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"Foyle Young Poets has become a focus for poetic enterprise, achievement and daring. World poetry, you might say, begins here.”
David Morley, 2013 Judge, Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award.
The Top 15 Winners of 2013 © Hayley Madden
2013 was a record breaking year - with over 7,478 young people entering from a total of 75 countries, making it the largest literary competition for young people in the world. We were delighted to annouce the 15 Top Winners and 85 Commended Poets, selected by Judges Hannah Lowe and David Morley. The winning poems will be published in Spring 2014 in the Winners Anthology - which will be distributed to schools, libraries, poets and arts organisations right across the UK - but for now you can read the winning poems below and watch our new film all about the Award and its impact.
Magnus Dixon, 12, Aberdeenshire
Lamorna Tregenza Reid, 12, 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, Imogen
Grace Campbell, 17, Edinburgh
Jessica Walker, 17, Cumbria
Ila Colley, 17, Cumbria
Catriona Bolt, 17, Bury St. Edmunds
Dominic Hand, 18, Oxford
Ian Burnette, 17, South Carolina
Phoebe Stuckes, 17 years old, Somerset
Enough of pulling off high heels to run
Or else waiting alone in unclaimed ugliness.
No more crying out for guitar heroes
Or going back to old loves for the safety.
Let us build bonfires of those unanswered prayers.
Let us learn how to leave with clean and empty hearts
Let us escape these attics still mad, still drunk, still raving
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.
Are a mighty thing
A captive animal, woken with a taste for blood.
You Amazon, you Gloria, you Swiss army knife of a woman.
Ian Burnette, 17 years old, South Carolina
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.
The raspberry danish
in the pastry cabinet
is the baker’s daughter,
purple and swaddled
in puff rope. I imagine
the baker coming back
from his window, filling
my empty hands.
Here’s yeast, here’s flour,
fruit and sugar and water—
make more of her.
'I am . . .'
Magnus Dixon, 12 years old, Aberdeenshire
I am Magnus
Who needs the salt spray of waves, the reassuring slap of wake and the controlling shouts of “Starboard!” and “Water!”
Who loves the cold push of wind against sail, hull against body, the inquisitive face of the seal and the water’s tingling lapping motion,
Who sees the waves race to the pier, the surge of a gust darkening the liquid turquoise sea; the boat heeling, pushed by the wind’s giant hand,
Who hears the gentle creaking of the boom, the cawing of indignant seagulls chased off a picnic and the rumbling engines of a Peterhead trawler as it leaves port,
Who hates the pungent oil slick on the marina bed, the floating, drifting, plastic bag like a brick wall on a motorway and the absence of the sailor’s deity, the wind,
Who fears the rope’s shadow in his hand will disappear, that the wind might dwindle as if going to sleep and that water will swirl upwards from a jagged hole cut by the rocks that waylay passing ships,
Who dreams of first light’s rays clutching the sea, coating it in golden light; the water surrounding his head forcing its way into his ears and being enclosed by sound, sound, sound,
Who wants to restrain the dusk and force it back, to blow on the sun with silver-vapour breath and see it brighten like a spark and to make himself a robe out of the sea and carry the salt scent, the sounds of terns and gulls and the gusts of wind in its pockets,
Who pretends land is sea, school is a ship sailing into the frozen north and that the wind whispers praise,
Who worries about the sea evaporating, boiling and steaming, the seal vanishing forever, the clouds retreating and pollution’s smog, a deadly sea-haar engulfing the coast,
Who cries when he sees the sand eels floundering on the harsh grey rock and the gull ensnared in fish-hunting threads,
Who tries to co-ordinate himself with the weather, the wind, the sea, to throw up water, carving the sea into a fizzing blizzard with speed and to clear the buoy in an arc like a waterborne eagle,
Who hopes that the sun will not set, plummeting into water, gold to blue, hot to cold, eagle to river, fire to paper, burning the sea,
Laura Harray, 13 years old, London
I remember the fields like a vast green ocean
blending with the scent of the sea on the breeze,
or so it seemed from afar.
I saw the sky like an artist’s palette, lit up
in majestic clouds of peach and purple and pink
that fell over the hills as the sun set.
I knew the night; its velvet, its silk and its satin.
The stars and the sky were my brothers
and the gentle winds my comforter.
It was my paradise, that place where two worlds
met as with ends of a string. I tasted reality
in the ripe fruit that hung from the spreading trees,
I saw imagination caught within the shape
of a seashell. I drank elixir from the winds
in the hope that it would strengthen
my body and my mind. And it did.
But now, I see what I saw no longer.
The sky I once knew has withered like a leaf
and the wind I once felt is stale on the hills.
An Interior Scene
Pieter de Hooch, Mother Lacing Her Bodice beside a Cradle, 1659-60
Dominic Hand, 18 years old, Oxford
How lines structure these receding rooms -
their polished floors and divided halls -
is how light fractures in their passages.
