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You're invited to our flash poetry competition for National Poetry Day!

Do you scribble sonnets in your spare time? Are you partial to a bit of rhyme? Or do you want to start writing but don't know how?

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Poetry Day, we're giving one lucky person the chance to win a gorgeous £100 personalised National Book Token featuring their poem, as judged by Pam Ayres. The winner will also receive a box of new poetry worth £300, including a copy of Pam Ayres' new collection, Up in the Attic

Pam Ayres

Poetry is perfect for conveying something that's really important (like making the most of life) in just a few lines – with humour and rhythm as Pam has done, or with striking images which show others exactly what you see and feel.

You have to dance while you are able,
And do the can-can on the table,
Grab each chance that flashes past,
For life goes by so deadly fast. 
– Pam Ayres

Write a flash poem (a poem of 30 words or fewer) on the National Poetry Day theme of Truth and tell us the truth about something that matters to you.

Send us your poem before midnight on Thursday 17th October 2019.

This competition has now closed.

Looking for the perfect gift? Pop to your local bookshop or send a National Book Tokens e-Gift card. Show how well you know them with a personalised National Book Token gift card for all occasions, from birthdays to bar mitzvahs.


We received more than 1,000 wonderful flash poems and we're delighted to announce that Pam Ayres has chosen the winner... Lucien Young from London!

These days the truth seems ever foggier:
The world's more Trump-y, and Rees-Moggier.
But when mendacious meanies make you blue,
Remember love and laughter; they're what's true.

Pam picked Lucien's poem "for his clever rhyming, and because this little verse shines with the truth about what is important". Lucien has won his poem on a £100 National Book Token and a bundle of poetry books. Congratulations!

Pam also wanted to give a special mention to these flash poems. Each poet will receive a copy of The Forward Book of Poetry 2020.

Victoria, for her sad sense of missed opportunity and 'if only':
If I spoke the truth, I'd say 'I like you, a lot.
But that's scary, so I'll probably not.
Someday I'll be brave, less shy.
For now let's settle with 'hi'.

Susan and Sara for their more day-to-day, but no less accurate, observations about bums and duvets.

Always tell the truth
They tell you in Reception
But 'Does my bum look big in this?'
Might be the one exception.

It's twelve o'clock, get out of bed,
Teenagers' mums have often said,
Conveniently forgetting that once they too,
Preferred a patterned duvet view.

Amanda, who cleverly sums up the mystery of attraction:
The beard you grew doesn't suit you
and your sense of direction is awful
But, here's a strange thing,
you make my heart sing
Shall we make it lawful?

About Pam Ayres

Pam Ayres is one of the nation's favourite poets. Pam has been a writer, broadcaster, and entertainer for over 40 years. She is the author of several best-selling poetry books, including The Works, Surgically Enhanced, You Made Me Late Again!, and The Last HedgehogPam performs her solo stage show throughout the UK, and lives in the Cotswolds, where she is an enthusiastic gardener for wildlife. She won the Poetry Award for The Last Hedgehog in the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards 2018.

How to write a flash poem by National Poetry Day

First assume your poem already exists. 

Not yet in words, but in a language of glimpses, sounds, sensations. 

Examples: bonfire smoke on a coat, the pricked ear of a wary cat, a widened eye.

Each spoke to someone, once, unlocked a feeling. Your mission?

Observe and transmit. Five lines. Be precise.

Terms and Conditions

1 x winner whose poem is chosen by Pam Ayres will win a £100 National Book Token featuring their poem (max. 30 words), or €100 standard National Book Token if based in Ireland, plus a box of new poetry, featuring:

Up in the Attic by Paym Ayres
Tell Me the Truth About Life edited by Cerys Matthews
The Forward Book of Poetry 2020 
Counting Backwards by Helen Dunmore
Selected Poems by Denise Riley
The Poetry Pharmacy Returns by William Sieghart
Eternity Selected Poems by Tracy K Smith
After the Formalities by Anthony Anaxagarou
Surge by Jay Bernard
The Tradition by Jericho Brown
Ilya Kaminsky by Deaf Republic
Unknown Soldier by Seni Seneviratne
Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year edited by Allie Esiri 
Poems to Fall in Love With edited by Chris Riddell
Great Goddesses by Nikita Gill
Discipline by Jane Yeh
Afternoons Go Nowhere by Sheenagh Pugh
Gen by Jonathan Edwards
A Poem for Every Night of the Year
Between Mountain and Sea by Morman MacCaig, edited by Roderick Watson
Staying Alive edited by Neil Astley
Poems to Live Your Life edited by Chris Riddell
Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest
Two Cures for Love by Wendy Cope
The Last Hedgehog by Pam Ayres

  • No purchase necessary.
  • Closing date: 11:59pm, Thursday 17th October 2019.
  • A minimum of one poem and a maximum of five poems per entrant will be accepted. Poems may be submitted in one entry or separately. Entrants may not win more than one prize.
  • The prizes are non-transferable and there are no cash alternatives, and subject to availability. The Promoter reserves the right to amend the specification of the prize or offer an alternative prize. In exceptional circumstances, the Promoter reserves the right to foreclose the competition without notice.
  • The competition is open to UK and Republic of Ireland residents except employees of the Booksellers Association and Book Tokens Ltd., their families, employees of participating bookshops, and anyone else connected with this promotion.
  • Entrants must be aged 16 or over. Entrants are welcome to enter poems on behalf of those under the age of 16 as long as the person submitting the entry is aged 16 or over.
  • Entrants agree to the Promoter using their details in post-competition publicity. Your details will not be used for any other purpose, or passed onto any third parties, unless specified. Winners’ details may be shared securely with a third-party in order to fulfil the dispatch of competition prizes.
  • We will contact winners by email. In the event of a winner not responding after 14 days, we reserve the right to allocate the prize to another winner, or foreclose the prize. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted.
  • The Promoter accepts no responsibility for entries that are incomplete, illegible, incorrect, corrupted or fail to reach the Promoter by the closing date for any reason. Automatically generated entries or entries via third parties are invalid and shall not be considered.
  • The Promoter’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • The Promoter will only use your email address and other personal information as outlined in our privacy policy.
  • Promoter: Book Tokens Ltd, 6 Bell Yard, London, WC2A 2JR.

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