The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2014: Winners

This year's Foyle Young Poets of the Year at the Ceremony: 2nd October 2014  C. Hayley Madden.
L-R: A. Widdowson, K. Lovell, D. Cugini, S. Fadelellah, H. Keyte, I. Anderson, M. Dixon, S.Tait, R.Alifimoff, K. Cussons, J.Burgess

"Today was incredible. It's still so strange and wonderful that a year's work has paid off . Can't wait for the Arvon course in February and meeting everyone who couldn't make the ceremony, and everyone who is into poetry - enter Foyle Young Poets, you never know what will happen!"

          Daniella Cugini, 17, Foyle Young Poet of the Year, 2nd October 2014  

2014 was a record breaking year - with an amazing 7,603 young people entering from a total of 78 countries, making it one of the largest literary competitions in the world! Below, we are delighted to showcase the 15 Top Winners and 85 Commended Poets, selected by judges Grace Nichols and Simon Barraclough. It was an excellent day of celebration at Southbank centre, and we were delighted to be joined by Julia Donaldson MBE to help usher in the next generation of writers. Why not take a look at some of the pictures - We even had one of the winners interviewed live on BBC World News along with the organiser Lucy Wood. Exciting times! 

The winning poems will be published in Spring 2015 in the Winners Anthology (you can read last year's online for reference) - 20,000+ of which will be distributed to schools, libraries, poets and arts organisations right across the UK. For now you can read the winning poems below and read the names of our Commended Poets. And while you're at it, why not join us on Facebook to keep updated with everything the Poetry Society has got going on for young poets! 

2014's Foyle Young Poets of the Year

Isla Anderson, 15, Oxted, Surrey, UK 
Rebecca Alifimoff, 16, Indiana, USA 
Jasmine Burgess, 13, Cowley, Oxford, UK 
Ila Colley, 17, Kendal, Cumbria, UK 
Daniella Cugini, 17, Warwick, UK
Kathryn Cussons, 17, London, UK 
Joseph Davison-Duddles, 17, Stockton-On-Tees, UK 
Magnus Dixon, 13, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, UK 
Sala Fadelallah 13, Cardiff, UK 
Hannah Keyte, 13, Beckenham, Kent, UK    
Kyle Lovell, 17, Hythe, Kent, UK
Matthew Ridley, 16, Pennsylvania, USA
Audrey Spensley, 16, Ohio, USA
Sophia Tait, 12, West Lothian, Scotland, UK
Anne Widdowson, 17, Doncaster, UK

The Winning Poems

Isla Anderson
Prometheus Goes To A&E

Beneath a torn and bloody shirt
they found his chest unscathed –
were baffled by his siren cries,
that tortured, pleading gaze.

The doctors checked his vital signs
and found him in the clear.
His pulse and temperature were fine;
they asked ‘Why are you here?’

and echo-gaunt Prometheus
could hardly speak the words –
he clutched his abdomen and cried
‘I beg you, stop the bird!’

The surgeons didn’t understand –
his liver was intact!
‘The man must be delusional;
his pain is so abstract.’

‘Go home, Prometheus,’ they said,
‘and don’t be so obscure’ –
they couldn’t hear the scratching of
the eagle at the door.
 

Rebecca Alifimoff
On Being Asked What Kind Of Doctor
I Will Be When I Grow Up


My mother bakes with hands placed inside strangers
and does not tell me what it is like to let someone die.
Spaghetti is a meal served with textbook words, anaesthesia
with marinara, appendectomy with dessert. She tried
to teach me how to swim and stay in place.

The word aspirate is used to describe my father’s wide hands, calloused
against needles, pulling me from the pool. For years after I dreamt
of a salt water lake in my lungs, hidden from the scalpel nails
of my mother, and my father dressed as Morpheus. Hiding behind
corners. Together they would drain me and rake my silt-filled bronchi.

We do not understand the science of general anaesthetics,
how it pulls people under. The trick, my mother says,
her voice floating over a radio discussion on botched executions,
is giving someone enough drugs to kill them
but not letting them die.
 

