Poetry Prize

1st Prize: CHF 500 (Book tokens and Cash) | Writing Workshop | Winner’s Reception
10 Shortlisted Submissions: Writing Workshop | Winner’s Reception


Theme for the competition

Poetry Judge Padraig Rooney has chosen the theme: Water

“Lakes, rivers, sea, a glass of water, the sensation of thirst, the water table, the rising seas, the Dead Sea, a cool swim, the tap in the morning, H2O, wave energy, a hot bath, ice, giant hailstones, water-borne bacteria, an Alpine stream, flow …”

What Padraig Rooney is looking for in a poem

“I like clarity and ordinary language. If the language is pseudo-poetic or over-fancy or showing off too much, it makes me distrust what is written. Sometimes young poets think they have to adopt a poetic manner and diction – that turns me off. Keep it clear, in language that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. I much prefer teenage spirit to teenage romance, concrete language to abstract terms, and understatement to shouting from the rooftops.

I dislike cliches, of thought or language. With expanded media, we are swamped by cliches: pop psychology cliches (“I hear you, I’m reaching out to you…”), management cliches (We’re moving forward, striving for profit, team-building…”). Cliches are dead language, and language in a poem should be fresh and alive. One of my favourite pieces of advice is from the American poet William Carlos Williams: “No ideas but in things”.

I like narrative: the poem telling a story, which needn’t be a true or a real story. Be playful with narrative. Let it spill over the end of the line into the next line. Be playful with history, with geography, with the facts. You’re not writing a textbook or a fact-based essay but a piece of imaginative writing.

If there is surprise for the writer, there will be surprise for the reader. Privilege the imagination and what the Irish poet Matthew Sweeney calls “wierdness”.

I like a formal arrangement but also free verse. Think of a poem as a Rubik cube, a jig-saw, as a game console. Think in terms of the line, and of groups of lines: give them shape. A poem should have some rhythm; if it doesn’t have rhythm then it’s prose.

If you’re unsure of the correctness of your English, have the poem checked by someone whose English you trust. Be humble enough to take on board a second, a third view.”


Line limit: There is no maximum.

Submissions: Poems can be submitted from 1st October 2018 until 15th April 2019. Shortlisted students will be contacted at the end of April and invited to the Workshop and Reception to take place in mid-May 2019.

Submission is free, but is limited to two poems per student. Students may submit to both the Poetry Prize and the Short Story Prize.

Entry requirements: The Poetry Prize is open any student in Swiss upper-secondary public education. There are currently no age divisions, however students must note whether they are mother-tongue English speakers, or following a bi-lingual study programme. The competition is not open to students from schools where the teaching is primarily in English, such as international schools.

Please read the rules before submitting.