The 2020 Awards

The 2020 winners were as follows:

1st Prize          TICKLING THE DRAGON – Jocelyn Simms, France

Tickling the Dragon

2020 winner Jocelyn SimmsJocelyn Simms lived in the North West of England before moving to France in 2002 where she has co-organised many literary events – including three bilingual ‘Litfests’ attended by some of the UK’s most prestigious authors.  She became hooked on the story of the atomic bomb by reading an anthology of poetry ‘food for thought, the mushroom cloud’ which prompted a return to her battered 1946 edition of John Hersey’s Hiroshima. The idea of using personal testimonies emerged, hoping that through retelling the horrors a new generation would be galvanised against the deployment of weapons of mass destruction.

For more information visit the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA)

2nd Prize         THE WOMAN WITH AN OWL TATTOO – Anne Walsh Donnelly, Mayo, Ireland

The Woman with an Owl Tattoo

Anne Walsh DonnellyAnne Walsh Donnelly lives in the west of Ireland.  She writes poetry, prose and plays and has been published widely She was nominated for the Hennessy/Irish Times Literary Award and selected for the Poetry Ireland Introduction Series in 2019. Her poetry collection entitled ‘Odd as F*ck,’ will be published by Fly on the Wall poetry press in May 2021. She is also the author of the short story collection, Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife.


3rd Prize          HEFTDavid J Costello, Wallasey, England


David J Costello David J. Costello has been widely published and anthologised. Living in the Wirral he co-hosts ‘New Brighton Bards’ and ‘Liver Bards’ with Steve Regan. David has won prizes in a number of competitions including both the Welsh International Poetry Competition and the Troubadour International Poetry Competition. His pamphlet, ‘No Need For Candles’, was published by Red Squirrel Press.

For more information on David and to buy his books, go to his website –

Judges Comments:

1st Prize – Tickling The Dragon by Jocelyn Simms is an important piece of work, both historically and artistically. Uncomfortable reading but should be essential for everyone. Although only a short volume each poem is a masterpiece, full of subtle references. From the first poem;

‘…a boy, A brilliant boy.
…brighter than a thousand suns.’

A reference to ‘Little Boy’ as well as to the young Robert Oppenheimer.

A poem that sets the scene for the horrors that follow. Each poem complete, confident and comfortable in its own right. Every word counting.

I cried when I read ‘Les Fleurs d’Azur’.

‘A naked girl, torso stripped of skin, cries,
and later… ‘A white liquid oozes from her. Maggots spawn…’

The atomic bomb story is a powerful one of course. The dropping of two WMD on Japan’s citizens might have saved a lot of allied lives but it was also a war crime. Certainly not mankind’s finest hour.

However, the tragedy didn’t end there. You’d think that the western powers would have spent the rest of their lives trying to make amends but no, the state-sponsored radiation experiments conducted by our own government upon our own people showed what utter disdain for human life is prevalent amongst the elite. Another crime that should never be forgotten.

‘The bomb exploded: dirt shot up,
…I saw a tracery of finger and knee bone…
Face the mushroom cloud.’

Anyone who isn’t moved to tears by the sheer brutal honesty and stark realism of these words should give up reading poetry. This is what the art form was meant for! In a world, which seems to get crazier each day we neglect the lessons of history at our peril.

A worthy winner of the International Poetry Book Awards by a fantastic poet who knocks spots off most of the established names in the arts business today.

2nd Prize – The Woman With An Owl Tattoo by Anne Walsh Donnelly is a fabulous piece of work. An honest, daring collection that moves subtly through realisation, awakening, fear, humour, sensuality and ultimately salvation.

From the first lines of the first poem we know we are on board for a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

From ‘Barbie’ to ‘Eric Carmen’, from Catholic school abuse and backward teachings, mental and physical torment, suicidal thoughts…

‘The hound’s jaws were prised apart
by verbal battles and egg-shelled

Sensual lines are everywhere as the confidence to be who one really is emerges like a butterfly from a cocoon…

‘Play a sonata on your skin’


‘soaped skin, pliable as dough.’

There is the waitress, the vet’s perfume, a Kafka-like scrap with changing human relationships and the artist’s struggle for recognition in a world of unbelievers and doubters.  This is brave, in-your-face poetry and I love it.

