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Our projects past and present

As well as our teaching, Poetry School regularly collaborates with a large variety of organisations and individuals on public projects. This strand of our work we call ‘The Poet in the World’.

Recent examples of these ‘Poet in the World’ projects include a beach-based residency for two poets (Shingle Street), a series of micro-commissions by poetry promoters (Lo and Behold!) and a residency collaboration with London Parks and Gardens Trust (Mixed Borders). A full list of our recent projects and commissions are below. Information about new opportunities and details of how to participate in our ‘Poet in the World’ series can be found via our newsletter and blog, where we make most of our announcements, as well as sharing ‘behind the scenes’ information and planning advice in order to inspire students to their own new work. We are always looking for new ideas and people to work with, so if you have a project in mind that promises to good things in the poetry world – such as bringing poetry to new audiences, or developing the talents of writers at early stages of their careers – then please email [email protected].

Xriss Xross

A free, one-day inter-disciplinary festival of workshops and live writing.

Xriss Xross is a new, free festival of inter-disciplinary workshops exploring multiple creative exchanges, experimentations, and explorations of boundaries. The unique festival programme of multiple overlapping sessions loosely link together via interactive poetry creation, happenings, workshops, and events, fusing creative writing and poetry workshops with performance, music, and art, trade, travel, immigration, forgotten stories, and unheard voices past and present. The festival forms part of the Join the Docks summer festival, utilising the Royal Docks’ 150 year heritage as a global centre for trade and a crucial meeting point of different cultures and languages.


The Backyard Bookshop

Canada Water's first ever pop-up bookshop

The Backyard Bookshop is our bi-annual pop-up bookshop, specialising in the very best, selected contemporary poetry, fiction, and small press books. Twice a year, as well as stocking some of our favourite poetry books and pamphlets of the last 12 months, we invite some of our favourite publishers to join us (recently, such as Boiler House Press, Offord Road Books, Rough Trade Books, and The Emma Press). The bookshop also features a pay-what-you-want book bar (with brand new titles), free second hand poetry books and magazines, a children’s corner, readings, and workshops.

OnSide Youth Zones

Putting poetry at the heart of a new national network of youth clubs

OnSide Youth Zones work with over 20,000 young people aged 8-19 and up to 25 with a disability, in the most deprived areas of the UK. Poetry School is partnering with OnSide to deliver a project led by Yomi Sode to embed poetry in London’s first Youth Zone in Barking and Dagenham. Young people will create poems, engage in sharing evenings at the Youth Zone to showcase their work, perform, write and have fun. Outcomes focus on increased emotional resilience, confidence, well-being and articulacy as well as the nurturing of employment skills. Long term the project will be expanded throughout the network, co-ordinated by Poetry School and each Youth Zone will be able to run its own poetry group, young people being taught the skills to sustain and manage the project themselves.

Women Poets’ Prize

Creative professional development for female-identifying poets

Poetry School is a proud partner of the Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize. The Women Poets’ Prize is free to enter, and recognises three female-identifying poets every two years. Each winner is matched with a poetry mentor in addition to a pastoral coach, facilitating a holistic body of support that nurtures craft and personal wellbeing in equal measure. The Prize will offers a programme of support and creative professional development opportunities with the Foundation’s partners: Faber and Faber, The Literary Consultancy, RADA, City Lit, Verve Festival, Bath Spa University, and Poetry School. In addition to these opportunities which constitute the Women Poets’ Prize professional grant, each successful poet will each receive a cash bursary of £1,000.

Write Ahead

Free introductory poetry workshops on Friday evenings

Running 2-3 times a term, Write Ahead is a free poetry workshop series giving those curious about our classes a sample of what we do, creating access for individuals who traditionally have been excluded from taking Poetry School workshops. Every Write Ahead is led by a different facilitator, and comprises quick-fire writing activities, an introduction to some contemporary poems, discussion, feedback, and a chance to talk to staff and current students. Write Aheads take up to 20 students, plus 5 reserve spaces for walk-ups and local residents. Working with a writing group can be a nerve-racking experience, and Write Aheads are the ideal way to work through those wobbly first forays into poetry, feeling confident enough to explore a creative writing practice further. In 2019, Write Ahead guest tutors include Abi Parry, Ali Lewis, Joey Connolly, Bridget Minamore, Ella Frears and Theresa Lola.


