Poetry Competition

Hello, I'm Ian McMillan; I'm a poet and I present The Verb on BBC Radio 3. I want to tell you about a Proms poetry competition for children and adults.

Ian McMillan
Words and music have always seemed like good pals to me

It's to do with words and music, which have always seemed like good pals to me ever since I listened to the psalms in church as a child and I had to write a story about the words of the great hymn 'Hills of the North Rejoice...' at junior school.

Entries are accepted after the competition launch on Friday 15th June 2018. The closing date is Sunday 19th August and the winners will be invited to a Proms Plus event on Monday September 3rd.

Download the entry form as a pdf

Download the entry form as a Word doc

Read the terms and conditions here.

In Association with the Poetry Society.

The two age categories are 12-18 and 19 plus.

From a past winner:

Meredith Andrea, who won the 19+ competition in 2017 with her poem, ‘Giving Birth to Monteverdi’, says:

‘The competition gave me an opportunity to participate creatively in the Proms by writing a poem inspired by Monteverdi’s Requiem. When it ended up being broadcast together with other Proms-inspired poems from the competition I felt amazingly connected across time and space to the composer, musicians, fellow-poets and listeners - such an affirming experience.’

All you have to do is to write a poem inspired by any piece of music in this year's Proms season.

There are two age categories: ages 12-18 and 19 plus.

Your poem will be judged by me and by the award-winning poet Helen Mort.

The winners will get the chance to have their poems read out at a Proms Plus event on Monday 3rd September with Helen, Judith Palmer, Director of the Poetry Society, and me. This will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and available as a Radio 3 Arts and Ideas download.

You'll also be invited to come to that night's Prom concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Here's a few tips to help you on your way.

First: don't worry. People often worry about their poems; it's as though they're going to visit a fearsome auntie and they think they're going to do the wrong thing or speak too loudly or knock something over.

Don't worry: poetry is often about doing the wrong thing or speaking too loudly or knocking things over.

In other words: be bold with your work. Don't forget that in a competition it's often the startling poems, the ones that are a bit different, the ones that lead the reader down the garden path before surprising them with a treat that do well, because it's the unusual poems that float to the top.

So, think about the piece of music. How does it make you feel? Does it remind you of a place you've been to, a person you know? Does it feel like a story or a description or simply a bunch of words thrown into the air?

Any of those are fine: what I'm looking for is your personal response to a piece of music in the Proms. You don't have to tell me the tale of how the music got written or what the composer meant by it, unless you really want to.

Think outside the box as marketing people in bright ties and designer glasses say.

And remember: I want to be startled!

Two more things: It doesn't have to rhyme, but it can.

My personal challenge to you is: try hard to avoid the word music. That's not in the rules, that's just to make you think.

1. Choose a piece of music from this year's Proms season.

2. Write your poem (up to 25 lines in length)

3. Download the entry form as a pdf file (214 Kb)

Or, if you prefer,

Download the entry form as a Word doc (84Kb)

4. Send off to reach us by the closing date of midnight on Sunday 19th August, 2018.

Entries must be sent by email to:


by post to:

Proms Poetry Competition, Zone D 7th floor, New Broadcasting House Portland Place London W1A 1AA.

Entries must be no longer than 25 lines and must include a completed application form.

The opening date for applications is Friday 15th June 2018 and the competition will be launched on Radio 3's Breakfast programme that morning and talked about on The Verb on that evening.

The closing date for entries is midnight on Sunday 19th August 2018.

Any entries received after this date will not be entered in the competition.

Terms and conditions for the Proms Poetry Competition.

In case of any queries, contact us by email: promspoetry@bbc.co.uk