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Here are The Winners of the 2023 Derby Poetry Festival Poetry Prize

When we launched the inaugural Derby Poetry Festival Poetry Prize in October 2023, a call to writers, poets and spoken word artists to submit their very best work on any theme, we didn't know what to expect.

Now, after receiving more than 150 entries from across the country, whittling them down to a shortlist of 14 spectacular poems and sending that shortlist to our wonderful judge, Helen Mort, one thought stands out above the rest – quality. The poems that made the shortlist, the poems that didn't, all of them reflected a level and skill and talent that left us stunned.

As well as prizes for first, second and third, we also introduced a special prize for a writer in the East Midlands. In Helen's own words “I can't get enough of these poems. The shortlist was the perfect length to enable me to read them multiple times. Great entries all around (and so many strong East Mids ones!).”

So, without further ado, it is our great pleasure to announce the winners of the first Derby Poetry Festival Poetry Prize.

First Place – Amy King, Devotion

Our first prize of £500 goes to Amy King for her poem, Devotion. Amy is a slam winning poet based in Manchester. She ran the award winning spoken word night Verbose in 2021/2022, and is currently completing a Creative writing MA at the Manchester Metropolitan University. She enjoys writing about relationships, lesbian culture and her enduring love for Kate Nash.

According to Helen, “it was the ending of Devotion I kept going back to and finding it yielded a bit more each time.”

Amy added “Thank you to the Derby Poetry Festival team and Helen Mort for taking the time to read my poems and shortlisting them alongside such brilliant company! I'm a big fan of the festival and feel overjoyed to have won this prize.”

Here's the winning poem in full.


I asked her to be my girlfriend

the morning after she shouted

at a waiter in the street.

He served us a dodgy pie that day

to be fair. Something about honour.

No one laughed

when I told this story. I was the first

to buy her flowers. Lavender,

dried to last. She fixed us

sandwiches for the train,

swaddled in foil, right till the end.

It wasn’t all bad. We drank

with each other's friends.

Booked a hotel room and split

the cancellation fee. Once

she brought me cough syrup

on her drive home from the airport,

went down on me while I laid still

wheezing under the big light.

Now I linger before crossing

my road. Drink in other pubs,

one eye pinned to the door.

You know what it’s like

forgetting how easily they flipped

you over. The clink of a belt buckle.

One time she took my clothes

when the washer broke,

brought them back

smelling of lavender. Folded.

Second Place: Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Sunflowers

Photo Credit: Paolo Verzone

Our second placed poem is Sunflowers, by Anastasia Taylor-Lind. Anastasia will receive £250.

Anastasia is a photojournalist and a poet. Her first poetry collection, One Language, was published by Smith|Doorstop in 2022. Anastasia has been photographing the war in Ukraine since it started in 2014 and reporting poems since the Russian invasion. Sunflowers was written in autumn 2022. You can find out more about Anastasia's work on Instagram and Twitter, or at her website at

Third Place: Ken Evans, A Lament for 'My Dear'

The third prize of £100 is awarded to the poem A Lament for 'My Dear' by Ken Evans.

To An Occupier Burning Holes’, Ken’s latest collection, is published by Salt. He contributed to Broken Sleep’s ‘Masculinity’ anthology (Jan. 2024) as well as Live Canon’s round-up anthology for 2023 and was one of two runners-up in last year’s AUB poetry competition.


Ken has lived for 30 years near Matlock in Derbyshire and finished an MA in poetry in 2015 at the University of Manchester.

Ken says that “A Lament for ‘My Dear' is a poem of loss, commemoration and celebration of the dying, analogue art of letter-writing.”

East Midlands Prize: Alice Tanik, A Year in Ireland

The East Midlands Prize of £150 goes to Alice Tanik for their poem A Year in Ireland.

Alison/Alice Tanik, is a midlands-based poet and playwright who performs under the stage name, 'Who the Fuck is Alice'. They are currently studying an MA in poetry at the Manchester Writing School. Their writing is often concerned with gender/political power and power (im)balance. They were an Associate Poet of the Derby Poetry Festival in 2023.

“I'm absolutely thrilled that my poem A Year in Ireland has won the East Midlands prize in the inaugural Derby Poetry Festival Competition,” said Alice. “Being recognised within my region is really important. Thank you for having faith in my writing.”

Huge congratulations to all of our winners, and a massive thank you to everyone who was brave enough to submit their poetry for consideration.

We'll be running the second edition of the competition later in the year, so make sure you keep an eye out for announcements on our socials and this website. In the meantime, be sure to click here to check out the Digital Workshops we're running over the next few months.



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