Apertures divide the corridors:
every angle strung to a balanced hold.
A mother sits enclosed by the shade,
before a curtain fringed with copper light:
her hand poised, threading a lace,
over an empty cradle. The pictures on the walls
withdraw into their muted scenes.
She has not seen that the evening
is arriving, that the candle
on the table has burnt out.
Taken by symmetries, we wait
at the point of movement.
Her child in the distance,
in a flood of light - already gone
into the next room - drawn
by the open door, ready to depart.
Grace Campbell, 17 years old, Edinburgh
the rain saps the world of colour
compare it to the fretful hands of children,
torrential piano scales; to a silver veil.
streets waltz to the deserted seawall.
he touches her arm. a surfeit of tenderness;
rhymes “river” with “forever.”
this gospel of waterweed and broken glass.
the swing park creaks, water glazed
the river green and glutted, robbing
corroded banks of earth. I have followed
the river, seen it empty out into a saltwater
estuary, beneath leaves like arrow tips
or green lozenges shuddering under the
violence of the downpour. At the land’s
frayed edge two tides run into each other
again across the mudflats. I stood like
a footnote to the sea.
above, the rain falls for miles through
the night to strike the roof of your house.
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.
Jessica Walker, 17 years old, Cumbria
Last Winter, in dim lit candlelight
I would sit out on the iced terrace
cloaked in my Gran’s old fur coat
silence was soaked up by the late
night traffic on the high street
When the clock struck midnight
the chime could be heard from
Grandfather’s ancient clock
it was then that two foxes would
push their whiskered faces through hedges
dancing into the frosted garden
caught between snowflakes
and the waning moonlight
red stained tails tipped with white
my Mother would call me in
but I would stay out all night
eyes fixed to the beauty of this
fox chase, he would join me
around one thirty in the morning
my friend, the haunted ghost
with a jagged scar up his wrist
he would sing to me, and it was bliss
Lipsill (Swedish for crybaby)
Ila Colley, 17 years old, Cumbria
Your doughy fists navigate through space,
Orchestrated, the world seems to fold through the lines you dictate.
Darling, tell me why and how!
I'm teasing you, more than you understand, so
Stand up for yourself. Soon you’ll conduct
Language, I’ll breathe it into you,
Your tongue will snake past the ambiguous mumblings of a, b, c,
The loopholes of form and waves,
Littered behind you as you stride
Past the shallows of word-pinkie-word,
Deeper, into the currents of holy fluency.
One day you,
You’ll believe that the waves are your own,
That you can hold molten marble in your fists;
You, the great Creator
Could never lose his bearings
But your lips are cold as ice
And you won’t taste the salt crystals forming
Between your teeth until it’s too late.
But how! Your only virtue shackling you to the ocean bed,
Eons spent with water in your lungs, but you still
Can’t remember what you meant.
Lipsill, don’t spill
Backwards. Don’t be silly now,
Don’t look for lines in glazed eyes
I can’t bear to see you stumble
Over all the différance in the world,
You’re beginning to see fingernails between each word
I heard you washed up on the shore last night,
A colony of acorn barnacles in your skin, like
Each reiteration you ever committed
Sucking for repentance.
I heard you kept each one
That you don them like kisses.
I’d like to wipe them away
And hope that tomorrow
Something as clear as every tear
And as curling as the taste of brine
That hits your lips, so forget it now,
Only in Danish is it too late for you to swim.
Please, you’re still translating yourself to me,
Don’t worry that the intent was never yours,
Don’t falter because you’re foolish
We've been fooled by language before.
I took God with me camping...
Esme Partridge, 16 years old, Oxford
I took God with me camping.
Here God- this is a tent.
round raindrops soak our bedclothes
and we wake up with wet toes.
This is my dominant friend,
ordering the poles,
when she doesn’t know what the hell she is doing.
You made her God.
These are my wellies.
Thank you for the gift of these
and for the provision of money to buy them.
When I camp, they are
(dare I say it) a God-send.
God, these are portaloos.
They are crap.
Yesterday’s grass stains, mud clumps
and only you know what else,
litter the hollow floor.
God, this is a zip.
It is the only thing standing
between a thief and the contents of my purse.
My dominant friend declares,
with hands on hips,
she knows who did it.
She has no more clue
than the rest of us penniless sods
staring down at open suitcases.
But someone did it God.
They are one of six thousand
on this campsite,
spending my change on doughnuts and coke.
‘The Prodigal Son’ springs to mind,
but God, that lesson
is one of the hardest to learn.
Besides, forgiveness is not one
of the ten commandments and
Thou Shalt Not Steal
is number 8.
I know you didn’t make our tent,
the loos or zips...
but why did you make all this rain?
Even my dominant friend
calls on you God
when she sees the state of the sky.
