Set your compass…

The Northern Poetry Library, based in Morpeth, Northumberland, is the largest collection of post-World War II poetry in England outside London, home to constellations of finely-tuned, often moving and sometimes unnerving words.

2018 is the 50th anniversary of the Library. Established in 1968, its aim was to acquire and make available all contemporary poetry in English published in Great Britain – a free, open-access resource. In total, the collection numbers more than 15,000 volumes.

…to a Poem of the North competition

To celebrate 50 years of this regional treasure, we have come up with an idea for a living, growing artwork-in-progress. We invite poets with a Northern connection to enter a competition to become part of this artwork. The Poem of the North will bring together the work of the fifty successful poets, in five cantos, published over a period of five months. By the end of 2018, the completed poem will stand as a celebratory artefact: a tribute to the region and acknowledgement of the North’s rich seam of writers and written culture.

Submission deadline:  12:00 (noon) GMT 17 June 2018

Poetry prizes

If your poem is accepted, it will be published in a creative digital format as part of a growing Poem of the North. Thanks to the support of the Poetry Book Society, five selected poets will win full PBS Membership.

Every month, ten selected poems will complete a Canto, and in every Canto one poet will win a year's Full Membership to the Poetry Book Society – perfect for poetry-lovers. Each quarter, winners will receive:
* PBS Bulletin Magazine
* PBS Choice Book
* 25% discount on all poetry book orders

More about PBS Membership

A new poetic form: the 821

Poem of the North is a creative approach to poetry publishing in the digital age. It also invites you to tackle a brand-new poetic form.

The 821 is an 11-line, 3-stanza poem created in 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Northern Poetry Library. Two main concepts inform the 821. Firstly, 821 is the number assigned to English poetry in the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system. Secondly, 821 utilises the “volta”, a concept traditionally associated with sonnets, and is used to create a subtly interconnected series of stanzas that turn, or riff off one another.

  • Excluding the title, the poem must be 11 lines in total
  • The 11 lines are subdivided into three stanzas
  • The first stanza is an opening octet (8 lines)
  • The second is a middle stanza or couplet (2 lines)
  • The third and final part is a single line
  • Between each of the stanzas or parts there is a line break

There is no set meter for the 821: it could employ a rhyme scheme, or be free verse in lines of varying length. This is your opportunity to be adventurous. We would also like the 821 to have a theme of “North”, however you wish to interpret this. 

View examples of the 821 poetical form

As part of the submission process, we would also like you to tell us about your connection to the North (“My North”), in no more than 100 words.

Read the Submission T&Cs