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Poetry Pamphlet Competition Judge – Jonathan Edwards

Poetry Pamphlet Competition Sole judge: Jonathan Edwards

About Jonathan Edwards:

Jonathan Edwards’s first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren), won the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. His poems have won prizes in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, the Ledbury Festival International Poetry Competition and the Basil Bunting Award, and appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review and The North. Recent projects include a British Council literature exchange to India and a residency at the Dylan Thomas boathouse in Laugharne.


Jonathan Edwards says:

It’s a great honour to be involved in judging the Fair Acre Press poetry pamphlet competition. Pamphlets I think are so important, and one of the regrets of my writing career so far is that I didn’t publish one myself in advance of my first collection. That initial opportunity for a writers to dip their toes in the water, to try something out, and to begin to build a reputation before a first collection appears – that’s such a valuable thing. Look at the list of writers who went on from successful pamphlets to wonderful first collections in the past few years, and it’s clear how important this stage is. That’s why I’m so pleased that the Fair Acre Press competition is unique in having separate categories for writers who have and haven’t previously published, giving new writers a real chance. For previously published writers, there’s that opportunity to think about the potential of the short form of the pamphlet, what can be done across that space, with a sequence or group of poems, to create a memorable and beautiful short collection.


In terms of what I look for in poems, I think that’s evident from the sort of poems I write. When the world tragically lost the great American poet James Tate this year, the Poetry Society published a tribute to Tate which included this quote from the great American: ‘I love my funny poems, but I’d rather break your heart. And if I can do both in the same poem, that’s the best. If you laughed earlier in the poem, and I bring you close to tears in the end, that’s the best. That’s most rewarding for you and for me too. I want ultimately to be serious, but I can’t help the comic part. It just comes automatically. And if I can do both, that’s what I’m after.’

That sums it up really. I look for work which is accessible, entertaining, which makes me smile or laugh, but which also packs a real emotional punch and is memorable. I love form too, though that’s not the same thing as saying you need to include a villanelle to win. Impress me, move me, make me laugh or cry, make me remember your poems. Good luck!