One hundred winners (85 Commendations and 15 Overall Winners) were selected by our judges, Imtiaz Dharker and Glyn Maxwell, and received their awards at a prize-giving event on National Poetry Day, 6 October 2011.
The Overall Winners: Alexandra Cussons, Eleanor Coy, Elisabeth Wilson, Emma Townley-Smith, Flora de Falbe, Jessica Mayhew, Jenny Walker, Joel Lipson, Laura Wanamaker, Matthew Broomfield, Phoebe Stuckes, Polly Fullerton, Safrina Ahmed, Robert Marston, Emma McNairy
Foyle Young Poets of the Year: Winners 2011. Photo: Hayley Madden.
We celebrate another record for the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, which this year attracted submissions from a staggering 7,215 young poets from a total of 43 countries. Founded by the Poetry Society in 1998, the competition has been supported by the Foyle Foundation since 2001, and is now firmly established as the key award for young poets aged between 11 and 17 years.
The quality was, as ever, of an impressively high standard and judges Glyn Maxwell and Imtiaz Dharker had their work cut out choosing the top fifteen and 85 commended poets. The judges were struck by the level of maturity in their work. “They are placing themselves in the social world – not just looking inward but outward to their social environments and understand themselves in a very mature way,” said Maxwell. “These young people are saying ‘If I’m going to be a poet, I have to step up and face these things’.”
The 15 Overall Winners are:
Begin with her back:
stitch the groove of her spine
with chord, grain-line, inside out.
Mark out her fingers with chalk
on the inner plush of her hands
and cut the finger pads round.
Seam up her thighs and with trim,
fringe the hoods of her eyes in black.
Fold the lining of her mouth;
double layer her lips,
don't forget to button her navel.
Pleat the cups of her ears,
silk thread her crown,
hem the edge of her tongue.
When this is done, burn
the traced paper patterns.
Turn inside out.
Alexandra comes from London where she lives with her family and her dog. Her enjoyment of poetry began when she was quite young, however it was not until school that she began to write poetry of her own. She hopes to study English at university and has enjoyed the support of her teachers and family who have further encouraged her to write. She is currently Richmond’s Poet Laureate and has won the Thomas Campion essay writing competition at Peterhouse, Cambridge and a prize in the Ledbury Poetry competition. Her hobbies outside of writing are reading, painting and sailing.
if it's important to you
sweetheart, the flowers cut
in the shape of your name
won't cure your bleeding heart.
the trainwreck of your face.
i found god in the
supermarket aisles and
he reviled me. i am
not his little girl.
death is all over you. crawls
down the lonely motorway
of your lower lip. breaks
every syllable you talk.
someone gave me your number. must've
added it up wrong.
told me to leave.
told me to never come back.
darling, cut me an i love you
into your skin with rain.
take a picture of you crucified
and send it through the telephone wires.
i dreamt of you, years later.
your hair spilled out
and then they cut it off.
Eleanor reads far too much and far too often – her favourite writers include Bret Easton Ellis, Haruki Murakami, Sylvia Plath and Arthur Rimbaud. She has a deep and meaningful love of tea, her dog, lipstick and glittery objects. She doesn’t like answering the phone. It is her ambition in life to become a hermit in rural France. Eleanor won FYP last year and benefited greatly from the mentoring of Jane Draycott and the friendship and support of the other Foyle Young Poets.
I can be beautiful.
Intricate; gently seek out my
soul. Yet you etch a pattern in the sand. A double cross.
Yes I can be beautiful
but I can be brave, bold and bad. Keep
you here so please, please don’t stray from my hold.
I blame myself sometimes, then I blame you.
So these scarce, solitary sand dunes
whisper that same song of Judas. You
are alone now.
I allude to beauty. In reality I’m reckless, and
justice will come to you.
Lizzy remembers doing a story about a polar bear during primary school. Unfortunately, due to her lack of computer know-how, she deleted half of it while trying to amend a spelling mistake. Undeterred, she went on to be awarded second place in the Slingink Junior Prize in 2010. Lizzy lives in Suffolk with her family.
When I move the compass in its lazy circle
Like a leaf, spiraling,
Seeking to connect the lines of longitude over Russia,
My hand becomes encased
In an errant snow bank.
