Thursday, 3 October 2013

Top of the class: World’s largest poetry competition celebrates winners National Poetry Day 3rd October 2013

‘The most striking aspect of Foyle Young Poets of the Year is the excellence of the entries; the other conspicuous quality is its massive global appeal. Foyle Young Poets has become a focus for poetic enterprise, achievement and daring. World poetry, you might say, begins here.’

Fifteen world-class young poets are celebrated this month with the announcement of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award on National Poetry Day, Thursday 3rd October 2013; a poetry competition which has broken all the records to become the most popular in the world. The winners have been selected by acclaimed poets Hannah Lowe and David Morley from a record-breaking number of entries; with 7,478 young poets (aged 11-17) entering from the four corners of the world – a staggering 75 countries in total. The competition drew entries from Belgium to Barbados and Vietnam to Venezuela, and this year’s lucky winners (the 15 Top Winners and 85 Commended poets) came from as far as Abuja, Nigeria and Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia. With such fierce global competition to be selected by the judges as one of the top 100 (15 Overall Winners and 85 Commended) is an extremely impressive achievement.

Since it began 16 years ago, the Award has kick-started the career of some of today’s most exciting new voices, including the celebrated poets Caroline Bird and Helen Mort (whose collection Division Street was published this year by Random House imprint Chatto & Windus). The Award represents a career-changing achievement for many, and it is now firmly established as the key award for young poets. The phrase ‘Former Foyle Young Poet’ is now commonly found in professional biographies as alumni continue to make their mark on the wider literary world, appearing on bookshelves and at festivals the world over.

The quality this year was, as ever, of world-class standard. Judge Hannah Lowe commented: “The 2013 Foyle entries indicate that young people's poetry is at a very exciting point and full of confidence. Notable in particular was the range of strong and distinct voices, the use of wit and the occasional quirkiness. I was so impressed by the breadth of subject matter and the often mature stances young poets take. The elegiac poems were powerful, as were many of those about relationships - of friendship, romance and family.”

The 100 winning poets will attend a prize giving ceremony at Royal Festival Hall in London on Thursday 3rd October (National Poetry Day) where they will meet judges Hannah Lowe and David Morley. The Top 15 Foyle Young Poets of the Year will attend a residential writing week at the Hurst Arvon Centre in Shropshire or receive a poet visit to their school (age dependent). All 100 winning poets will receive book prizes and become Youth Members of the Poetry Society, the UK’s leading poetry organisation.

Overall Winners

Magnus Dixon, 12, Aberdeenshire
Lamorna Tregenza Reid, 13, Cornwall
Laura Harray, 13, London
Jennifer Burville-Riley, 14, Sevenoaks
Caroline Harris, 16, California
Esme Partridge, 16, Oxford
Emma Lister, 16, Devon
Phoebe Stuckes, 17, Somerset
Imogen Cassels, 17, Sheffield
Grace Campbell, 17, Edinburgh
Jessica Walker, 17, Cumbria
Ila Colley, 17, Cumbria
Catriona Bolt, 17, Bury St. Edmunds
Ian Burnette, 17, South Carolina
Dominic Hand, 18, Oxford

Themes such as rites of passage and the experience of modern urban life, written with maturity and wisdom beyond these young poets’ years, feature across many of the poems; well demonstrated in 17 year old Phoebe Stuckes’ brilliant ‘Daughters’:

Let us vacate these badly lit odd little towns
Let us want none of what anchored our mothers
Let us never evolve to be good or beautiful
Let us spit and snarl and rattle the hatches
Let us never be conquered
Let us no longer keep keys in our knuckles
Let us run into the streets hungry, fervent, ablaze.

You
Are a mighty thing
A captive animal, woken with a taste for blood.
Feed it,


You Amazon, you Gloria, you Swiss army knife of a woman.


and found in 17 year old Ian Burnette’s tender and melancholic portrait of a young woman in
‘Dutch Baby’:

In the bakery, my girl
grips a pregnancy test

like a pistol in her pocket.
The baker hands her

the key to the restroom
and leaves. In the back

there’s a small window
where he watches

men and women and
children—I don’t mind,

I’ve learned I can’t
protect anyone by now.


But many of the poems are also alive with the wonder of childhood, exquisitely celebrated, as in 12 year old Magnus Dixon’s love poem to sailing ‘I am..’ about a boy ‘who pretends land is sea, school is a ship sailing into the frozen north and that the wind whispers praise’. Fittingly, this year’s theme of National Poetry Day is ‘Water’ and several poems explore our relationship with the sea, seen also in Grace Campbell’s ‘Tidal’ which has the unforgettable line: ‘I stood like a footnote/to the sea’;


across the sea the same sound will recall 

the surge of the north; a skirt of rain-washed rock
A story ceaselessly uttering itself; that
finds you again on the earth’s other curve
water-born sons and daughters of the world.


All of the winning fifteen poems are alive with the music of beautifully crafted words and rhythm, and bring traditional poetry forms (such as quatrains ) vividly to life “young poets were finding internal rhythms and cadences in their writing, and to see the use of traditional forms made fresh through subject matter” says Lowe.


You can read the winning entries in full here.





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