Poetry Prize 2022 – Judges’ Notes

We were once again blown away by the quality and variety of the poems in this year’s Poetry Prize. Mark Strand sums up our feelings well:

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

But now the poems have been read and re-read and re-read, the arguments had, the heart-breaking decisions made. And we wanted to share a bit about what brought us to the winning and shortlisted poems we were so excited to share with you.

What follows is, inevitably, a personal take and nothing we say is supposed to be a “rule”: these are just our thoughts and reflections. We tried to include things that we, as poets submitting to other competitions, would find useful to know, and to cast some light on what can at times feel like an opaque process.


Moons and origami

There were some common themes in the poems we read. Covid was still influencing many poets. Grief and joy competed for dominance, while new beginnings started to bloom. Lovesickness remains hard to overcome.

Certain images also recurred: origami is a popular choice, as are roses, stars and grass. The moon still refuses to wane.

Using popular (stereotypical) images does not disqualify a poem. But you’re going to have to do something special with it to stand out!

If you’re writing an ode to origami, make sure you’ve considered all the connotations of folded paper. If you want to use the moon as a symbol, think carefully about what this is adding to your poem.

Vivid imagery makes a poem stand out

When reading through lots of poems, we found those which centred on a vivid and unique image had an easier job standing out. Being grounded in a concrete image can really make a poem pop and bring it to life. If a poem stays entirely at the abstract level and refuses to engage with anything real life, it can be harder to grab the reader’s attention and imagination. This can be in the form of an interesting metaphor or specific (relevant) details.

Standing out is not just about making an immediate impact. The winning poems often emerged in the later stages as those ones which dug in their claws and didn’t let us go. The vital hook, in many cases, was a wonderful image which we couldn’t get out of our heads.

Punctuation can be powerful

Punctuation can often be forgotten by poets focused on the bigger picture. But small can be mighty and we found that impactful or sloppy use of punctuation had the power to make or break poems.

Use commas, which help the reader navigate your poem, making it easier to read. And use fullstops. They can add drama. And flow. And if you’re feeling creative, experiment with colons: a beautiful image can follow. And dashes – though be a bit careful with these – to bracket off different parts of a poem.

Don’t feel the need to go big

Another thing we found was that a good poem doesn’t always need to be about the Big Themes. Often those that did strive for grandeur slipped into generalisation. We don’t want to put anyone off writing about Truth or Life or The Meaning of It All. But don’t feel like you have to. And only write BIG if you have something to say, such as bringing your own personal angle to these well-trodden topics.

Get out your red pen and be brutal with the cuts

A number of poems came across rather waffly and padded out and felt, well, like they could do with a brutal edit. Don’t be scared to make big cuts. One good place to look for edits is often at the beginning and end of a poem. It is natural to feel the need to start by setting the scene. But when your poem is so short, you don’t want to waste your first few lines describing the misty morning and the songbird’s warbling if they are not going to make a reappearance later in the poem. Jump straight into the action. Equally, resist the urge to add a last line neatly summing everything up. You’re not writing a school essay which requires the obligatory ‘In conclusion…’ to finish. Trust your reader. They don’t need to be handheld all the way through the poem.

Top tip: Set up a new file where you keep all the lines which don’t make the final version of your poem – they might just make the perfect springboard into a new piece!

Re-read, re-read, re-read

We know it’s obvious but it really is important to re-read your poem before submitting. Remember that to get through to the shortlist, a poem needs to be able to withstand many rounds of judging. It’s on these re-readings that the annoying little typo we were willing to overlook initially really starts to grate, the lack of internal coherence is exposed and a hastily chosen word finds it suddenly has nowhere to hide.


Here are four things you can do right away to get your poems straight back out there:

(1) Re-read your poem

(2) Re-edit. Have another look and see if there are any (small) tweaks you would now make. Is every word contributing to the overall effect of the poem? Have you thought carefully about line breaks and form?

(3) Re-submit. Find somewhere else to send your poem! Don’t delay: send it straight back out there to another competition or journal.