The Ginkgo Prize

The world's largest ecopoetry prize

The Ginkgo Prize for Ecopoetry is a major international award for poems embracing ecological themes, generously funded by the Edward Goldsmith Foundation, and facilitated by the Poetry School. The first prize is £5,000, second prize is £2,000 and third prize is £1,000. The prize is supported by a diverse programme of ecopoetry workshops, taking place all over the UK, and an ongoing series of commissioned essays offering new perspectives and insight on the ecological imperatives of our time, including Dom Bury, Meryl Pugh, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Kathleen Jamie, Hugh Dunkerley, John Wedgwood Clarke and Miriam Darlington. In 2018, the judges were Mimi Khalvati and Alys Fowler. The 2019 Ginkgo Prize will launch in May.

Poetry in Aldeburgh Festival 2018

Poetry, film and art by the sea

Poetry in Aldeburgh’s third festival of poetry, co-curated by Poetry School and poet Paul Stephenson. In November 2018, over 100 of today’s most exciting poets from across the UK came to the Suffolk coast to celebrate all things poetry with a weekend of 45 workshops, events, pop-up performances, exhibitions and poetry-themed walks and swims.. Themes included climate change, queer identity, translation, art and more, celebrating major anniversaries and fusing film with poetry and dance.

Poetry Playbacks at Parasol unit

The only reading series of its kind in the UK

Poetry Playback is a new reading series in which a poet is invited to read from an exemplary new work in its entirety, from start to finish, as a single, sustained performance. Each event takes place at Parasol unit, a not-for-profit art institution and educational charity that operates purely for the public benefit, internationally recognised for its forward-thinking and challenging exhibition programme. Playbacks so far have included Giant by Richard Georges, Venus as a Bear by Vahni Capildeo (Forward-nominated), The Perseverence (winner of the Ted Hughes Award), and Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson.

The Verve Annual Performance Lecture

A keynote event at Birmingham's landmark poetry festival

A unique collaboration with the Verve Poetry Festival, the Verve Annual Performance Lecture invites a poet, not necessarily a seasoned lecturer, to create a 50 min presentation fusing academic discourse with poetry and spoken word on a subject of their choosing, utilising a wide variety of different strategies – such as instrumental performance, slide presentations, improvisation, film, audience participation – with the employment of poetry/poetry performance at its core. In February 2019, Anthony Anaxagorou spoke to a crowd of hundreds at the Old Repertory Theatre, deconstructing some of the ways ‘performance poetry’ has been defined in both traditional and contemporary periods.


Guiding poems into print

Primers is an annual mentoring and publication scheme organised by the Poetry School and Nine Arches Press. It provides a unique opportunity for talented poets to find publication and receive a programme of supportive feedback, mentoring and promotion. Each year, three selected poets receive Poetry School mentoring from a guest writer, editorial support from editor and Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellow Jane Commane, and publication in a joint Nine Arches Press anthology, followed by a programme of readings and launches. Past judges have included Kathryn Maris, Jacob Sam-La Rose, Hannah Lowe and Kim Moore.

Lo and Behold!

Low-cost, high impact micro-projects

A micro-commissioning project. We put up five pots of £750 and asked poets, artists and promoters to tell us how they’d spend the money on innovative ways to get poetry in front of audiences. We funded a scratch spoken word show, a poetry walking tour, a stately home residency, a political poetry email chain letter and a poetry and dance piece.

Is There A Doctor in the House?