Jasmine Burgess
The Sea

I know why the sea is a black dog –
And I know the velocity of his heartbeat –
He is playful, loyal, with a panting grin
That makes you grin back.
He lunges upwards to swallow us,
Thrashing fists into rocks in frustration,
As the lead strains him back.

I know why the sea tastes of black olives,
I know the stinging bees as you swallow,
The slap that would freeze ice.

I do not like the sea,
People think it is light blue,
Floaty dress fabric, but I know.
We try to dance across the surface,
With a million miles stretching below us,
Hungry and waiting.

I know each note in the sea’s swirling symphony,
And I know why the melody repeats to infinity.

 

Ila Colley
New Vibrations

Inspired by Jens Lekman’s ‘A Promise’ and Patricio Guzmán’s
‘Nostalgia de la Luz’.

A Swedish musician strums a guitar and tastes beer
in his nostrils, and feels biting steel strings
across his fingers like the sun-blazed railroads
between ghost towns on the Atacama Desert.

His lyrics wage a porcelain pledge to an ill friend
to see Chile, the Chilean women, the most beautiful.
He forgets the cracked lips of the desert, the broken
voices of mothers and sisters with their hands in sands

of Mars, who left their hourglass at home years ago,
remembering only how to use their knuckles like rakes
through a sky to catch the tail-end of a cloud
as the weather reports document sun. Sun since decades.

The bloody evidence, long devoured by a thirsty nation,
is rich on their tongues. At sunset their ears turn eastward.
Spilling over from the green side of the Andes,
a soured wind; the brittle chime of bones knocking.

A Swedish musician strums a guitar and tastes beer
in his nostrils, and feels biting steel strings
across his fingers like the sun-blazed railroad
to Pinochet’s concentration camp on the Atacama Desert.

He knows the sting like a live wire, slicing the world
from Santiago, where it all burned out, to Stockholm,
whose clean white sheets and city fountains hide
a muddy crucible, hot in the throat of a new European ideal.

But sings only of beautiful Chilean women with their hands
clean because if a new world cannot be allowed to dream
it is no new world. Instead it is plagued by history,
an illness which promises nothing but infinite progression

towards the star at the brink of a swelling universe,
towards a constellation of bones too flung to resemble
anybody who once lived, or shared your blood.
But let us choose which vibrations to pursue

 

Daniella Cugini
picture you freak

11:17

it is not actually possible to watch this much masterchef in one week. gordon
ramsay is etched onto my retinas, his jaw contorts. there is no escape. wifi is
inevitable. I could flee this earth but will the seabass still be raw in the fourth
dimension.

13:00

the girl in front of me slips a restricted-section book onto the counter,
scantily clad woman under sleek black typeface. the blurb can be condensed
to I dare you. she meets the bookstore owner’s eyes, but years have deadened
his propensities to disapproval.

she pays him in school tokens. the laser goes flick-flick like the protagonist’s
tongue.

17:13

storms are most enthralling when you are not in them. lightning bloodvessels
the sky. thunder cymbals dangerously. I mutter something about
deities having food poisoning but the rain cuts me off.
this is when I remember I have dawkins’s the god delusion in my rucksack.
subtlety is a lost art, damnation isn’t.

21:56

I should write an essay on the wasp factory. never then, never now – I want
its heart shunted through my brain is that too much to ask for twice? and to
pulse itself out through my pen. nowadays four-fifths my blood is good
paper, it flows hardly.

the bookcase is mostly unread, baleful, an array of spines
crumpled to the brink of paraplegia. the wasp factory’s is the
smoothest, which is somehow ironic

23:39

I use poet as a verb. I start all my sentences in the middle like and
so or as if, it is all a continuation. I consider diets, then I consider
sonnets to clarified butter in the same breath. butter really does
need clarification.

inevitably I think of him. but what is left to think? he is a game of
nerve endings; he wins. he appears without introduction; he leaves
without annunciation. I burn in a more pedestrian way – at the
typewriter, in stages.

time unpicks her stitches, slowly. his keyboard now has
fingerprints three months deeper than when he met me.

quickthink.
philosophy darkens as I grow older
and the commas, they wane.

