Handbook for 2021 is the judges' selection of 40 entries to the Bread and Roses Poetry Award 2020, including the seven winners. Cover image: Martin Rowson.
The coronavirus pandemic this year has had a devastating human cost. It has also exposed the virulent scourges of growing poverty, inequality and low pay that continue to blight class-divided British society, after a decade of vicious Tory cuts to our vital public services, and sheer incompetence and dishonesty in government.
The poems bear witness to the searing effects of the health crisis, as well as other themes such as the environment, poverty, and the Black Lives Matter
movement. They also carry an expressive power and energy which will bring a much-needed boost to the hearts and minds of whoever reads them, giving us
all an inspiring handbook for 2021.
It is hard to write about the injustices of contemporary society without slipping into easy denunciations, second-hand phrases and borrowed anger. The best political poetry should also be painful to read, interrogating itself and challenging what the reader thinks they know or believe to be true.
The entries to this year’s Bread and Roses competition certainly share a sense of impatient rage and revulsion at the way the world works; but they are also distinguished by intellectual ambition, literary technique and political resilience. And they say what needs to be said about the subjects that matter most —inequality, work, unemployment, solidarity, struggle, homelessness,racism, illegal wars, and environmental disaster.
—Andy Croft, publisher of Smokestack Books
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