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Jane Martin Poetry Prize

The National Poetry Competition

Jane Martin Poetry Prize

The Jane Martin Poetry Prize is a national poetry competition, established in 2010, in memory of Girton alumna, Jane Elizabeth Martin (1978 Classics) through the generous support of Professor Sir Laurence Martin.

Now in its 14th year, this national prize for young poets is a key part of the College’s support for poetry and will be of interest to all those who are serious about literary excellence. The competition is judged by experts drawn from across the literary world and academia. In 2023, the panel of judges was led by Rebecca Watts and Adam Crothers.

The winner receives a cash prize of £700 and will have an opportunity to give a reading at a celebratory event at Girton College, at which the prize will be awarded. There will also be a second prize of £300 cash.

2024 Competition

We are pleased to announce that the winners for the Jane Martin Poetry Prize competition for 2024 have now been released. The competition was judged by experts drawn from across the literary world and academia. We are thrilled that this year the panel was led by two judges – Abigail Parry and Bohdan Piasecki.

First prize was awarded to Luke Dunne for the poem ‘Saltwater’ (view poem - PDF)Second Prize was awarded to Neva Ensminger for the poems ‘Please Remind My Mother It's Not My Fault' and 'my sister and i in genesis'’ (view poem - PDF).

Luke Dunne is a writer from London. His poetry has been published by a number of magazines, including SHIFT and Ibbetson Street (forthcoming). A film based on his screenplay, Sweeping, debuts Summer 2024.

Neva Ensminger-Holland is a second year student at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. They are a two-time YoungArts award winner and an American Voices nominee in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition. Their work appears or is forthcoming in The Interlochen Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, The Albion Review, Blue Marble Review, One Art, voidspace, the YoungArts anthology. In their free time, they enjoy wearing ripped tights in the winter, watching Gilmore Girls with their boyfriend, and hot-gluing the straps back on their platform Mary-Janes.

10th Anniversary Celebrations

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Jane Martin Poetry Prize in the context of the Girton Poetic Tradition, Girton College is delighted to announce the publication a special anthology, including a selection of poems from eminent Girtonian poets, both past and present, as well as the winning poems and new ones from the Jane Martin Poetry Prize winners from the past decade. “Ten Years of The Jane Martin Poetry Prize: Celebrating Prize-Winning Poetry at Girton College” edited by Malcolm Guite and Grevel Lindop is available for purchase via our online shop.

The anniversary of the prize was also celebrated during Girton College’s first Festival of Poetry in May 2020, where current Members of College read a selection of the poems to be featured in the Anthology and which can be viewed on our YouTube playlist.

Malcolm Guite’s specially written poem celebrating the People’s Portraits: 

Portraits by Moonlight

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Jane Martin Poetry Prize, a national poetry competition for young poets, established in 2010 in memory of Girton alumna, Jane Elizabeth Martin. 

  • First prize was awarded to Warren Mortimer for the poems ‘Forgive me, Augustine,’ and ‘When We Moved to Morecambe’ (view poem - PDF)
  • Second Prize was awarded to Olivia Tuck for the poems ‘The Obligatory Future Child Poem’ and ‘Mistress of Arts’ (view poem - PDF).

Warren Mortimer recently completed a Creative Writing PhD at Lancaster University. In 2022, he released his debut pamphlet through Green Bottle Press, Fruit Knife Autopsy. Since then, he has been published by a number of UK magazines, including The Moth, Magma, Orbis, and Stand. In 2016, he won first prize for the Lanercost Short Story Festival. Warren teaches creative writing at both BA and MA level for Lancaster university and University of Cumbria

Olivia Tuck’s work has been published by the Poetry Society and Broken Sleep, and in several print and online journals. She has been longlisted for the Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize, and is an associate editor at Tears in the Fence and at Lighthouse. In 2022, she completed UEA’s MA Creative Writing – Poetry course with Distinction. Her pamphlet Things Only Borderlines Know is out now with Black Rabbit Press.

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Jane Martin Poetry Prize for 2022. First prize was awarded to Lev Crofts for the poem ‘Al-Shadhili’. Second Prize was awarded to Bea Steele for the poem ‘Curiosities’.

