As the weather starts to feel bitterly cold the homeless look for places to spend the night indoors, and two London cold weather shelters in the Camden and Kings Cross areas are open thanks to the support of poetry. The Lumen/Camden Poetry Competition judged by Carol Ann Duffy is now accepting entries for the second year running, raising money for the homeless while also giving a poet the chance to win publication of their own short collection.

The first year’s winner was Caroline Squire, and her short collection An Apple Tree Spouts Philosophy is now on sale, with all £3 of the cover price going to the same charity. Nobody involved in organising this competition takes any income from it. The winner is chosen on the strength of just one poem, and as part of the prize they will be helped to complete a short paperback collection with 20 pages of poetry.

The entry fee has been kept deliberately low at £2.50 per poem (up to 40 lines) or £10 for six poems, so that everybody can enter. In its first year the competition attracted more than 1,000 entries, raising over £2,000 for the charity. There are also regular open mics and poetry performances in the Lumen and Camden venues where the homeless sleep during the cold weather, and where more money is raised.

This project raised approximately £4,000 last year, and every year we try to increase our support. The Cold Weather Shelter organisers say they couldn’t survive without the contribution made by poetry. The events and the competition are the brainchild of the poet Ruth O’Callaghan, who has been running the Lumen and Camden Poetry series of open mics and performances for five years.

Although the closing date is Valentine’s Day, it’s a good idea to enter early so that every entry fee can be passed direct to the Cold Weather Shelters at the time of year when they need it most.

The open mic events are held in the two venues where the homeless sleep in the Cold Weather Shelters. They are at 1 Buck Street, Camden, and 88 Tavistock Place, Kings Cross. A listing of events and information about the Lumen and Camden Poetry project is on our Events page.

You can enter by bringing poems to these events, posting them to Ruth O’Callaghan, or entering online on the competitions page of where you can also find more information.