top of page
The Presence and the Dream:  A Decade of the Pre-Raphaelite Society Poetry Prize


In what feels simultaneously like the distant past and, somehow, the blink of an eye, I had the honour of winning the inaugural Pre-Raphaelite Society Poetry Prize in late 2011, with my poem ‘Reflections of Ophelia’. I had long been fascinated by the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and knew then that I had many more PRB-inspired poems within me, still to write. A cordial relationship developed, and I was thrilled to be appointed as the Society’s Poet-in-Residence in the spring of 2012. What a decade of poetry is has been! I’ve written many poems for the Society in the intervening ten years, and I have been touched by the warm responses these have drawn from the membership.

One of the greatest pleasures of my role has been to co-judge each subsequent annual PRS Poetry Prize alongside Serena Trowbridge. Each year Serena and I have been entertained, surprised, challenged, and moved by the poems we receive; and, without fail, we have always unearthed some sparkling poetry gems which we are proud to publish in The Review. Imagine my delight when Serena suggested that we might co-edit a retrospective anthology to celebrate ten years of the competition and to mark my decade in the role of Poet-in-Residence. After some excited discussions, Serena and I embarked on the selection process, to include every 1st Prize-winning poem, alongside some of our favourite poems that were placed in the competition. Additionally, we have chosen nine of my own commissioned poems written during the past ten years. We were heartened to receive enthusiastic replies from all of the poets we approached, and we thank them all for their participation in the project. Additionally, Serena and I are grateful to the Committee for their support throughout.

The result of so much generosity is The Presence and the Dream, a collection of 32 poems, comprising nine poems of mine and a further 23 poems by 22 brilliant poets. The title is a quotation taken from Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem ‘The Portrait’. I suggested it because of its enchanting ambiguity, redolent of both a reality and its ripples, echoing the creative relationship between the Pre-Raphaelites and those contemporary thinkers who continue to be so captivated by them. Although all of the poems in this immersive book are inspired by and respond to the lives and work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, there is enormous breadth on display, in terms of both subject matter and poetic practice.

The book is due out in late June, with an online launch reading to take place on Sunday 26th of June (more details in due course). I do hope that many people reading this will treat themselves to a copy when it’s published, and will find the poems as spellbinding as we do. A full table of contents follows my sign-off, to whet people’s appetites!

It was wonderful to revisit the poems of so many talented writers, and I am privileged to be anthologised alongside them, as all of these poems find a new and wider readership. It is an honour and a joy to be the Pre-Raphaelite Society’s Poet-in-Residence, and I extend my sincere thanks to Serena, to the Committee, and to the Society’s membership for your continued encouragement and support.

— Sarah Doyle, Pre-Raphaelite Society Poet-in-Residence, May 2022

The Presence and the Dream: A Decade of the Pre-Raphaelite Society Poetry Prize

    bottom of page