Winners of Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition announced!

  • News
  • 4 December 2023
Winners of Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition announced!

The entries have been shortlisted, the judges have deliberated and we can finally announce the winners of the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition 2023!

In unanimous agreement, Ruth Hobson has been voted the overall winner of the competition with her poem Brigid, a tale steeped in Irish mythology of the goddess whom poets adored.

Second prize has been awarded to Let Me Say It Like This by Rachel Rankin, and third prize to Oxford English Dictionary by Isabel Palmer.

Tom Branfoot, Manchester Cathedral’s Writer in Residence and organiser of the poetry competition, said: “Despite the volume and high standard of entries, Ruth’s poem shone through them all. The judges admired Brigid for its unforgiving pastoral and commanding voice.

“Goddess of the poets, Brigid is transposed into this atmospheric village scene with undercurrents of violence and dispossession. Playing with Irish mythology and lyric traditions in an invigorating form, this poem praises the song through which we tell our truths.”

Ten poems were also highly commended by judges:  

  • Unforgettings by Eva Gerretsen 
  • A Blessing for the Wine by Rachel M. Dillon
  • Storytime by Susan Shepherd
  • Fit for Work by Dan Melling
  • Devotional Geometry by Innas Tsuroiya
  • Couplets for Héctor Abad and in Memory of Victoria Amelina by Charles Penty
  • Bladud by Harper Walton
  • Aquarium by Mariah Whelan
  • No Good News Today by Rachel Cleverly
  • Beset by Lauren Camp

Our theme this year was ‘A Truth, inspired by a statement from the sadly deceased poet Lucie Brock-Broido:

"Though I am wildly capable of certain linguistic fabrications, I am in it for the truth. OK: a truth."

We encouraged poems which examined the notion of truth and subjectivity, with a theme that was deliberately broad to inspire entries on a variety of topics, while engaging with the notion of what truth means to each writer. 

A total of 348 entries were submitted and shared with judges including Cathedral Writer in Residence Tom Branfoot, poets Charlotte Shevchenko Knight and Maryam Hessavi, and Dean of Manchester Rogers Govender.

All entries were judged without the names of their authors so the winners would be selected based on the poetry alone.

Dean of Manchester, the Very Revd Rogers Govender, said: “It is fantastic the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition has returned and that our first since before the pandemic has seen such a high number of entries.

“While selecting the winners and those in the highly commended category was not easy, reading the entries was a joy which lifted the hearts of the judges who were thrilled to welcome such creativity.

“A huge well done to the winners and thank you to all who took the time to submit their poems.”

You can read the winning entry below. Ruth Hobson will win £200 for her first place prize, with £50 for second place, and £25 for third place.

All winning entries will be displayed in Manchester Cathedral, and along with the highly commended entries, will be featured in a printed anthology of poems soon.


Brigid by Ruth Hobson

throughout   she held the knot that was all Kildare,

thread by thread all that was in her

she became the sky over


the river    the long track to the great house

the scorn    the turnings away    the grab

at her breasts


the hesitant voice

in a language not her own

was the hunger    the owed rent.


He offered her ‘the land your blue scarf covers’

holding one corner she unfolded,

blowing across untilled dirt    a field    two fields


a cloud    another cloud     the sky over the river 

she flew through borders    hedges dissolving

she was fire    bread    water in the furrows



that song in the evening