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The 70-Poet Challenge


To celebrate the National Poetry Library’s 70th birthday we are aiming to shift the nation’s poetry reading habits by inviting people to discover 70 new poets, writing and performing in the past 70 years.

For 70 years the National Poetry Library has been bringing poetry to life and connecting readers with their new favourite poems. Now it’s your turn to help shape the poetic tastes of the nation along with Lemn Sissay, who is leading the way with the challenge.

Discover poets publishing since 1953, from any country and writing in any language that are ‘new’ to you. The most popularly voted-for poets will be invited to perform at Southbank Centre in October 2024.

How does it work?

Everyone can pick up a free booklet, or download one from the library’s website (link below), and start their search for their 70 new poets.

Every month the library will provide prompts which suggest more ways that you can discover your poets, from live and streamed events, to ebooks, Instagram, and readings happening in your area.

There is also space to write your own poem of 70 words and send it to the library. One of the new 70 word poems submitted will be selected to be read out by the poet at the event in October 2024.

Send your discoveries and 70 word poems to the library before Sunday 5th May 2024.

'Why I'm doing the 70-Poet Challenge' by Lemn Sissay

Join me and join in. The 70-Poet challenge needs you. Can you find a new poet (new to you) and send us their name and the title of a poem? It doesnt matter if the poet is published or unpublished. The only question is do you like their work? It can be a poet who writes nonsense poems or one who writes ballads suffused with anger and love, religion or anarchy. The poet could have written of nature and wrapped their poem in a folk song or harnessed it in the rhythms of a rap. Is the poet new to you and did you love their work? Then put them forward for the 70-Poet challenge!

It is strange that many people seem to think most poetry is written by writers long deceased. Subsequently poetry is the only literary genre plagued by the dead, making it a kind of zombie literary genre. Meanwhile all poetry and most poets are alive and well. Throughout the world poetry has never been more popular. It is a living breathing form. Zombie-less. So can you take up the 70-Poet challenge and present us with new ones (new to you) be they dead or alive and tell us their name and a poem theyve written so that we can tell the world. Join the seventy poets to celebrate our 70th anniversary. New writers and new readers are the lifeblood of poetry. Without them poetry will die.

We love an anniversary in literature. It is the 48th anniversary of Commonword, a community publishing house in Manchester. It is the 40th anniversary of apples and snakes, it is the 55th anniversary of Arvon. It is the 30th anniversary of spread the word. It is 27th anniversary of the literary consultancy (TLC) , it is 31st anniversary of the verbal arts centre in derry. But the oldest of them is the national poetry library. It is our 70th anniversary in 2023 and we are celebrating the oxygen, the lifeblood of all libraries: new writers and new readers. Be part of the revolution and join the seventy poet challenge with me.

Download the PDF booklet for The 70-Poet Challenge here.

If you are a library or bookshop and would like to join The 70-Poet Challenge, please drop the library a message and we can send you everything you need including a poster for display and booklets.

To submit your completed 70-Poet Challenge forms to the library click here.