Darling,” he calls me. “Peculiar.”
I spend hours bent in corners reading books counting constellations, or inside impossible towers.
“How charming,” he says. “Such foresight.”
I don't speak a word for sixteen days. When he summons me my voice creaks like a rusted hinge.
I want the egg inside me to crack, spill its yolk and birth a harpy eagle. It stays warm,
nestled in my kidneys. No amount of throwing myself from low windows will bring time forward.
The king’s physician patches me up as he gossips about foreign diplomats swanning at court, their curious dazzling predilections for telescopes, flying carpets, white peacocks, bearded nymphs, painted finmen, tiny bombs.
I don't ask the goddess for much but when it rains, I run outside without a parasol, arms outstretched, believing she's caressing me. There, there, she murmurs. Nearly done.
After all, a great rain comes. The pulled candy legs squeal, the sliding doors of hips. Touch more this flower, sweet pea. It’s too too late. My new friend looks forward to the future. You ever hear? They’re turning the canal into a perfume. Summer eggs, insects are descending and a woman gives me bread in the long rain. A street unpeels up to the sky. The soaking trees give us several ways of being sincere. Go out in shorts to tell the truth. Pussywillow, you have no more choice. I laugh rocking horse; I laugh left calf, I laugh Skin Hare, burnt in the book for too much loving. How is it like this on a Sunday? The boys outside stick out their tongues and play poker of the heart. I swerve rocking horse, skin my knee. Blood and the rain. We were just excited that someone was coming to save us. Now it’s just foot spasms, dreams of reintegration, in the park, in the rain.
Boys are like feral dogs, we said: run and they’ll only chase you faster. So we practised in the yard, very still between the pebbledash art department and the prefab blue of the canteen, our skirts betraying each twitch, the shame of shifting our own slack weight. Tuesdays, the wind band’s brass neck bullied from an open window. Fridays, the tennis club’s pock-pock-pock unbuttoned the air, the same slurs passed between them, week on week till the bell rang time. We didn’t care. We stood right through the lunch hour, swaying in a field of flashing stars. Once, we stood so still, a flock of sparrows landed, pecked the crumbs from our blazers. The boys called us mental, which was how we knew we’d won. We called the game Paradise. Let’s play Paradise, we’d say – though play was wrong for our persistence – unless of course we meant the way we chafed at violins on Thursday afternoons: our slow adoption of the four steel strings, while the spit-breath man from the agency beat his arms and said, keep it together, girls. And so, we learned to play each scratchy tune as one – to sound out music from the hollow dark, to build our unrepentant standing into song.
- 'Ode to Abruzzo' by Italo Ferrante
- 'My Preschool Teacher Rips Tape from the Roll' by Atma Frans
- 'Sunday trips to Duisburg' by Petra Hilgers
- 'Lunar Eclipse' by Laboni Islam
- 'Motion Picture Industry' by Alexandra Melville
- 'The Science of Learning' by Ilse Pedler
- 'About Images' by Shaw Worth
- 'Khawuleza!' by Philani Amadeus Nyoni
Judging a poetry competition is different from reading a book of poems, instead it's like repeatedly waking up inside the heads of multiple people and dreaming their dreams, it's glorious and relentless and I read each entry three times. Then, I sit myself down, away from the pile, and realise certain poems are still inhabiting me (or I them?) like they've left a little microchip behind, a clipping of soul, to shift my world. Sometimes it's a central image, or unexpected swerve, or the ducking and weaving of the music – something remains and expands.
'Orange Blossoms' by Angeliki Ampelogianni (EAL, First Prize) plays a devastating magic trick on the reader, rolling inexorably down the page with an energy and life that makes the subject matter even more painful. 'The Seventeenth' by SK Grout (OPEN, First Prize) invites us in to a world we think we recognise – princesses, kings, impossible towers – and then, before we can protect ourselves, takes us to a deeply mysterious and personal place. I could write a whole essay... The unsettling giddiness of 'Sunday Payday' by Shaw Worth, the prickling privacy of 'Rehearsal' by Elena Croitoru, the steady rising of 'Paradise' by Katie Hale or the confident vastness of 'Hania at the End of the World', by Agata Masłowska - as well as every shortlisted poem now residing in my head.
Thank you, also, to everyone who entered the competition this year (I was struck by so many), it was an honour to spend time with them.