A Poetry PhD festival

We invited eight current poetry PhD candidates to give half hour mini lectures and half hour micro workshops on their areas of study, to share their ideas with our student body. We explored the Poem Noir, the construction of a database of poetic imagery, contemporary Iranian poetry, poetry and sound and many other subjects in the sumptuous surroundings of the 1901 Arts Club in Waterloo.

New North Poets

Emerging writers from the North

The New North Poets mentoring programme is part of the Northern Writers’ Awards organised by New Writing North. The programme, devised and delivered by the Poetry School, and judged by a guest judge each year, is open to poets who are yet to publish a full-length collection. The four winning poets receive a structured package of support, including a writing residency at the Garsdale Retreat, one-to-one mentoring from the poet Clare Pollard, a workshop series with a range of exciting tutors, and publication in a digital anthology.

Rialto Editors Development Scheme

A poetry editor traineeship. Working with the Rialto poetry magazine, we offered two pairs of poets the experience of editing a poetry magazine, teaching them everything from poem choice to production, from launch party organisation to subscription marketing.

Mixed Borders

Annual garden residencies across London

A poetry residency programme, in association with London Parks and Gardens Trust. For the last five years we have placed poets in gardens around London during LPGT’s London Open Garden Squares Weekend, providing poet-in-residence training and guidance, which has resulted in readings and a CAMPUS pamphlet. In 2019, we’ll be putting poets into a Poetry Quarter in Central London as well as across the capital.

CAMPUS Digital Poet in Residence

An artist-led position on CAMPUS. Since 2013 we have invited resident poets – and called for proposals – who are encouraged to contribute their own ideas as to what exactly the role should encompass. A fee of £500 is given, for around 5 weeks, to interact with our online community of over 2000 poets from around the world, share useful information and resources, pursue personal and creative interests in a public-facing environment, share new work and experiment with ways of creating new work.

NaPoWriMo 2015 with Mslexia

Writing a pamphlet of poems in a month

Open writing prompts. To celebrate National Poetry Writing Month and to help the global participants, we called upon thirty Poetry School tutors to offer up writing prompts. These were published daily on CAMPUS and also on the Mslexia Magazine website, inviting the resulting poetry to be shared online too.

Scott Polar Poets

Behind-the-scenes access to an historic collection

Collaborating with the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, we ran a series of poetry workshops – led by Kaddy Benyon, Lucy Hamilton and Lucy Sheerman – for students to explore the museum’s exhibits, research and artefacts in search of inspiration for new work. The poems created through this project were collected and presented in the first of our Campus Pamphlets series.

CAMPUS Pamphlets

Free digital pamphlets and chapbooks

A digital anthology series. For the last year we’ve been bringing together the work created in our projects, courses and commissions into pamphlet-length editions of poetry, available online, increasing the reach of the poets and inspiring creativity across users of CAMPUS.

T S Eliot Prize Previews

Our yearly lookover poetry's biggest shortlist

In conjunction with the Poetry Book Society, we’ve run preview events to the T S Eliot Prize annually since 2012. Taking place in the Southbank Centre on the day of the Prize Readings, we commission a poet to provide an overview of the ten shortlisted books, inviting comment and debate from the audience.

The Line Break

Part podcast, part audio poetry lesson

Our first podcast. Ryan Van Winkle is your guide in The Line Break, an interview series delving into the writing practices of celebrated poets and offering up prompts to get listeners’ own poetry onto the page. So far Ryan has interviewed Philip Gross, Kwame Dawes, Mary Ruefle and Hilary Menos, and all editions are available to download online and offered by the Scottish Poetry Library podcast channel.

The Bloomsday Project

An immersive year reading, writing and performing after James Joyce

Poet Chris McCabe ran a three-term course on Joyce’s Ulysses allowing ten weeks for reading, ten weeks for writing and ten weeks which built towards a performance by students at the Blue Elephant Theatre in London on 16 June 2014, the 110th anniversary of Bloomsday. All the poems from the performance were later published as a free digital book, part of our CAMPUS Pamphlets series.

See our Latest Programme