Poetry Judge: Sarah James/Leavesley

Sarah-James--Sarah-LeavesleySarah James/Leavesley is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Author of seven poetry titles, two novellas and a touring poetry-play, she has poetry featured in the Guardian, Financial Times, Bloodaxe anthologies and The Forward Book of Poetry 2016. In addition to competition wins with individual poems, she was Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015 and highly commended in the Forward Prizes with her collection The Magnetic Diaries (Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2015). Other recent titles include How to Grow Matches (Against the Grain Press, 2018) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press, 2015), both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Award. Click here for her website.  She also runs V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint.

What I'm looking for

I read ‘My World’ as an invitation into poems that encapsulate place, significance and experience. I want to encounter pieces that make me forget I’m reading because I’m so invested in each poem’s world.

What might that look like exactly? I’ve no idea, and that’s one of the beauties of a strong poem. I want to be surprised but in a way that feels totally right for that poem, not contorted for the sake of a twist. I’d anticipate that the poems which catch and keep my attention will feature elements of shared/universal experience that are easy to empathise with, yet also stand out as different, placing that shared experience in a new light. This might be as much about the slant taken, the tone, atmosphere and language of the poem as its content.

‘My World’ might be based on real life. It might be the real world explored through an unexpected viewpoint. It might be the world inside someone’s head, or an entirely fictional world. The theme is a wide and generous one. What matters most is that every part of the poem works with the rest to create a finished piece that totally immerses me, even after I’ve read 100+ entries. A poem, then, where I can’t help but gasp in awe, that lingers in my thoughts and feelings after reading, that makes me wish I’d written it…

But this is simply my initial brainstorming. Surprise me, perhaps, with an approach that isn’t touched on here. The truth is that I have no pre-conceived expectations of what the winning pieces will read, feel and sound like, only that I’m looking forward to enjoying some striking, memorable, complementary crafted poems!

Prose Judge: Tyler Keevil

Tyler Keevil

Tyler Keevil is an award-winning author from Vancouver, Canada. He writes novels, short stories, creative non-fiction, and screenplays. He has received several awards for his short fiction and filmmaking.  He writes both literary and genre fiction, and his work has appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, including Brace, Interzone, New Welsh Review, and PRISM: International.

His debut novel Fireball was published by Parthian Books in 2010, and was longlisted for Wales Book of the Year, and received the Book of the Year People’s Prize 2011. His next novel, The Drive, an epic road trip adventure set in the Pacific Northwest, was published by Myriad Editions in August 2013.  The book was selected as an editor’s pick at Litro and Waterstones and shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year – going on to win the People’s Choice Award.  In 2014, Burrard Inlet, Tyler’s first collection of short fiction, was published.  The book was nominated for numerous awards, and one of the stories from the collection, ‘Sealskin,’ received the $10,000 Writers Trust of Canada / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize.  Recent publications include No Good Brother published by The Borough Press (HarperCollins).

He is a Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing at Cardiff University, and lives in South Wales with his wife and children.