The inaugural Michael Marks Environmental Poet of the Year Prize

Yesterday evening I attended a poetry award evening in the British Library as one of the three judges of the inaugural Michael Marks Environmental Poet of the Year competition.

The winner was Linda France’s collection of poems, Letters to Katlia, as pictured above – and it was good to hear her reading one of her poems at the event. I would have loved to have a chat with her, and congratulate her, but I had to dash for a train home from the next door St Pancras.

We three judges, Samantha Wynne Rhydderch, Jane Caven and myself, read 200 portfolios of poems through the summer, met twice on Zoom and produced a long list, a short list and an overall winner (commended collections – click here). It was a somewhat daunting process in which I found myself participating (much to my own surprise). Not only did the 200+ portfolios comprise of about five poems each but the range of approaches was highly diverse.

Each of the judges brought their own perspectives and knowledge to the subject and I certainly learned a lot, as well as, I think, contributing an informed perspective on the environmental matters addressed. To put it another way, each judge saw things in particular works that the other two had missed, and that made our discussions very rich.

The winning portfolio is published, by the Wordsworth Trust, as a pamphlet, and very attractive it is too, which can be purchased at The British Library and at Wordsworth Grasmere.

Environmental issues are not being solved at a fast enough rate to make an appreciable difference. To do better we need to take more people, particularly decision-makers on a journey of loving the natural world, appreciating its dire circumstance and then acting to make things better. Among the 1000 poems I read as a judge I wonder which of them would best influence world leaders, CEOs of multinational companies and my friends and neighbours. We need those stories and perspectives to be told in winning ways.  Poetry prizes such as this first Environmental Poet of the Year Prize should encourage more publishers to look at this subject more kindly as a source of serious copy.  Let’s get those perspectives more widely read and appreciated!


Websites of the winner, Linda France (click here), and commended, Dilys Rose (click here), Kate Bingham (click here), Simon Fletcher (click here), Megan Jenkins (can’t find one).


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