Then, (4) Bookmark this page ready for next year! The Briefly Write Poetry Prize 2023 will open next May/June. It will be FREE to enter again… and we’d love to read another entry from you.

Briefly Feedback

Donate on Ko-fi then email your words to contact@brieflywrite.com with 'Feedback' in the subject line. We will respond as quickly as possible and always within two weeks. Thank you for supporting our little literary space!

We currently offer two levels of feedback:

(1) Another Pair of Eyes

Have a poem or story that’s not quite working? Or one you think could be working better? We can help!

With Another Pair of Eyes, our editors will get to the heart of your poem or story. We will provide an overview of your work, with tailored comments on form, structure and impact. We’ll also ask questions that invite you to take the poem or story further.

This is not a proofreading or line-by-line editing service.

What you’ll get:

  1. Personalised response to ONE poem or story
  2. Tailored feedback on style, impact and technique
  3. Questions and prompts to stimulate further thoughts

The price of Another Pair of Eyes is £6 per poem (up to 30 lines) or story (up to 1,000 words). For longer pieces, get in touch (contact@brieflywrite.com) for a quote.

SPECIAL OFFER ~ 3 poems or stories for £15!

(2) Dig a Little Deeper

Do you want a detailed exploration of your poem or story?

With Dig a Little Deeper, we will unpick exactly what’s going on in every line, every word, every syllable… and make sure everything is working towards your end goal.

What you’ll get:

  1. Personalised response to ONE poem or story
  2. Overview of style, impact and technique
  3. Tailored feedback on everything from word choice to layout
  4. Questions and prompts to stimulate further thought
  5. Opportunity to send revisions and discuss the work further

The price of Dig a Little Deeper is £15 per poem (up to 30 lines) or story (up to 1,000 words). For longer pieces, get in touch (contact@brieflywrite.com) for a quote.

SPECIAL OFFER ~ 3 poems or stories for £33!

How do I get my feedback?

1. Make your donation for the level and quantity of feedback you wish to receive on our Ko-Fi page. Leave a note in the comments box stating the feedback you are paying for.

2. Email your work to contact [at] brieflywrite [dot] com in a word doc or in the body of the email. Please make sure your name matches the name you used to donate (or tell us if they don’t!) so we can cross-check.

3. Sit back (and keep writing!) for up to two weeks while we read, review and write our responses to your work. We’ll return it as quickly as possible without compromising on quality. And we will, of course, keep you updated if there are any delays.

**PLEASE NOTE: Writing sent through Briefly Feedback is ineligible for publication in Briefly Zine. We can, however, recommend other journals or publishers we think might be a good fit for the piece.**

Thank you for supporting our little literary space!

Write 10, Win 10 (2022) – Results

Thank you to everyone who submitted ten words to the second edition of our tiny contest. Once again, we were amazed by the quality and inventiveness of our entrants’ brief writing.

This year’s theme was Reflection, an idea that can be (and was!) taken in many directions. Some writers looked in the mirror; others became the mirror. Some reflected on past lives or loves; others saw themselves reflected in people or places.

We found some absolute gems in this year’s 121 entries, including the winning and shortlisted stories published below. Every contribution sparkled in its own way, offering a brief window into a moment or memory.

Huge congratulations to Kate Twitchin and thank you again to everyone who shared their words with us: every single one was enjoyed and appreciated.


Initial response, vitriolic. Stop, save, sleep. Pride digested, edit, send.

Kate Twitchin


Two pillowed heads turn away. Loneliness scrolls through handheld light.

Jenny Wong

I jump into the sky puddle. Splosh. Ghostly trees vanish.

Hannah Powell

The mirror looks at me. I cannot meet its gaze.

Sean Cullivan

At intersections, I envy roads. Neither to turn nor go.

Mandira Pattnaik

Shoes on feet! Am I going out or coming in?

Ann Phillips

Long orphaned, my reflection finally reunites me with my mother.

Laura Besley

After the splash in the dam, the still moon again.

Billy Antonio

The water, once pure, can hold your reflection no more.

