The Poetry Society was founded in London, England in 1909. Then called the Poetry Recital Society, Lady Margaret Sackville was its first president. The group changed it’s name to what it is today three years later. Their flagship publication, Poetry Review, is the most respected poetry journal in Britain. It publishes the works of some of Britain’s most unique seasoned and emerging voices. Membership of The Society is open to anyone. Their website states that their mission is “to promote the study, use and enjoyment of poetry”.
The Society hosts several poetry competitions every year, the biggest of which is
the British National Poetry Competition. Other contests include the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, The Geoffrey Dearmer Award, and The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. For a short period, they organised the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize competition.
The National Poetry Competition has been conducted in Britain every year since 1978. Contrary to what its name implies, the contest is open to foreigners and usually receives around 10,000 entries. The competition opens in the spring and closes in the fall, and its panel of judges changes every year and are composed of well established poets. The top three entries are published in Poetry Review, and writer of the best poem receives £5,000.
Winners have included Carol Ann Duffy, who was appointed British Poet Laureate in 2009. Her poem ‘Whoever She Was’ topped the competition in 1983. 2008 winner Christopher James summarised the relevance of the The National Poetry Competition when he said, “If there is an unspoken Grand Slam circuit for poetry prizes, then the National Poetry Competition is definitely Wimbledon – it’s the one everyone dreams of winning”. Previous winners also include Jo Shapcott, Ruth Padel, Sinéad Morrissey and Helen Dunmore.