Lev Semyonovich is a Scottish writer and school teacher currently living in London. He has just graduated from Oxford University, St. John's College, where he read Archaeology and Anthropology. While at university he edited The Isis Magazine, was the fiction editor for the Oxford Review of Books, and his poetry, prose, and non-fiction has been published variously in The Isis Magazine, Industry Magazine, 1555 Magazine, The Mays Anthology, and The Common Ground Magazine. Since graduating he has joined the Teach First programme and works as an English teacher in a state-maintained academy in Hounslow.

Bea is an MSt student in English Literature at the University of Oxford, and she is writing her dissertation on Sentimentalism and the Scottish Enlightenment. Bea originally came from Guildford, but has spent a few years living in the Southwest of England and is returning there to complete a funded PhD. Bea has been writing poetry on and off for a long time, and considers her biggest influences to be the works of Charles Causley and John Betjeman.

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Jane Martin Poetry Prize for 2021. First prize was awarded to Sam Harvey for the poems ‘Paysage ὰ ce Tableau’ and ‘Texte Intégrale’. Second Prize was awarded to Louis Klee for the poems ‘Me by Louis Fratino’ and ‘Living next to the sea was like having tragedy for a neighbour’.

Sam Harvey for the last four years has lived in Edinburgh, away from his Indiana home, while studying for a degree in English at the University of St.Andrews. For the next short while, though, he is keeping an eye out for loons and reading about snow leopards on the shores of Loch Garry.

Louis Klee is an Australian writer currently studying at the University of Cambridge. His poetry has appeared in the TLSBest Australian Poems, the Cambridge Literary Review, and the Australian Book Review.

Please see below for the recording of the event.

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Jane Martin Poetry Prize for 2020. First prize was awarded to Anna Forbes for the poems ‘Crossing’ and ‘Inisbofin’. Second Prize was awarded to Aayushi Jain for the poems ‘Whale Song’ and ‘Night Swim’.

Anna Forbes is from Edinburgh. She studied at King’s College London, where she received a degree in Comparative Literature. She is currently working towards an MLitt at the University of St Andrews.

Alex Houen, one of the Judges for the prize comments:

“Anna’s entry is beautifully focused on the visual, and I thought the mini-sequence poem ‘Crossing’ is really fascinating for the way that it ‘develops’ rather like a photograph (or series of photos) so that in the fields ‘resolving as we pass’ we can hear resolution to be about clarity of image and one’s relation to things. The poem pointedly does not ‘resolve’ as a narrative does, for its vision is focused on how images can be striking precisely because they keep things in tension — as with ‘softened light’ shivering around the halo-ish ‘brightness’ of a sleeping sister. There is a gentle poetic confidence about ‘Crossing’, and there is in ‘Inisbofin’, too, in the way that it develops a ‘strange relief’ (visual and emotional) with its chiaroscuro imagery. It’s not easy to be clear about shadowy things, especially when what’s shadowy extends to mood, but such clarity is what these two poems achieve, and they do it with a very impressive feel for line-breaks, prosody, and image.”

Aayushi Jain is a 24-year-old writer and musician from Birmingham. She is currently studying English Literature at the University of Exeter, and after spending a year abroad in Ottawa her short story ‘Lighthouse’ was recently published in the Write Across Canada Anthology.

Judging the prize with Alex Houen was Holly Corfield-Carr, who comments:

“What a euphoric, euphonic thing it is to read ‘Whale Song’. It is awash with sound, from the gong of the tongue to that ‘blood bassoon’ and I had an appropriately cetaceous species of a time singing along. When ‘Whale Song’ is paired with the delicate smallness of ‘Night Swim’, the scale shifts, both in size and song and the whale-mother, who in ‘Whale Song’ swallows the poet whole, in ‘Night Swim’ shrinks to the size of plankton, suspended in the belly of a jellyfish.”

As part of Girton’s Festival of Poetry fortnight (11–22 May 2020) you can watch the winners give a special reading of their winning poems below:

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