Nature red in tooth and claw - Beds based charity is on the lookout for new poets

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Poets in Bedfordshire are being urged to put pen to paper this month for the third-annual Rialto Nature Poetry Competition, which is helping to give a much-needed boost to some the UK’s most threatened wildlife by raising awareness and money for nature conservation.

The Rialto poetry magazine and the RSPB, which has a base in Sandy, are encouraging poets to submit work in response to the theme of ‘Nature’, which The Rialto’s editor, Michael Mackmin, said will be given a wide interpretation when it comes to judging the poems:

“It doesn’t have to be just poems about creatures and beings that share the planet, or about ‘environmental concerns’. We are all air and water, everything we eat comes from the earth or the sea, most people know the roughness of a leaf or the heft of a stone can change a mood or express a feeling... You might just have to write your poems and take a risk.”

The competition has already raised more than £27,000 for conservation in its first two years, with 3,000 writers entering more than 6,000 poems- all on the theme of nature.

Matt Howard, the competition’s organiser and himself a published author, works for the RSPB in the East of England and is hopeful the competition will receive even more entries this year and make an even bigger contribution to conservation.

“People have always been inspired by the natural world,” said Howard, “This is a competition for anyone who loves nature and feels inspired to share their thoughts, feelings or experience of nature by writing about it. You don’t have to be a Wordsworth or a Keats. Hopefully people will also be encouraged to enter by knowing they will also be directly supporting the conservation work of the RSPB.”

Award-winning poet and broadcaster, Simon Armitage, will be judging this year’s entries after to closing date at the end of February, and choosing top four poems, which will all be rewarded with publication in The Rialto as well as prizes including a 1st Prize of £1,000.

“We’re particularly thrilled to have Simon judging this year’s competition. He represents the pinnacle of modern British poetry and is someone any aspiring writer can look up to,” said Howard.

Last year’s winner, Colin Hughes, wrote about Delhi’s urban black kites, which he had watched in the sky above the city and have become as adapted to surviving in the dense human conurbation as urban foxes in the London.