 

Kathryn Cussons
Aubade

You were up before
the sun rose
and busy swallowing
dry cereal
like you hadn’t eaten in days.

I found you
circuiting the table like a race dog
and offered tea
rather than a
good morning kiss.

I left you
to out-hiss the kettle
as I thumbed in my contact lenses
praying that they could push
the morning into focus.

By the time I’d poured the tea
(an olive branch admitting it was partly my fault)
and burnt the toast and my fingers,
you had slipped away
without a key.

I sat with two cups for company
staring into them
like a pair of doleful eyes
and listened while they did their best
to apologise
for your absence.

 

Joseph Davison-Duddles
Oranges

Every summer, oranges grew like heartbeats:
my father went to the grave of his sister
and my mother picked them from the trees.

Mornings and nights were peeled from their days
and every day seemed a Sunday, a few fruit bathed
in cold water to slow their ripening.

Occasionally, with the oranges unwatched,
we would steal them early from the water –
our hands dripping across the kitchen floor.

The juice went sticky and stained our hands
till we soaked in the basin water at evening,
when the sun is a fruit on its lowest branch.

On those evenings, my father would sit
in the orchard after every fruit had fallen
and watch them change to molten shades.

 

Magnus Dixon
Force Ten

        “Some trees blown down, damage to buildings, high churning white sea.”

“They’re white horses,” you said,
as they cantered with manes of salt,
tossing their hooves in the breeze.
But tonight, I think, they are wolves.
Their rhythm gone under the wind,
howls shatter on sea-stained rocks
and I want to scream too – a long scream,
leaving me as dizzy as the spray,
cold sweat on strands of polypropylene –
urban wrack sheared from the bough
of a trawler, its iron lungs gasping
through surging wraths of storm.
In this light I believe old tales,
told by seamen in hazes of memory:
hyperbole clinging like barnacles
to old stories of the Leviathan,
its weary eyes like lanterns,
every sinew a log of ancient oak.
They wouldn’t feel it,
safe, cocooned in deep sea.
Safe, in nests of kelp and currents,
whilst at sea level dune-grass bows,
heaving a sodden surrender
and my notebook bleeds waterlogged graphite
as white wolves howl.

 

 Sala Fadelallah
The End of Our Journey

A volcano of rainbows,
Waiting
To erupt.

Our women’s multicoloured scarves
Whip and dip
In a fury,
As they lay the table for Eid.

The placid plodder’s trek
Along the grains of desert rice
Wasn’t easy.
But my connection with the almighty
Has kept me fighting strong.

The first batch rises from the oven.
The scent of sweet spices
Drown the kitchen.
The warmth of Haboba’s kaak
Was highly heart-warming.

The rice was like the desert.
The lamb like the gateway.
The broccoli, the centre of the oasis.

All fellow guests
Gather at our home, our oasis.
Young ones enlightened,
Screaming with popcorn souls.
Agitated eyes shining with elation.

Laying on the rich ceremonial salver
Was a cheery lamb.
Without it,
The glistening pool,
In the centre of the oasis,
Would vanish.

We all sat
On our beige mounds
Like the land of the burning sun.

It is time
To enjoy our felicity feast.

Haboba is my grandmother and kaak are traditional biscuits.

 

Hannah Keyte
After Pied Beauty

Thank you for the pungent smell of a newly painted room,
For the smooth feeling of the cold side of a pillow,
For the bareness of a lightning-struck tree,
The lonesome feather sticking out of a pillow,
And the brave piece of branch peeping out of a hedge.

For everything immaculate, irregular and irritating:
For the addiction to popping fuchsia buds,
For the crispy texture of a horse’s forehead,
And the magic height of the sky.