The author has endured and triumphed. There is a light in the cave and a reason to be proud. An excellent poetry collection and a worthy 2nd place winner.

3rd Prize – Heft by David J Costello is another excellent poetry volume that surprises, moves and delights in equal measure. An award-winning poet, he has weaved together a beautiful collection, layered full of personal experience, nature, myth and mortality.

From ‘Conch’:

‘Every shell has it’s own voice,
but only the empty ones sing.’

In ‘Rain’ we experience how life passes so quickly. We wake up one day and wonder where all the years have gone…

‘…sepia streets.
Outside my window
The rain sounds the same,’

The next generation…

‘Grainy with meiosis,
you’ve steeped for twenty years…’

We experience a washed-up whale, dead on the beach. Satan’s tree. Welsh legends, a furnaceman who ‘drowned inside himself.’ There is a sadness here, an inevitability but also a catharsis and hope for the future…

‘My ordinary life is such a weight.
…I drop it in the quarry’s mouth.’

A superb poetry book and much deserved 3rd place winner.

When we started this contest in January 2020 we were hoping for a couple of dozen or so entries.  How wrong can you be!  And how surprised we were by the sheer quality of poetry books submitted.  So much so that instead of picking just ten writers for our shortlist we decided to publish a longlist first, just so we could mention more of the great books we’d received.

2020 winners

‘Amongst our top ten, we have various themes: barrack banter, Spanish art, drug addiction and redemption, sexual awakening, personal narratives, the nuclear age, nature and myth, life and death and of course love. Proof, if it were needed that modern poets can shine just as bright as the old familiar names. If you are a true poetry fan I would urge you to click the links below and buy a few copies – you won’t be disappointed, although I should warn you that you may end up crying yourself to sleep having discovered the sheer moving, beauty of words.’ – Dave Lewis

Some fabulous and varied collections that should provide something for all poetry fans.


(in no particular order)

Breakfast in Bed – Jackie Biggs

Heft – David J Costello

The Woman with an Owl Tattoo – Anne Walsh Donnelly

Heroin’s Harbour – Marc Goldfinger

Everything’s Great And I’m Still Dying – Phoebe Kalid

Last night I met John Adcock – Ewan Lawrie

Gardening With Deer – Kathy Miles

Summon – Elizabeth Ridout

The Other Guernica – Derek Sellen

Tickling the Dragon – Jocelyn Simms

To find out more or buy copies of these great books just click the author/title above.


(in no particular order)

The Nurseryman – Arthur Allen

The Uninvited – Chrissy Banks

Breakfast in Bed – Jackie Biggs

Not Forgotten – Ian Royce Chamberlain

Heft – David J Costello

The Woman with an Owl Tattoo – Anne Walsh Donnelly

Guide to the items recovered from the stomach of the last wild whale – Rory Duffy

Heroin’s Harbour – Marc Goldfinger

Light-fall – Lucy Ingrams

Everything’s Great And I’m Still Dying – Phoebe Kalid

Last night I met John Adcock – Ewan Lawrie

Throatbone – Simon Maddrell

Let the wounded speak – Antony Mair

Dialling A Starless Past – Mike McNamara

Gardening With Deer – Kathy Miles

A Life, Elsewhere – Marie Naughton

Summon – Elizabeth Ridout

What’s Not Wasted – Gareth Alun Roberts

Me, She & Her – Roxanna

The Other Guernica – Derek Sellen

Tickling the Dragon – Jocelyn Simms

I, Ursula – Ruth Stacey

the love I do to you – Mariah Whelan

The History of Eternity – James Winder

To find out more or buy copies of these great books just click the author/title above.


Waterstones books

Results were announced on our website, Facebook Group and Twitter on Sunday 1st November, 2020.  We have also informed the UK national press, Literature Wales, Pontypridd Observer and associated district newspapers, SW Echo, the Western Mail, BBC Wales and RCTCBC, as well as many organisations on our mailing list. Thanks to all those who entered and look forward to reading your work next year.

Note: Although we informed Literature Wales about the success of our Wales-based contest (with a Welsh judge, and Welsh poets on the shortlist) that aims to support and celebrate Welsh poets, they refused to promote us or add anything to their website, even though they get over a million pounds a year of taxpayers money to promote Welsh literature!  We’ll leave you to decide what this says about the literary establishment here in Wales.

Enter your book – click here.