The Layer Deeper – Poetry

* Deadline Midnight 31st July *

* Closed For Submissions *

In November 2020 scientists were exploring a cave in Northern China when they discovered a text that was unlike any of the others present. Written in Sanskrit rather than in Archaic Chinese, the text appeared to have been left behind by accident as it was facing inwards. The text, which is an exposition of ancient philosophy claims to offer knowledge that is ‘a layer deeper’ than other branches of the same philosophical school. Such things fascinate poets like us. Therefore we decided to base this contest on just how deep poets can dig into their creative potential.

See more below

Seamus Heaney – Nobel Laureate 1995

We consider that many contemporary poets have achieved ‘a deeper layer’ in their work, just like Seamus Heaney…

Bog Queen

I lay waiting
between turf-face and demesne wall,
between heathery levels
and glass-toothed stone.

My body was braille
for the creeping influences:
dawn suns groped over my head
and cooled at my feet,

through my fabrics and skins
the seeps of winter
digested me,
the illiterate roots

pondered and died
in the cavings
of stomach and socket.
I lay waiting

on the gravel bottom,
my brain darkening,
a jar of spawn
fermenting underground

dreams of Baltic amber.
Bruised berries under my nails,
the vital hoard reducing
in the crock of the pelvis.

My diadem grew carious,
gemstones dropped
in the peat floe
like the bearings of history.

My sash was a black glacier
wrinkling, dyed weaves
and phoenician stitchwork
retted on my breasts’

soft moraines.
I knew winter cold
like the nuzzle of fjords
at my thighs–

the soaked fledge, the heavy
swaddle of hides.

We like Heaney’s bog poems, not only because he was native to our isle but also because our rural habitat is a high boggy plateau filled with flora and fauna that provides us with inspiration, well sheltered by its location from the clamour and bustle of the nearest towns. Some of Heaney’s bog poems are based on actual people, uncovered after centuries lying preserved in the still layers of dead soil. Heaney ponders their fates, attributing them to heinous crimes, tensions between peoples and even ritual sacrifice. Just like the Sanskrit text discovered in China, we may never know the real truth. We have only our imagination and introspection to rely on, and poetry is one of the most powerful tools we have to do just that.

See details of our contest below

First round deadline – 31st July 2021

Thanks for bearing with us. We’re getting to the point now. We want our contest to be different because we want you to be different. By entering this contest we hope you find ‘a deeper layer’ in your own poetry writing.


Contestants are to send a poem of up to 40 lines excluding the title which is set for interpretation. The title is:

‘Grace I ask’ and can be interpreted using any means necessary in any style.

This open entry is considered to be the first round and is reading-fee free. The top 100 poets (with the most touching work) will be moved into the second round which includes a reading fee of £8 where the adjudicators will select a line from the poet’s original poem for inspiration. The poet then must create a new poem with their own line as title, digging deeper into their own creativity.

The second round poems may exceed 40 lines in length but not 70 lines.

During this stage we will be publishing and commending the top 10 poems that didn’t make it into the second round.

Prizes will be awarded for the overall best poem as well as 2nd, 3rd and 4th place. Prizewinning poems will be published here and considered for inclusion in an upcoming anthology which is to be titled ‘The Layer Deeper’

First prize is £250, second prize is £150, third prize £100 and fourth £50.

Poems should be attached to an email and sent to:

Please do NOT include your name or any identifying details on the poem file. Please DO reveal your identity and contact details (with a brief bio if you wish) in the body of the email.

Please title the email: ‘TLD – Round 1’


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