Winchester Poetry Festival has announced the winner of its inaugural poetry competition at a special ceremony on Sunday October 9, during the Festival. First prize went to Eve Ellis, an American-born Londoner, who is teaches English at the American School in London. Her poem, Haint, impressed the judge, the distinguished poet Mimi Khalvati, “for its music, its poignancy, its haunting open ending.”

The competition’s second prize went to Christopher James for his poem Endgame. Third prize was won by Catherine Edmunds for her poem How to Win at King’s Cross.

The competition attracted nearly 1500 entries from more than 600 poets in 28 different countries – and exceeded all expectations. The final decisions were not easy, according to Mimi Khalvati, who read every poem herself. She admitted to nearly having a heart attack when they arrived in a huge box. “I resolved to read 100 poems a day for 15 days, to keep myself fresh and avoid missing any gems. Winners sometimes jump out at you but not in this case. In the end, throwing up my hands, I asked myself: well, which do I love the best?”

“The quality of the winning and commended poems in the first Winchester Poetry Prize was stunning – and ample justification for making this an annual event,” said Winchester Poetry Festival chair Stephen Boyce.

The second Winchester Poetry Festival, a biennial event, has proved that poetry plays an important part in people’s lives. More than 1500 tickets were sold, with many sell-out events and an increase of 15% over last year. The Festival, which took place across three days, featured some of the nation’s best-loved poets including Simon Armitage, Roger McGough and Sinead Morrissey, as well as exciting new talent. The Festival’s chair, Stephen Boyce said today: “We are delighted to have brought to Winchester 40 poets and speakers of international distinction. And we’re equally thrilled that audiences once again responded with such enthusiasm and evident delight.”

Winning poems from the inaugural Winchester Poetry Prize have been published by Winchester Poetry Festival in an anthology Salt on the Coals, available from the Festival’s new online shop at their website