Meet the Judges

Meet the 2023 Judges

Gail McConnellGail McConnell

Gail McConnell is from Belfast. Her debut poetry book, The Sun is Open (Penned in the Margins, 2021), won the The John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Award and The Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize. She has also published Northern Irish Poetry and Theology and two poetry pamphlets: Fothermather and Fourteen. With Conor Garrett, Gail has made two arts features based on her poetry for BBC Radio 4: Fothermather and The Open Box. Gail is Senior Lecturer in English at Queen’s University Belfast.

Listen to Gail reading ‘River in Winter’. 




Julia CopusJulia Copus

Julia Copus has published four collections of poetry and been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot and Costa Book awards. Her most recent collection, Girlhood, was published by Faber in 2019 and was the inaugural winner of the Derek Walcott Prize. Other awards include First Prize in the UK’s National Poetry Competition and the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Her 2021 biography of Bloomsbury poet Charlotte Mew, This Rare Spirit, was chosen by Andrew Motion as a Spectator Book of the Year and described by John Carey in the Sunday Times as “a triumph of precise scholarship and imaginative sympathy”. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Listen to Julia read 'Girlhood'. 



Peter McDonaldPeter McDonald

Poet and academic, Professor Peter McDonald, is the current Christopher Tower Student. He became the first holder of the Christopher Tower studentship in 1999. He has been writing poetry since his teens, and was himself a winner of national young poet competitions. As an undergraduate he published poems in the national literary press and won Oxford’s Newdigate Prize for poetry in 1983. He currently holds a Tutorship in Poetry in the English Language at Christ Church, Oxford and a lectureship in the English Faculty of the University of Oxford.