Annelies Paris

I never thought I would follow in my child’s footsteps.

Scot Martin

Submission Call for Issue 7: Climate Action

With COP26 taking place in Glasgow from 31 October until 12 November, we would like to dedicate a special feature in Issue 7 to the climate emergency.

Submit up to three:

  • Stories (up to 600 words)
  • Poems (up to 16 lines)
  • Photos

We are looking for work that says something meaningful about the natural world (or human destruction of it) in a bold, brief way.

Please note: For this special submission call, the usual rules about waiting an issue after being accepted do not apply.

Regular submissions will also remain open for Issue 7. See the full guidelines here.

Briefly Write Prompt Game (2.7)

The Briefly Write Prompt Game aims to inspire bold, succinct micro fiction and poetry. 

Every Wednesday, we will provide a brief prompt to inspire your boldest prose or verse. The prompts will be released on Twitter (via @BrieflyWrite) and right here on the website.

Your creation can take any form and any style. The prompts can (and should) be interpreted loosely.

This week’s prompt ~

Use the word UNDERWHELMED in your micro story or poem

Briefly Write Prompt Game (2.6)

The Briefly Write Prompt Game aims to inspire bold, succinct micro fiction and poetry. 

Every Wednesday, we will provide a brief prompt to inspire your boldest prose or verse. The prompts will be released on Twitter (via @BrieflyWrite) and right here on the website.

Your creation can take any form and any style. The prompts can (and should) be interpreted loosely.

This week’s prompt ~

Be inspired by the phrase OPEN WINDOW

‘Write 10, Win 10’ 2021

A huge thank you to everyone who submitted to our inaugural micro competition. We received 116 entries and thoroughly enjoyed reading all of them. Entries were read anonymously by a panel of four judges.

We were treated to an inspiring mix of discoveries: everything from witches, treasure hunters, weddings, gods and new books to space, presents, mirrors, moons and murderers.

After many hours of deliberation, we are delighted to reveal that the winner is Rebecca Kinnarney. Rebecca’s story stood out for its humour, clever construction and inventive take on the theme.

The following writers made the shortlist: Laura Besley, Mandira Pattnaik, William Davis, Jessica Klimesh, Ruth Callaghan do Valle, Susy Churchill, Linda Sejung Park, Rita Lazaro and Gunnar De Winter. They all managed to tell a full story in ten words, hiding layers of meaning beneath the surface.

You can read our 10 selected stories below.

WINNER (£10)

10th January. One mince pie left. It must be love.

Rebecca Kinnarney


Letters unearthed. “Dad’s dead, you said.” “Sorry, love” Mum whispered.

Laura Besley

Childhood friend. Shared bed, dreams. Got married. Discovered a stranger.

Mandira Pattnaik

we sailed amongst the unnamed latitudes trading words for home

William Davis

Fumble for glasses, lamp. Open door to crickets singing summer.

Jessica Klimesh

Explorar: Explore / Exploit – An isthmus in ink – In Brazil landlessness

Ruth Callaghan do Valle

He emptied drawers, dispatched belongings. Every space revealed her face.

Susy Churchill

In bulging bags of homemade food, I found her heart.

Linda Sejung Park

Blue Light. Human gone. Empty bowl. Cat affronted. Now alone.

Rita Lazaro

“Look,” said grandfather, “endless worlds await.” He opened the book.

Gunnar De Winter

Judges’ notes:

  • The quality was exceptionally high. From our longlist of 30, we had a hard time getting down to a shortlist of 10.
  • The winner and shortlisted entries all told a story. It didn’t matter whether this was a grand tale of adventure or a tiny snapshot of a moment; each one narrated a full story in 10 words.
  • The best stories adhered closely to the theme, but perhaps approached ‘discovery’ from a less obvious angle.
  • It was important not to waste any words. Some promising stories that made the longlist were dropped on the basis of a single word that felt forced or out of place.
  • Clever use of punctuation made some stories stand out. Breaking up the 10 words allowed them to go further.