Forward/emagazine Student Critics Competition

A new writing competition in response to poems on the Forward Prizes for Poetry shortlist 2017, with separate categories for 14-16 year olds, 16-19 year-olds and teachers. Choose between writing a critical appreciation or a creative/critical response (see details below). We are delighted that Sarah Howe and Sarah Crown will be the judges for the competition.

The Competition

What to do:

  1. Download the poems.
  2. Read and think about them. (Check 'Barbara Bleiman's Top Tips' below.)
  3. Choose one to write about.
  4. Choose to write one of the following responses:
    1. either a critical appreciation of the poem (maximum 500 words).
    2. or a creative/critical response in the form of a poem (maximum 30 lines), along with a reflective commentary on it (maximum 300 words).

Age Categories

There are three age categories, for both types of response:

  • 14-16 year-olds (i.e. KS4 student on 22nd June 2017)
  • 16-19 year-olds (i.e. 6th form student on 22nd June 2017)
  • Teachers

Please enter the category for the age and stage of schooling that applies to you on 22nd June 2017 (even if when you send us your entry in September you have just started 6th form or university).

How to Enter

  1. Download the entry form.
  2. Complete the entry form with your details.
  3. Type (or cut and paste) your writing under 'Entry'. Check you meet the word limits.
  4. Save your entry form (with your writing), using this format: 'InitialLastname-School.docx' (e.g. JSmith-HackneyHigh.docx').
  5. Email your entry to, using Forward/emagazine Student Critics Competition as the subject line.
  6. Make sure your entry reaches us before the deadline of midnight on Monday 11th September. We will not be able to accept entries received after this time.


  • Forward/emagazine Student Critics Competition launch at NATE: Friday 23rd June 2017
  • Deadline for entries: midnight on Monday 11th September
  • Winners contacted: Friday 15th September
  • Forward Prizes for Poetry Awards Ceremony: Thursday 21st September

The Judging

Sarah Howe is a Hong Kong-born British poet, academic and editor, whose first collection Loop of Jade won the TS Eliot Prize in 2015.

Sarah Crown is the Literature Officer for the Arts Council and formerly editor of She has written many poetry reviews for the Guardian and Poetry Review.

emagazine and Forward will shortlist. The two judges will select one winner in each of the following categories:

14-16 year olds (i.e. KS4 student on 22nd June 2017)

  • Critical appreciation
  • Creative/critical response 

16-19 year olds (i.e. 6th form student on 22nd June 2017)

  • Critical appreciation 
  • Creative/critical response


  • Critical appreciation
  • Creative/critical response

The Prizes

  • Student winners in each category will receive £100 and two tickets to the Forward Prizes for Poetry Awards Ceremony (21st September 2017).
  • The winning teacher will receive two tickets to the Forward Prizes for Poetry Awards Ceremony.
  • All winners will be published on the English and Media Centre and Forward Prizes for Poetry websites. The two winners in the 16-19 category will also be published in emagazine (December 2017).


Barbara Bleiman's Top Tips

Here Barbara Bleiman offers tips on writing critically about poetry. She says:

There's no mystery to great writing about poetry. In a nutshell it involves:

  • taking seriously your genuine first responses – what immediately leaps out at you, what you notice as being special or unusual or different. If something seems odd, that’s often worth talking about.
  • writing about what the real impact is on you – not what you think you should feel in reading a poem.
  • being willing to explore complexity and ambiguity without pretending that everything is simple and obvious, at the same time as trying to come to a view of what is going on.
  • distinguishing between minor details and important, highly significant aspects of what you see before you.
  • allying discussion of language, style and form to meaning, rather than picking away at these things in a random way.