The Happiful Poetry Prize 2024: Celebrating the winning and shortlisted poets

Kathryn Wheeler
By Kathryn Wheeler,
updated on Mar 13, 2024

The Happiful Poetry Prize 2024: Celebrating the winning and shortlisted poets

A celebration of the best in mental health and wellbeing writing

When it comes to talking about mental health, it can sometimes be hard to find the right words. The feelings seem too big, the experiences too complex – how could we possibly articulate all that?

While it can be tricky to do, something that the Happiful team have seen in the past seven years we’ve been publishing our magazine is that taking the time to find those words is invaluable. The act of talking and writing about mental health supports us on two fronts. Each word on the page can help to untangle the knot in our minds, and every experience shared has the potential to reach the right person – letting them know that they’re not alone in whatever it is they’re going through. Done right, words aren’t so small. In fact, they’re often mighty.

With that in mind, we’re delighted to share the winning and shortlisted poets for the Happiful Poetry Prize 2024. Launched in the autumn of 2023, the aim of the prize was to celebrate mental health and wellbeing writing of the highest standard.

We received more than 400 entries of outstanding quality – many of which were from writers who were new to poetry, some of whom sent us the first poem they had ever written. The Happiful team had the pleasure of reading each and every one of them before narrowing them down to one winner and four runner-ups.

The poems you will read cover a range of topics and experiences, each one effortlessly tapping into the nuance of mental health. They are authentic, intriguing, thought-provoking, and challenging – and we are delighted to bring them into the spotlight as examples of poetry that inspire conversation and affect change.

Our winning poem, by José Buera, explores the experience of navigating mental health problems in a relationship, effortlessly using form to immerse the reader in the scenes and exploring its topic with expert dexterity.

On our shortlist, Anthony Leyton zooms in on the moment of reaching breaking point, when the weight of daily life is overwhelming. In the poem ‘bipolar is not a tragedy’, Éloïse Armary rewrites the story on this often stigmatised condition. Suchandrika Chakrabarti perfectly captures an everyday experience of grief in a subtle and touching way. And Natalie Davies offers hope and reflection while writing about a moment of self-growth in ‘Illuminated’.

We hope you read, re-read, savour, and reflect on these poems, just like we did. And, if you feel inspired, keep an eye out for the return of the Happiful Poetry Prize later in the year. Words can change the world. Why shouldn’t they come from you?

The winner: José Buera

(Follow José on Instagram @wildkitchens)

Tie Breaker

You serve your initials, letting them fall like tennis balls:
but they don’t bounce
not even the O. springs, it thuds
C. rolls away without encore
a static D. is left exposed
but we both refuse to see it

Disorder is not the right word for either of us
order is my ambidextrous confusion
dyslexia scrambles A.S.D. into social anxiety
but I am not shy

I just don’t understand your mouth not understanding
the fractals my dirty socks make on the lounge floor

Dirt corrals your long hairs that fall everywhere
dust bunnies to entangle each other’s manias:

yours compels you to rearrange
my poetry books by size and
colours, languages ignored
movements rejected with
the common law marriage
of Bukowski to Neruda

mine begs you for a smile to appreciate
as threat or love
or both
only understood in my stimming
of perfectly cubed shallots
and my rocking at the dinner table

We kiss but I touch your hair – a broken boundary punished with a week of silence

In the absence of your voice everything is overload
where a blush brush on a grater electrocutes my spine like thunder in rain

One day passes, concerned you won’t tweeze my beard again
you write a letter to reset the score:
love all
as we laugh in the common comfort of anxiety

Screenshot 2024-03-08 at 09.30.43.png

The runner-ups:

1. Suchandrika Chakrabarti

happy birthday

in his later years my cake could bring him to tears
isn’t it a miracle
to love and be loved like that
and no less of a miracle
because it can’t happen again
but today for 35 minutes at gas mark 4
i felt that he was near
accepted that he wasn’t
held both in my hands
i let the sky darken outside
i let time pass and watched it create
a small piece of sweet magic in my oven
even as it continued destroying worlds elsewhere
time is never wasted
have a slice with me

Follow Suchandrika on Instagram @suchandrika.

2. Anthony Leyton


I was overcome in the kitchen
gut-punched, ducked and held hot-eyed under
for what felt like it would become forever
but, after the drowning, passed into numbness.
It makes sense, I thought,
what with the world
the way it is: the hardnesses,
the ease of hate.
And the last few months, relentless.
The pace of change, the change of pace.
Newnessess, gonenesses
and all the goddamn admin.
And the bloody weather,
the autumn rain, the afternoon night
– the farmers’ darkness –
winter like a knife at the throat.
And the hunger for something,
for meaning, recognition, half a tube of Pringles.
That ache for change. That inertia.
Move without moving. Dream without doing. Then stop.
‘It’s enough to break anyone’, I told the kettle,
all the while wondering that maybe it isn’t;
maybe it’s just enough, today,
to break me.

For more from Anthony, follow @theunready on Instagram and @anthonyleyton on X.

3. Natalie Louise Davies


Tonight, I did something I never thought I could.
I wrote a list of things; all my need to’s and shoulds,
and fed them to the fire.
I watched them turn to ash in the flickering jaws
chewed into dust, as the flames climbed higher
And with some distance I saw
how much of a liar the mind can be.
There are no tasks to complete to be human,
Outside forces telling me what to do.
‘Just by being here, by breathing’
The world seemed to say…
‘you’re undeniably you.’
I know now we’re no less if we struggle
No weaker, or more broken if we fight.
Even the smallest of sputtering embers can birth
such a brilliant, wonderful light.

To learn more about Natalie, head to her blog, natalieistyping.wordpress.com.

4. Éloïse Armary

bipolar is not a tragedy

bipolar is not a tragedy 
this is not Hamlet 
we won’t seek your tears 
your - that’s terrible 
what a horrible 
we’re tapping into your fears 
that bipolar is all around you
promise, we won’t attack you 
it’s not all nurses and drugs 
in a four-wall white bedroom
outside your city 
bipolar is in my home
there are tears, oui 
but the eyes above them
I deeply care about
and haven’t you ever cried?
we have laughs
we have loves 
we have dreams
and you don’t know the ending
because bipolar is not a tragedy

To keep up with Éloïse, follow @EloiseArmary on Instagram and X.

You can find these issues dotted throughout our issue 84 which you can subscribe to here.

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