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Inside Writing

Inside Writing – Digital Poetry Festival announced

Published on: 18 May 2020

Winners of the 2020 Newcastle Poetry Competition revealed

Creativity, crisis and change

A new digital poetry festival organised by Newcastle University’s Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA) will be held this summer.

Inside Writing will see some of the world’s most exciting poets responding to the COVID-19 crisis in series of events on Twitter and Facebook. Writers including Inua Ellams, Sasha Dugdale, Rishi Dastidar, Carolyn Forché, W.N. Herbert, Jackie Kay, Sean O'Brien, and Newcastle University Chancellor Imtiaz Dharker, will perform new work, issue challenges and writing prompts, and discuss how their writing lives have been affected.

NCLA Director, Professor Sinéad Morrissey, said: “I’m delighted to see the launch of NCLA’s Inside Writing digital poetry festival - a real cause for celebration at a time of such national uncertainty. We’re looking forward to the wider conversations the festival will spark about creativity, crisis and change.”

The online festival which begins this month, takes the place of the annual Newcastle Poetry Festival which has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inside Writing’s aim is to inspire readers and writers to reflect on their experiences of COVID-19 and the global response, and submit their responses in any form, for publication on NCLA’s archive website

Partners, the Poetry Book Society (PBS) and the Institute for English Studies (IES) are also contributing to the festival. The PBS will co-host a showcase reading of recently selected poets, and the IES are commissioning writers and academics to respond to the work of Inside Writing poets with creative micro-essays.

a photograph of Sinead Morrissey
Professor Sinéad Morrissey

Newcastle Poetry Competition

Meanwhile, the winners of this year’s 2020 Newcastle Poetry Competition have been revealed. Australian poet Damen O’Brien, won the £1000 Adult Poetry Prize for his poem The Handshake.

Judge Colette Bryce, said: “Neither the author nor I could have imagined, when ‘The Handshake’ was submitted, that the simple handshake would be outlawed at time of reading, along with so many other gestures of connection during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I admired the strength and directness of the speaking voice in this poem, evenly addressing a public figure (we might think of the news story of Brett Kavanaugh turning away from the father of a murdered Parkland student). The poem’s inquiry into the meaning and motive of the deferred gesture opens out to bigger questions of human connection and empathy.”

The other adult winners were Natalie Crick (2nd place) and Pippa Little (3rd). Poems by Vanessa Lampert, Claudine Toutoungi, Charles Lang, Emily Cooper, and M.R. Peacocke were highly commended.

The Newcastle Poetry Competition’s Young People’s Poetry Prize is for poets aged between 11 and 17 from anywhere in the UK. This year’s winners were Milly Sage, Hope Simpson, Freya Buckley, Alice Parsons, Georgie Woodhead, Maria Cunha, Antonia Johnson (twice), Maisie Goodfellow, Philippa Musgrave-Asher, Nikolina Rokic, and Amy Nugent.

Vidyan Ravinthiran, judge of the Young People’s Poetry Prize, said: “In all of them, there’s a moment—or, longer than that, a duration—where language comes alive (it sparkles, flares) and words, rhythms, images achieve a compelling fluency… It was a pleasure to read them, and I hope the poets go on writing, and sharing their work: I look forward to seeing what they come up with in the future.”

You can read all the winning poems in the NCLA archive. A digital anthology containing all winning poems has been published and can be downloaded from NCLA’s website.  

Festival events can be accessed and viewed by following NCLA on Twitter or Facebook and will take place until 31 July 2020.

NCLA invites submissions of responses to the challenges in any form and will publish these on NCLA’s online archive.


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