I’m off by an inch, (and a season or two)
And in preparation for an avalanche, I push two fingers
Back against the mountain, like clay, and
Where I leave my fingerprints
I try to accept that I have failed.
When I slide away, belly down
Like the alligators below me
To survey the damage,
My elbow hits a desert where the Arabian Sea
Has been consumed by the compass rose,
And the tiny grains of sand
Lodge themselves, like parasites,
Among the folds of skin.
I loose a sigh that brings me to the ground
And topples castles in northern Italy,
But I let the bricks scatter and I breathe
Red dust that dyes my hair, settles on top
When I lay my head
In a mossy valley on the edge of Serbia.
Some strands move the dust on to
Germany, and brush the tips of the trees
That smell like air fresheners, making
The sun rise red and yellow and orange
On their needles, bringing morning and
The colors of age to wood.
I trace the edge of Sweden with my finger,
Smelling fish and people over six feet tall.
I hook my finger in a net and drag a miracle
To some lowly fisherman, hoping that the cosmos
Is watching and will remind me not to just
Evaporate from this project.
I pretend that I ran the marathon along the coast,
Kicking the dust up into my face and blonde hair,
And that my victory dance, obscuring a border,
Is the real reason that Sweden won half of Denmark.
I wash my fingers of this ink and this deal
In the lakes of Poland, overturning a few boaters
And weekend fishermen, but I figure
With the fish that chip away at my fingernails down below
They’ll have better luck next time.
By the time I get to Spain
I’ve basically given up, and I take my pen and
Slash a hole through the sky, letting
Particles of dust and light rain down on their cities.
The solar panels begin to churn in earnest,
And thus, in destroying my work,
I’ve only renewed their energy.
Finally, I rest my cheek in the Zillertal,
Finding one place in Austria I haven’t ruined,
And when I look out over the awkward borders
And mishapen fields,
I realize that the world,
From down below,
Emma is originally from Canada but now lives in California with her parents and four younger siblings. She discovered Walt Whitman and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in middle school, and ever since has indulged her writing interest through the creative writing conservatory at the Orange County High School of the Arts, where she has the privilege of learning from the award winning authors James P. Blaylock and Tim Powers. Emma has been named an outstanding young writer and novelist in her school and has attended a creative writing program at Stanford University. She loves to read, Irish dance, and study science, and someday hopes to write a bestselling novel.
4pt suicide note
microcosms of what we mean.
abbreviating our names.
writing them in pixels.
unfriended my friend
the other day, walled her off my wall;
snapped in my limbs like hinges and
Flora grew up in London and from an early age spent more time reading than breathing. She started writing stories when she first learnt to hold a pen, and wrote a play a couple of years ago which her drama teacher put on with some members of her year group. Poetry is something she’s always enjoyed writing at school, but she only really started reading it after being commended in last year’s Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Her current favourite poet is Caroline Bird. Flora also does a lot of drama (her winning poem was written during a rehearsal for my school production, in which she played the Wicked Witch of the West).
I want the words…
I want the words to gulp me like a
Drink me drunk and dumb, numb;
Sink me sunk.
I want the words
To carry me like the sea,
Buzz me like a bee
Help me flee for an hour or two, or three…
I want the words
To take me out of body, out of mind
A guide, not of the spiritual kind.
Leave me like a toy wound-up, to unwind.
I want the words
To worm their way away
Weave their way astray,
They’ve had their play, had their say.
I want the words
To read me like a book
Write me, take a look
At my blurb; the pseudonym that I took
I want the words
To swallow me whole, even the shell,
Engulf me like a white-blood cell
Dissolve me like an enzyme: well.
I want the words
To have me as I am,
Love me how they can.
Time me from one to twelve.
Word me as words word themselves.
Jess lives in Hertfordshire and is currently in the final year of her GCSEs. She started to write when she was inspired by her wonderful English teacher in her second year, and hasn’t stopped writing since - thanks to supportive, encouraging teachers, and having a few of her poems published online and in the ‘Poetry Rivals’ anthologies. Jess loves to play the piano and read whenever she gets the chance. Her favourite poets are Sylvia Plath, Christopher Reid, The Romantics and Simon Armitage. She also loves ‘Shake the Dust’ by Anis Mojgani, and her favourite book is ‘The Secret Life of Bees’. She has a huge group of friends who she spend lots of my time with, they enjoy trips to Cambridge to punt or sit in the parks, generally making each other laugh wherever they are.
