Libby Houston Announced as Poetry Judge 2018

It is with enormous delight that we can reveal that the 2018 Poetry Competition Judge is the incredible Libby Houston.

libby Houston

Libby Houston (2011). Photo credit

Libby Houston has been a working poet for more than half a century, starting back in the days of the Beats with her first performance in a cellar under the 1961 Edinburgh Festival. She has taken her work all over the world.

In the 80s, she toured the West Midlands with avant garde band Earth House. She has sung her work on Dutcvh radio to settings by the great Dutch surrealist Louis Lehmann.

Cover of Darkness (Slow Dancer Press, 1999) contains most of her poetry of the last century. Her storytelling poems for children, originally commissioned for BBC Schools Radio, are collected in All Change (OUP, 1993).

A veteran Arvon Foundation and Taliesin tutor, she also started the (now defunct) Bristol writing group, Practising Poets, and has led all kinds of poetry workshops for adults, children, schools and festivals. She pioneered the concept of pop-up poetry.

Currently living in Bristol, she also works as a botanist, specialising in roped surveys of plants on cliffs, killing invasive aliens on cliffs, and leading the unsuspecting public on quite exciting nature walks. She has discovered 6 tree species entirely new to science – here, in the English West country – one of which has been named after her: Houston’s Whitebeam. Her R4 radio poem for Brunel, Bridge, was broadcast in 2006.

She was married to the late artist, cartoonist & trumpeter (leader of the free jazz Amazing Band) Mal Dean, from Widnes, who died in 1974. They lived in London & had 2 children.


Rubric from Libby Houston’s bench. Photo by Ange Grunsell

Some quotes from reviews re Libby Houston

“…very much more satisfying than a packet of marshmallows.” Jean Chesterman (that was actually printed in like the Amersham Gazette or something)

“compelling and charismatic” Sandra Stevens

“If I was a jug I would give you ten out of ten and a prize.” Jonathon Osgood (8 ½)

“… consistently original and exciting…..

…….an inspiration to other writers, of all ages…..” Shirley Brown [Venue]

“… whiteface on the highwire….” Daniel Richardson [Avon Literary Intelligencer]

“… [her] unique and inimitable [gift]….” Jay Ramsay [Green Voices]

“Her taut, elliptical and rapid-moving voice mirrors a passionate concern with emotional precision that resonates through every line….” Jay Ramsay [Green Voices]

“characteristic writing-on-the-edge (never over the top).” Keith Jebb [Poetry Review]

“…from the profound to the pleasantly feckless … . I take my invisible hat off to her collection.” Judith Kazantzis [Spare Rib]

“ original voice …..” A.S. Byatt
[“She likes to contemplate rottenness” A.S. Byatt – ]

“an unusual metaphysical intelligence…” Carol Rumens [The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry, 1994]

Selected Bibliography



About thehaywriters

The Hay Writers : a highly active & forward thinking writing group based in Hay-on-Wye, the world famous 'Town of Books'. ✍️ In 2019 we celebrated our 40th anniversary.
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