But now it is eleven pm
and the dark that you called night.
This is a thermos flask:
hot chocolate- would you like to taste?
This is a woolly hat, a hoodie,
wellies that I haven’t removed
These are four folding chairs,
arranged in a neat circle.
And above us, God, are all your stars.
Imogen Cassels, 17 years old, Sheffield
There was the run up of
vicious gravel to the moment
of the smooth stone floor,
the yellow honey wash
that is two homes to me.
The door, green, dark,
the crumpled lines of insect
netted in two of four corners.
The nest that halved itself
against the wall, the tightly
woven sticks and clay of love,
or instinct. The swallows: quick,
sweet shadows that forked and
lit over the beam.
The warmth in the light when
we return from the rocks
and darkening skies.
The wind through the lovely
wishbone of their feathers
makes them lucky.
And I am lucky too, as I wait
outside the cottage door,
to catch the thrum of
Caution To The Woodsman
Jennifer Burville-Riley, 14 years old, Kent
Oh foolish woodsman, the whispering reeds
are not sharing their secrets
but shooing you, shooing you
far from this place.
See how the tar-black pools
deny your inquisitive eyes,
concealing their treasures possessively
with a mirrored shield of silvered sky
as the water feigns to embrace your reflection
but stays your invasion, stays your invasion.
Fleeting wings shimmy the chevron leaves,
flitting like phantoms through trembling curtains
of shadow and light at the edge
of your mind's roosting eye,
never in sight, never in sight.
Limbs grow crooked, twist from your reach,
sallow and alder seeking relief
from the soothing grey lichens
that carefully bandage
time's lingering wounds.
Velveted moss beds
bruise at the weight of your imprint steps
as scattered leaves curl,
furling hollow inside their own hearts,
hoarse with their dry-lipped
hiss at you, hiss at you.
Foolish woodsman, ferns seem to
greet you with nodding caress
but the fronds are bestowing a last-rite embrace
as you raise up the axe and hard-swing the heft,
earth-umbilical cleft, cleft, cleft.
Caroline Harris, 16 years old, California
I grew up in a town with crumbling houses
of burning coals and crimson embers. The avenue
where I lived always flooded during summer storms.
Even the picket fences and closed gates shook, water
like moonshine under an iridescent sky. The children were still
as the velvet dreams of sugarcane chapels made their mark.
I stare at my palms now, trace the pathways and birthmarks
of my tired body, visit the worn and decaying houses
of my hometown, rusting prisms frozen still
against the charred alphabets of a broken avenue.
The great constellations never prepared me for the water,
the floods of static words, harrowing breaths, a subtle storm.
I wish freight trains carried mermaids and pomegranate seeds, storms
of stardust, tangerine lips, meadow tongues. Maybe then the marks
this town leaves behind would be of crayon worlds watered
down, of playdoh, folded juice boxes and smiles, of houses
comprised of dolls and dolls comprised of houses and avenues
of the kind of happy that isn’t lost in translation, of nights still.
I want to be “Cleopatra in a past life”. The girl with marble eyes still
lined with dust. The girl with feet clapping in Morse Code, causing storms
with a bat of the eye, a slope of the neck. Then maybe the avenues
of my forearms could stretch forth and punctuate this ghost town, my mark
one of patterns torn and blank stares worn and the houses,
the kind of beautiful people write about: Vermeer light, thin as water.
I would wrap the town in sapphire wings, let it smell of rosewater
infused with salt, jasmine flower, mustard yellow roots, still
in the sign language of nighttime houses
bowing under the rich weight of memories. I would storm
through the aging husks of hypotheticals, let these times mark
the beginning of all times. Fireflies would fill the lamplights on burning avenues.
Ya’aburnee, Ya’aburnee, You bury me, these avenues
and city streets can only stay quiet for so long before the water
runs dry, before the dusk sets in, before the sun falls. Their mark
is in the lizards with quivering throats and the mesas raw, still
singing their mourning songs, the houses
trembling, lifted in the summer’s thousandth storm.
Bronze rain falls from the salmon skies. The urban paradise still
waits for me, cobras on cement balconies. The storm
tramples and roars, torpedoes on concrete sidewalks. I am home.
Notes on a Piano
Lamorna Tregenza Reid, 12 years old, Cornwall
In the candlelight of a foreign house,
A woman serenades Mozart, Strauss.
She caresses her instrument’s fading keys
like she caresses the child who sits on her knee.
In the speckled light of a tree-strewn yard,
a man sheds a tear to the strains of Die Nacht.
He plants a lily, as fragile as bone,
Like his mother’s kisses by the piano at home.
Love Is A Knife With Which I Explore Myself
Emma Lister, 16 yaers old, Devon
I marry my husband on
a day that does not exist. He has Song-of-Solomon eyes
a bright, forgiving mouth –
a kissing mouth. The birds watch from the walls
when I forget to speak.
