The Environmental Poet of the Year prize

The Michael Marks

Environmental Poet of the Year prize 2023 – 2024


is now closed for entries


The winner will be notified by November 30th.


Please check our newsletter and this website for updates.


The Michael Marks Charitable Trust has a combined aim: the promotion and conservation both of culture and of the environment. For this reason, last year, the Michael Marks Awards created this new award.

(Please note that the annual awards for published pamphlets  have a separate judging panel and will close for entries at a later date to this prize).



•   Publication of your portfolio as a pamphlet, to be sold at Wordsworth Grasmere and The British Library

•   A place on a winners’ residential trip to Greece in association with the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies, with the opportunity to learn more about, and spread understanding of, how the climate crisis is affecting other cultures

•   £1,000*

•   Invitation to read at a special ‘Environmental Poet of the Year’ event at Wordsworth Grasmere, as well as at the annual Michael Marks Awards event at the British Library in London. During the course of the year when the winner holds this title, they may be invited to participate in further events or activities. For full information, please see these prize-specific Submission Rules and Terms and Conditions and FAQs.


Deadline for Entries: Friday 1st September, midnight (UK). (Please note that the closing date of the other 2023 Awards is different).



• Helen Mort (Poet, novelist and memoirist)
• John Aitchison (BBC wildlife filmmaker & writer)
• Jane Caven (Wordsworth Grasmere representative)


*Terms and conditions will apply.

Portfolios must be clearly inspired by the subject described below (see ‘The environment, and the place of the human within it’).

Poetry portfolio: between 150 and 200 lines of poetry.

The prize is open to writers of any age, living in the UK only.

The environment and the place of the human within it


The prize aims to highlight that the work of poets writing during the climate crisis is of importance.

As the effects of the climate crisis become increasingly apparent, for many writers, the subject of the environment has an urgency and relevance that is new. For other writers, the topic is not new territory, but nuances still emerge.

Now, when we say ‘the environment’, we may be referring to both a rural idea of nature and specifically to the climate crisis. Within the subject, we might include a city mid-heatwave, a street underwater, or an invasive species of insect in a car park, as well as a person ‘wandering lonely’ across a hillside in unseasonable sun, or a scene of grouse on a moor. Whether a poet lives in an urban or rural area, they may write about the effects that people—either individuals, or humans as a species—are having upon their environment. On the other hand, they may instead write about the effects that the changing environment is having upon those people.

Poetry has the capacity to convey new ways of seeing and feeling, that resonate with readers, and which are memorable. No drum-banging is needed, but poems should be crafted to reach the hearts and minds of readers, and to linger there. The pamphlet form, which traditionally has included very short publications that are easy for a reader to digest in a single sitting, is particularly well suited to short portfolios of poems with a unifying theme.

The prize will be judged by a panel of three judges. It is a separate judging panel from the other 2022 Awards. Only one of the judges is a poet. Another of the judges has been chosen by our partners Wordsworth Grasmere, and is a keen reader with a background in business. The final judge is a scientist and naturalist, a well-published writer of prose, and also an avid reader.

The judges will look for poetry that creates insights into the environment and the place of the human within it. They hope to find poetry that a broad readership could enjoy.


Helen Mort
John Aitchison
Jane Caven

Helen Mort is a poet and novelist from Sheffield. Her poetry collection Division Street is published by Chatto & Windus and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and Costa Prize. Her second collection No Map Could Show Them explored the history of women’s mountaineering and started life in Banff. Her latest, The Illustrated Woman, looks at the power of body modification and the role of the ‘tattooed lady’ in society. She has also published a novel Black Car Burning set in Sheffield. Her memoir A Line Above The Sky examines the relationship between mountains and motherhood. It won the 2022 Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature. Much of her work is concerned with connections between landscape(s) and the body.

John Aitchison is a wildlife filmmaker and writer. He most often films for the BBC, working on many series including Planet Earth 2, Seven Worlds: One Planet, Frozen Planet, Springwatch and Dynasties. He produced The Amber Time Machine, presented by David Attenborough, for The Natural World series. He has also worked for National Geographic, PBS and Discovery Channel. His awards include a joint BAFTA and a joint Primetime Creative Emmy, both for the cinematography of Frozen Planet. John has presented several series about wildlife on BBC Radio 4. Some of these stories became the basis for his book, The Shark and the Albatross. John lives in Scotland where he is involved in marine conservation, through the Coastal Communities Network.

Jane Caven is a former plc director (public limited company) and co-founder of a successful management consultancy; she is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and holds an MSc in business. Jane also holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and after 42 years in business has returned to this, her first and enduring passion.

A keen reader, she enjoys a broad range of genres, but particularly both classical and contemporary poetry. Since retiring in 2020 Jane has become a volunteer at Wordsworth Grasmere, where she is a member of the Poetry Readers group who recite to visitors to Dove Cottage and the Museum.

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