Nature And Place Poetry Competition 2020

21st October 2020

The RSPBBirdLife International and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative working in collaboration with Poetry Magazine The Rialto.

A wonderful and provocative tonic, audience member

The Arts, Science and Conservation Programme is delighted to share the news that 2020 has been a fantastic year for the RSPBBirdLife & CCI Rialto Poetry Competition on Nature and Place. There was an amazing abundance of wonderful writing with over 1,500 entrants submitting more than 3,300 poems. It really is a special thing and makes a genuine difference to nature and poetry.

This year the competition was judged by poet Pascale Petit, described by Aingeal Clare of The Guardian as A passionate laureate of the natural world, but alive to the cruelty of human depredation…   Pascale is particularly well known for her seventh collection, Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe, 2017) which won both the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize 2018 (the first time a poetry book had won this prize – for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry best evoking the spirit of a place) and the inaugural Laurel Prize in 2020, awarded for the best collection of nature or environmental poetry.

We have now received the judges results from Pascale and are delighted to announce that this years’ winners are:

1st Prize of £1000 – ‘Hermit Crab in a Doll’s Head’ by Cindy Botha

2nd Prize of £500 – ‘Insects’ by P Q R Anderson

3rd Prize of £250 – ‘Rain Wolf’ by Jim Lloyd

Additional Prize of a personal tour with Mark Cocker of his most cherished wildlife places in East Anglia – ‘Hericium’ by Ella Duffy

The four prize winning poems will be published in issue 94 of The Rialto, described as

Simply the best by Carol Ann Duffy and A terrific magazine by Seamus Heaney. You can purchase your copy of The Rialto herePascale also selected five highly commended poems this year:

‘Something to show for it’ by Luke Allan

‘Breakdown’ by Luke Yates

‘Natural History’ by Luke Yates

‘Round-leaved Crowfoot at Hopton Castle’ by Jo Peters

‘Verticality’ by Jemma Borg

Many thanks to Pascale and Mark for their generosity in working with us and indeed to everyone who entered the competition and attended the event.

Given the COVID 19 restrictions this year we celebrated the winners’ news with an online event on the 24th September, rather than our usual event at The David Attenborough Building in Cambridge.

We were treated to inspirational and moving readings by all four of our wining poets. We were also privileged to hear Pascale read from her new collection, Tiger Girl, published by Bloodaxe in 2020.  It has been shortlisted for the 2020 Forward Prize for Best Collection and also won a Royal Society of Literature ‘Literature Matters’ Award while in progress.

Here are some comments from the audience who attended the online event:

A wonderful and provocative tonic

Pascal’s reading was so outstanding – a master class that I won’t forget

My goodness what an event, I loved it!  It was by far the best zoom event I have sat in on and I say that because it was seamless in transition and no distractions