The washing lines swirl like planets,
the sea between the sheets.
He says, “Take this. Blood of my blood.
Knead it in you.”
I cradle it – a small angel in a bucket –
it is white and tiny as a star.
There is a time to reap, a time before the flood.
I saw six eyes in my mother’s cotton womb.
Now they follow me wherever we go.
The day I learn to fly, I will not land.
Climb the dandelions and sleep, eighteen days with the moon.
Still. I have a soft segmented heart,
a pillar of salt which, day by day, condenses.
Came out of nothing – I’d been washing the dishes –
gone before they dried.
His voice commands. The blue is beating, hot.
It is not God, he tells me. You are not good.
I take my daughter’s hand. There is no love
but words to get what you want.
There is a time to sow. Sculpt. Mould. Praise what you find.
Yet this, I do not see it coming. Nor the new world,
on the end of a blade that stabs me into the next life.
The Eloquent Crane
Catriona Bolt, 18 years old, Suffolk
Crystalline air and shadows
surround the haiku of my
opening to call a harshening cry
on the echoing air.
Mountain air falling
As a river through feathers
And haunted sunlight.
Catch my form
in its unrivalled gauche detailing-
splaying wings and
endless daddy-long-legs' legs.
The descent is flustered,
the picture of ruffled feathers.
Stillness on one leg
Caught as a clear-cut tableau:
The Eloquent Crane.
Dalia Ahmed, Madeline Anderson, Isla Anderson, Hanel Baveja, Yasmin Belkhyr, Heather Booton, Alex Bowes, Hannah Broderick, Hannah Burke, India-Rose Channon, Eleanor Coy, Daniella Cugini, Siôn Davenport, Joseph Davison-Duddles, Flora de Falbe, Anna Doak, Hannah Farr, Rory Finnegan, Isabella Fox, Katherine Frain, Iolanthe Francis-Brophy, Iona Freeman, Jonathan Gausden, Alex Greenberg, Hugo Grundy, Sofia Haines, Haroun Hameed, Aisling Harrington-Brown, Elizabeth Hawkins, Rachel Herring, Rosemarie Ho, Ciara Hodgkinson, Catherine Hodgson, Tallulah Hutson, Phyllida Jacobs, Hannah January, Joshua Kam, Joshua Kimelman, Joanne Koong, Holly Law, Anna Leader, Dillon Leet, Fangzhou Liu, Nasim Luczaj, Christine Marella, Gazelle Mba, Conor McKee, Stephen Meisel, Niamh Merritt, Harvey Moldon, Harsha Pattnaik, Iris Pearson, Julia Pearson, Taraneh Peryie, Laura Potts, Carlos Price-Sanchez, Christina Qiu, Sophia Qureshi, Brynnie Rafe, Laura Rosenheim, Elena Saavedra Buckley, Ankita Saxena, Anushka Shah, Alexander Shaw, Max Sheaf, Amanda Silberling, Alice Soewito, Jay Stonestreet, Alex Tan, Oriana Tang, Charis Taplin, Claudia Taylor, Adriane Tharp, Phoebe Thomson, Julia Tompkins, Poppy-Louise Tully, Catherine Valdez, James van Blankenstein, Sophie van Waardenberg, Zainab Viqar, Madeleine Votaw , Victoria White, Kinga Wójcikowska, Madelyne Xiao, Alexander Zhang.
2013's Winners and Commended Poets © Krish Nagiri
With entries from over 7,400 young people last year from a staggering 75 countries worldwide, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year it is one of the largest literary competitions in the world and its importance is widely attested. Each year 100 winners (85 Commendations and 15 Overall Winners) are selected by a team of high profile judges, and receive their awards at an annual prize-giving event on National Poetry Day. Thanks to funding from the Foyle Foundation the competition remains completely free to enter and we are able to offer a wide range of prizes, opportunities and resources to young people and schools across the UK. This year are delighted to launch new Foyle Lesson Plans based on previous winning poems - a fantastic way to inspire new voices.
Overall Winners from the 15 to 17 age category attend a week-long intensive residential Arvon course where they develop their creative writing skills alongside fellow poets. Winners aged 11-14 group benefit from poetry residencies at their school followed by distance mentoring.
You can read this year's winning poems above, and read last year's in the Foyle Anthology Gorgeous like a thunderstorm. This year's poems will form a new anthology, due for publication in Spring 2014.
These winners are among the most promising young literary talent in the UK, and the ceremony is the first step in an ongoing process of developing this potential; many of our former winners have gone on to publish work with major publishing houses such as Faber & Faber and Carcanet, and we support them through a number of initiatives helping them to establish themselves in the literary and publishing world, such as internships, editorial opportunities and showcasing events.
The Foyle Winners 2012 Anthology: Gorgeous like a thunderstorm