Kyle Lovell
The Sunken Cathedral

If you strain your ears
toward the westward ocean,
you may catch the faded notes
of an organ, crafted from the
hallowed and hollowed bones
of a whale’s ribcage, which had
washed ashore centuries before
by summer waves and polished
until gleaming by winter winds.

If you strain your eyes
toward the westward ocean,
you may spy the silhouette
of the organist, a child,
hunched over the bone keys
as her hands dance with
a clumsy innocence, asking
the whale to sing his songs.

If you strain your ears
toward the westward ocean,
you may catch the whispers
of an ancient lullaby, telling
of a time when leviathans
slept within sunless ravines
and the whale learnt his songs
from wandering monk fish
who recited the karmic sutra
of the sea. 

If you strain your eyes
toward the westward ocean,
you may spy the figure
of the child, shining softly
in the shadow of her sanctuary.
Sleeping softly in the shadow
of a sun-sunken cathedral.

 

Matthew Ridley
Captain Ahab’s Daughters

Maggie is the lucky one, the one born inside
of antediluvian prayers and polyester palms.
Walking, she sings lullabies through the gaps
in her teeth, open closets into a hall of bird baths.
The golden chains and slant you could only imagine
in those pop culture magazines. Like the sparrows,
she twirls her way through the marketplace, eyeing
and bobbing at the produce. Once, after two months
of thunderstorms, she picked up a basket of oranges
to remind her sisters of the sun’s consistency.

Leslie has her father’s eyes. Known as ‘the shipwreck’,
she cries out tears of vodka and moonshine during
those indie concerts her boyfriend plays for her at the park.
A kaleidoscope vision and a taste of chameleon’s breath.
“The oceans,” she said once (and only once) in geography class,
“are never the same.” In her world, the rain is only a metaphor.
The shards that accompany it, truth. Through the windows glazed,
you can hear a rag doll crashing like the fragility of horse mirrors.
“Glass does fall sideways,” says her superego.

Charlotte is dead. She now absorbs the Mississippi
River and lets the deltas run through her veins, a liquid
mermaid. She is found inside all of our drinking glasses,
our bathtub faucets, in our air conditioners. Also in the
condescension of the after-rain, which Leslie thinks
is also a metaphor. Charlotte could haunt us all if she
wanted to, but she does not. Sometimes, we wonder
if she even really existed, or if she was just another myth
in the folklore textbooks passed down from the 1700s.

Sophie is the runt girl, the baby of a sperm whale.
She wears tiny glasses to make her face look fuller
and torn stockings to prove that she can, indeed,
pick up the chili-peppered boys from those NRA
meetings. She thinks of trains the color purple
and smiles a little smile whenever her sister Maggie
brings home Chocolate Royale ice cream. She
keeps her mouth drooped to feed the stray cats
stumbling in the backyard a good five minutes
before they arrive. Maybe a time traveler. Maybe
a ghost. At night, Sophie dreams a little dream
of her father as a retriever, paddling to her
under a ceiling of rosary nebulae. “Save yourself
from this world,” he pleads. “I want you to trim
the blubber.” She then takes all the family pictures
left that she hasn’t burned, puts them in bottles
of her favorite vintage wines, and flushes them
down the toilet. Away from herself, from everyone.

 

Audrey Spensley
Aftermath of a Pilgrimage

Of course they have scars. No one crosses an ocean
just for fun. An unknown geography still stitched
into the lines of their sunken palms. It’s embarrassing,

your tongue dragging across the rugged syllables
of bloodlines mixed and torn, their eyes swollen
like fruit but more harsh. Maybe there’s not

a learning curve. Maybe there’s no way to navigate
the mangled syntax, the November morning
when you rechristen yourself Sarah. A soft

name, the rough edges of accents smoothed
out like tangled sheets. You stumble over
the desperation of their love the way your fingers

stumbled over the piano keys, the wobbly
attempts at calligraphy. Your mother is
the keeper of the two paned windows

in the kitchen, catching the dying light between
her fingers. Behind the glass she sees familiar soil
sprouting the ripe pears you spear open before dinner.

