Ledbury Poetry Critics 2021

A national programme to encourage diversity in poetry reviewing culture aimed at new critical voices

In 2017, and in collaboration with Ledbury Poetry Festival, Ledbury Poetry Critics launched, offering a year-long intensive mentorship scheme for 8 emerging poetry reviewers of colour: Dzifa Benson, Srishti Krishnamoorthy-Cavell, Mary Jean Chan, Jade Cuttle, Sarala Estruch, Maryam Hessavi, Nasser Hussain and Jennifer Lee-Tsai. In 2019, we selected four more critics: Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Joanna Lee, Sarah-Jean Zubair, and Stephanie Sy-Quia. These critics have since published reviews in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The New Statesman, the Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Poetry London and many other magazines and journals.

In 2021, with generous funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Ledbury Poetry Critics intends to extend our programme and offer an intensive, individualised mentorship opportunity to new citics based in the UK. In our efforts to nourish a strong community of critics, this strand will exist alongside workshops and seminars, supported by our partner organisations, that will be accessible to the wider public. The mentorship programme will culminate in a Critics Residency as part of Ledbury Poetry Festival. Mentorship has been foundational for LPC since the initiative was founded by Sandeep Parmar (Liverpool) and Sarah Howe (King’s College London) in 2017, and has since been joined by Vidyan Ravinthiran (Harvard), Catherine Gander (Maynooth), Janine Bradbury (York St John), and Alycia Pirmohamed (Liverpool).

Meet our Critics

For details of our newly appointed critics for 2021, see our 2021 Ledbury Poetry Critics press release.


The programme and application

Over the course of the Ledbury Poetry Critics scheme, you will be assigned a poetry critic mentor with experience reviewing for national journals, magazines (print and online) and broadsheet newspapers. This year, the LPC team is delighted to be joined by mentors Sandeep Parmar, Sarah Howe, Vidyan Ravinthiran, Jane Yeh, Will Harris, Jay G Ying, Vahni Capildeo, Kit Fan, Nisha Ramayya, Jeremy Noel-Tod, Dzifa Benson, Jade Cuttle, Dave Coates, Khairani Barokka, Leo Boix and Seán Hewitt.

You may already be a critic with a few published reviews, have some or no critical or academic background, or you might be strongly committed to becoming a poetry critic in the very near future and keen to explore issues of diversity in British poetry.

The scheme involves:
● At least five one-to-one mentorship meetings (to be conducted virtually) with one of our mentors
● Critical feedback on the writing of poetry criticism and on a poetry review between April 2021 and December 2021. These reviews will be pitched to the editors of the Times Literary Supplement and Poetry School
● The opportunity to build a community with other critics of colour through informal virtual meet-ups and the scheme’s “buddy system”
● Future advancement opportunities, such as undertaking one of LPC’s 10 Editor-in-Residence positions across our partner publications or becoming an LPC mentor
● An online resource library where critics can share information

To apply, please include
● A covering letter of up to 500 words expressing your interest and any experience in poetry reviewing. In this letter, please outline why you feel you would benefit from participating in Ledbury Poetry Critics
● A brief sample review of a recent poetry collection, pamphlet or live poetry performance (by any contemporary poet) of up to 800 words. This review may be published or unpublished.

For applicants with additional accessibility requirements, or whose participation would be hampered without financial aid, the Ledbury Critics programme is pleased to offer additional funding in the event of their successful application. Please outline any accessibility needs in your covering letter.

Please note that this scheme is unfortunately only open to poets/critics resident in the UK. Travel and accommodation as well as costs associated with mentorship and residency/events are entirely covered.

All our partners, affiliate organisations, critics and mentors agree to follow our Safer Spaces Policy.

For further details on the application process, click here. Please be advised that applications are now closed for this year.


If poetry is your passion, try Ledbury Poetry Festival, in the Malvern Hills near Hereford… Ledbury hosts a glorious 10-day early-summer immersion in poetry of all sorts, with a good international line-up of names to savour and discover. The atmosphere is quieter and perhaps more intense than at Hay; definitely recommended for devotees

The Financial Times

Arts and Humanities Research Council; Ledbury Poetry Festival; Centre for New and International Writing

Professor Sandeep Parmar: Race and Reviewing in the UK - The Ledbury Poetry Critics

Although publishing by UK poets of colour has risen sharply during the previous decade, poetry reviewing has largely lagged behind. This year-long project will build on Professor Sandeep Parmar's previous research on race and UK poetry and the Ledbury Poetry Critics programme by expanding the existing group of poetry critics and working further with commissioning editors, art organisations and academics. A programme of workshops, public events with panel discussions and one-on-one mentoring will feed into a Critics Residency at Ledbury Poetry Festival in 2021. Additionally, paid editor residencies throughout the year will partner critics with editors to develop editorial skills. Two postdoctoral fellows, Alycia Pirmohamed and Dave Coates, will also oversee the programme alongside Professor Parmar and expand Ledbury Critics' reach and sustainability in 2021.

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