Christopher Tower Poetry Competiton


Enter the Tower Poetry Competition

The 21st Christopher Tower Poetry Competition will be opening for entries on 2 November 2020, with students between 16-18 years of age challenged to write a poem on a set theme.

The competition will close at noon, 1 March 2021.

About the Competition

The Tower Poetry competition offers the UK’s most valuable prize for young poets, and is open to students between 16-18 years of age who are educated in the UK.

The competition is judged anonymously by two judges, who are different each year, and Peter McDonald, the current Christopher Tower Student. Each year the theme is chosen with the intention of giving entrants free rein to interpret it as widely as they like.

The competition is free to enter, and offers a top prize of £3000. Schools of prizewinners are awarded an additional £150, intended for investment in further study of poetry and literature.

First Judge revealed - Kwame Dawes

Head shot of a man with a mustache wearing glasses, with a black backgroundKwame Dawes is the author of twenty-two books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His collection, Nebraska, was published in 2020. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and teaches at the University of Nebraska and the Pacific MFA Program. He is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. Dawes is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  His awards include an Emmy, the Forward Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the prestigious Windham Campbell Prize for Poetry. In 2021, Dawes was named editor of American Life in Poetry.

Read Dawes' poem A Way of Seeing.

Second Judge revealed - Elise Paschen

Blonde woman smiling in front of a green, leafy bushElise Paschen is the author of The Nightlife (named one of the top poetry books of 2017 by the Chicago Review of Books), Bestiary, Infidelities (winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize), and Houses: Coasts. As an undergraduate at Harvard, she received the Garrison Medal for poetry. She holds M.Phil. and D.Phil. degrees from Oxford University. An enrolled member of the Osage Nation, she is a recipient of the Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs Medal. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker and Poetry Magazine, among other magazines, and in numerous anthologies, including A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry and The Best American Poetry 2018. She is the editor of The Eloquent Poem and has edited or co-edited numerous other anthologies, including The New York Times best-sellers, Poetry Speaks and Poetry Speaks to Children. Former Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America, she is a co-founder of Poetry in Motion, a nationwide program which places poetry posters in subway cars and buses. Dr. Paschen teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Read Paschen's poem Under the Dome.

Terms and Conditions:

  • Entries for the Tower Poetry Prize 2021 must be on the designated theme.
  • Entries must be written in English, and be no more than 48 lines in length.
  • Entrants must be at least 16 years of age, and under 19 years of age, on 1 March 2021.
  • Entrants must be in full or part-time education at a school, college or other educational institution in the United Kingdom. Students enrolled on higher education courses are not eligible to enter the competition.
  • Each entrant may submit only one poem.
  • Poems with joint authorship are ineligible.
  • Each poem must be the entrant’s own work: it must not incorporate poetry by others without acknowledgement and (where appropriate) citation, and it must not include substantial elements (phrases, lines, or larger blocks of composition) that have been suggested or authored by others engaged in providing specific editorial advice to the entrant.
  • Poems must not have been previously published, broadcast or submitted to another competition.
  • Names and addresses must not be included with the text of the poem, since entries are judged anonymously.
  • Track changes must be removed before submitting the poem.
  • The closing date for entries is noon on 1 March 2021. Entries entered after noon will not be considered by the judges.
  • The judges’ decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into concerning this decision.
  • The copyright of each poem remains with the author. Authors of the winning poems will grant Christ Church permission to publish or broadcast the poems for a period of one year from 21 April 2021.
  • The competition is not open to family members or close relatives of employees of Christ Church, Oxford.


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