Or it’s the soft puncture of a sigh when they see
the magazines splayed open across your lap
like borders wrenched apart. Or it’s her eyes

after she hangs up a call across a hemisphere,
the receiver muted in static, silenced
like a bullet wound.

 

 Sophia Tait
Mosaic Me

The world is changed when seen through
A mirror, smashed and cracked. The view
Is broken. I can only see
A jigsaw puzzle;
Mosaic me.

I look into a broken face,
Patterned, lined across, like lace,
And now my eyes stare back at me,
Stare right back at
Mosaic me.

My bedroom is cracked straight through,
The walls, the floor, the windows too,
Yet when I look around I see,
A normal world. No
Mosaic me.

 

Anne Widdowson
The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid began to chop
Her shimmering tail in two,
And squirmed beneath the axe’s head.
Blood spread across the clammy flesh,
Wet tissue sprayed about her chest,
As she maimed the sticky limb.

The cleft drooled, alien matter,
Not only to us; the girl was sickened
By the mutant fin, felt hatred
For her mongrel blood.
But time for alterations and tweaks,
To correct this monstrous flaw.

She grasped the fragile nerves and snapped;
Scales scattered where the water lapped
Her stinking slab of meat.
Scraps of sinew licked her wrists,
Slimy, hot beneath her frenzied touch,
Her shaking, grisly hands.

The child admired her work, unfazed
By the carnage, the carcass, the sight,
Hefting the chunks like a cripple might.
The pieces oozed and bulged,
Her figure, in her eyes, much improved
Compared to that dreadful tail.

With a sigh of respite and release,
She regarded the newly botched legs
And smiled. Fillets replaced the fin she had,
Hardly equipped to walk on land.
What a pity she’d never stand
On her two new stumps.

Foyle Young Poets of the Year: Commended Poets

Mariya Ahmed, Julia Apffel, Guntaj Arora, Theo Ayres, Brooke Baker, Tom Baldock, Emee Begum, Yasmin Belkhyr, Troy Bowerbank, Lizzie Briggs, Kamaria Brown Whittingham, Jennifer Burville-Riley, Francesca Capossela, Ariella Carmell, Dervla Carroll, Josephine Carter, Alice Cattley, Amy Cavender, Chloe Chan, Jemima Childs, Madison Cho-Richmond, Eleanor Coy, Bryony Dawson, Emily Dee, Catherine Dent, Anna Doak, Natasha Dolgobrodova, Caoimhe Downing, Amy Dunning, Noah Dversdall, Hannah Gabriel, Molly Garbutt, Ed Gilligan-Davis, Jessie Goetzinger, Roshni Gohil, Alison Graham, Alex Greenberg, Laura Harray, Chante Hazlewood, Katie Hibner, Melissa Ho, Samuel Holmes, Esther Jeon, Zoe Kaiser, Phoebe Lee, Chloe Lee, Michal Leibowitz, Felicity Leung, Alannah Lewis, Emma Lister, Ed Lyness, Ian Macartney, Kate Millar, Emily Nicholson, Ella Nixon, Mira Palakodaty, Sam Peters, Tamsin Peto-Dias, Isobel Robinson, Grace Rogers, Jonathan Ross, Sophie Russell, Tom Scott, Mahima
Shah, Nicole Stimpson, Jonathan Stone, Phoebe Stuckes, Zainab Syed, Jing Min Tan, Max Thomas, Ridhi Thukral, Kimmy Tran, Cedric Turtenwald, Sophie van Waardenberg, Sylvia Villa, Lucy
Wainger, Aletheia Wang, Saduni Wanniarachchi, Lottie Williams, Rachel Wood, Helen Woods, Emma Wright, Boris Young, Emily Zhang, Margaret Zhang.

More about the Award

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 or receive a poetry residency at their school followed by distance mentoring (age dependent)

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. Read more here