poetry london prize

Eleanor Penny, Pat Winslow and S. Niroshini win the
Poetry London Prize 2020

1st Prize:
Eleanor Penny, 'Winter, a biography'

2nd Prize:
Pat Winslow, '1971, Northaw'

3rd Prize:
S. Niroshini, 'Letters to Sunny Leone'

Highly Commended:
Luke Allan, 'Mantelpiece with Bananas'
Mel Pryor, 'Evening Scene'
Sean Cooper, 'untitled'

The three winning poems will be published in our autumn issue,
and all can be read online here.

Read our interviews with Eleanor PennyPat Winslow and S. Niroshini.

Judge’s Report, by Ilya Kaminsky

I am so grateful to Poetry London for the chance to read so many incredible poems all at once, to immerse myself into various different tonalities, perspectives, voices. It was an experience of a lifetime. Each poet I read taught me something new. When the works arrived in my mailbox, I quickly realised there was something special about every piece I read.

I found it nearly impossible to choose from such a talented company of voices. I was asked to select just the winning poems, but I fell in love with so many more! Therefore, I simply can’t resist sharing these brief notes on a number of other marvellous poems that I was lucky enough for read for this competition. I hope they all find good homes.

First Prize: ‘Winter, a biography’ by Eleanor Penny

This poem travels from narrative to lyric and back, making many interesting, mysterious discoveries along the way. The author looks at the world and finds something utterly strange, teaching us to love it: ‘I held the weight of snow in my arms like a sleeping animal’.

Second Prize: ‘1971, Northaw’ by Pat Winslow

This prose poem has an otherworldly quality. ‘I saw myself. What I mean is I saw myself inside the tree’, the journey begins, taking us to the unexpected.

Third Prize: ‘Letters to Sunny Leone’ by S. Niroshini

The perspective here won me over instantly. The way the author observes how we live inside bodies, how we negotiate our days, and the (lack of) possibilities, is unique.

Highly Commended:

‘Mantelpiece with Bananas’ by Luke Allan: This poem is terrific; like a painting done by a master, with psychological insight and nuanced brushstrokes.

‘Evening Scene’ by Mel Pryor: This poem is a moving elegy that becomes far more than an elegy. The voice here is memorable and renders the emotion with clarity and poise.

‘untitled’ by Sean Cooper: This piece finds a surprising music for civic commentary, and ensures that the commentary is memorable as the music is touching.

Notable mentions:

‘Tallow Beach’ by Laurie Keim: The music of this poem is inimitable. I was thinking of Stevens, but, really, this music is all its own. Beautiful work.

‘Lobotomy’ by Natalie Crick: This poem does so many things: it is moving, it is vivid in its imagery, it is unexpected in its thinking. Wonderful.

‘Trespassing’ by John Haynes: ‘A spirit with long pointy elbows runs’ begins this poem, and it goes on where I least expected. I loved it.

‘Republic of Mackerel’ by Mukahang Limbu: The vivid imagery in this poem is electrifying. I thought of Lorca: ‘poet is a professor of five senses.’ Indeed.

‘Bible Study’ by Angelina Mazza: This inventive brief lyric had real emotion and marvellous delivery. A delight.

‘Eve’ by Mari Dunning: The humor and insight couple here to make something entirely new from an ages-old parable.

‘You are An Aubergine’ by Luke Yates: This poem constantly surprised me. Such good energy. I mean: when you get ‘a barbershop quartet of pregnant liquorice parrots,’ what else do you need?

‘Secret life of the house at night’ by Claire Allen: The insight here is unmistakable. The attentiveness to detail made me think of Simone Weil’s suggestion that ‘absolute unmixed attention is a prayer’.

‘Poem Where Every Bird is a Drone’ by Tarik Dobbs: I loved the invention and passion of this poem, its bravery to go into uncharted territory and assert that ‘conspiracy comes true: a tree in which every bird is a drone’.

Variations on a Theme from Isaac Holland’ by Seán Martin: What a graceful poem, and with such a heartbreaking final stanza: ‘where a woman / stood on some rocks in a storm / and screamed at the sea’.

Eleanor Penny is a poet, essayist and journalist based in London. Her awards include the Verve Poetry Festival Prize 2020 and multiple prizes with the Young Poets Network. A former Barbican Young Poet, she has twice been shortlisted for Young People’s Poet Laureate for London. She has been commissioned by the Poetry School, the Barbican and the Cinema Museum. Her non-fiction work has been featured in publications including the New Statesman, In These Times, the Independent and the London Review of Books. She hosts the poetry podcast ‘Bedtime Stories for the End of the World’. Her debut book is forthcoming with flipped eye.


Pat Winslow worked for twelve years as an actor before leaving the theatre in 1987. She has published seven collections, most recently Kissing Bones. Pat also works as a storyteller. She collaborated with composer Oliver Vibrans on her version of ‘The Coat’, a folk tale from the Caucasus, for the Royal College of Music last year. For more information see www.patwinslow.com.


S. Niroshini is a Sri Lankan-born writer and poet based in London. She is the author of a forthcoming pamphlet with Bad Betty Press and has published work in The Good Journal, On Bodies (3 of Cups Press), adda stories and harana poetry. She is working on her debut novel.


Luke Allan is poetry editor at Partus Press and co-editor of the journals Pain and Oxford Poetry. He studied literature and creative writing at UEA and Oxford and is former managing editor at Carcanet Press and PN Review. He received the 2019 Charles Causley Prize, placed third in the 2019 Mick Imlah Prize and the 2020 Poets & Players Competition, and was highly commended in The Rialto’s 2020 ‘Nature & Place’ Competition. He is currently working on a first collection. 


Mel Pryors collection, Small Nuclear Family (Eyewear, 2015), was chosen by Bel Mooney as a poetry choice in the Daily Mail and the TLS described it as ‘a remarkable debut. She was a 2017 Huffington Post poet to watch and in February 2018 she was the Scottish Poetry Library digital poet-in-residence as part of ‘The Blue Crevasse project. Recently her poetry has been published in Poetry Review and Magma and her short fiction in Ambit.


Sean Cooper is originally from Detroit, Michigan. He holds a degree in chemical engineering from Michigan State University and now lives and works in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Please note that next year's Poetry London Prize will be launched in February 2021.