It is our night, so we buy chips
and grin guiltily over the greasy wrapper
at each other, crumpling yesterday's paper in our
sticky, unharnessed hands.
We are fools for love and salt
and we see that it is good.
Our feet scatter stars in the inky black,
with the click-clack clatter that's classed
so coolly cosmopolitan these days.
They have lit up all the lights for us,
for our arms and lips and eyes wide open
to drink it all in. But,
bending at the waist at the pavement's gutter,
clutching each other on the dark street corner -
Sudden vertiginous precision
finds the old woman with the cataract vision,
cramming the memories into her mouth in
salty handfuls and smacking her lips.
Jenny is 17 and from Cumbria, and is just starting at Edinburgh University to study English Literature; she can't wait to plunge head first into all the writing opportunities she can find there! She has always been interested in writing but only became serious about writing poetry in the last few years. Jenny enjoys playing the piano, cloud watching, reading, and talking at length about all these things. She was a runner up in the Anne Pierson Award 2010.
Playing in the Snow
Ice man. Ice man.
I sought you on snowy days when I was a young boy.
While my family played with sleds or warmed themselves indoors,
My purpose was altogether more serious.
Ice man. Ice man. I would call, inviting you
To enter my garden, so frostily emblazoned with two-
and-a-half inches of snow.
You never did, at least not to my knowledge,
But I saw you once or twice just past the fence.
Ice man. Ice man. I repeated, exuding endless fascination
Which mother attributed to my young imagination.
I never stopped repeating your name,
Even when I grew. I hushed you into the corner of my mind
Where you froze, and expanded.
Blood boy. Blood boy. I can see you now,
Seeking something awful in the snow.
When the winters are thick and the wind is strong,
I come to watch your search.
I do on occasion venture in,
Over the fence, which I know well from both sides,
But never when you can see.
Blood boy. Blood boy. I murmur to myself,
You haven’t tasted the bitter cold as
I have, or become lost in it.
How could I inflict that upon you, as you are now?
You will find what you seek in time.
Blood boy. Blood boy.
Joel Lipson was born in Cheltenham and is currently living in Cambridge. His first experience of poetry was writing about a bonfire, when he was no older than six or seven. Since then his general scribblings have become slightly more organised – and he has been entering this competition for about four years now. Joel’s other interests include short-story writing and theatre work. Both media allow him to control and manipulate ideas, working towards some end-result of his own creation. In whatever he does, he hopes to do it in some way originally. Joel studies both English and Drama at Sixth Form.
Steeple like a swear word.
I’ll never say (Amen) again.
Library like a turtle.
Book spines, shell tiles, thick.
Beach like a boomerang.
Always, always, always.
School like a snake. Barely escaped.
Bit of venom in my blood.
Boys like buoys.
Apartment like a lobster trap.
Don’t have to go in.
Area code like a worm.
Infests old devices, old books.
Yards like shrines.
Vandalized with bike tires.
Forests like hairlines.
Each recedes uniquely.
People like paper.
Kept, crumpled, salty, lined.
Laura Wanamaker was born in Brewster, MA, on Cape Cod, where she has lived her entire life. However, being from a small town, she craved something bigger, and carted herself off to Walnut Hill School of the Arts in Natick, MA, where she is a boarding student. There she discovered how much she loved poetry. Before then, it had been a “hobby”, and she knew practically nothing about how write a “good” poem.
In 2009, she was awarded a silver key in the Scholastic Young Writers’ Contest in poetry, and in 2010, she was awarded an honourable mention. When she’s not writing poetry, Laura loves to write screenplays and hopes to begin work on a novel before the end of her senior year. She is also an avid bicyclist and enjoys watercolour painting. The poem “Chatham, MA” was inspired by her move from the town of Chatham, where she spent most of her childhood, to the town of Brewster.
Everything is ugly. Dull light consumes
The evening’s heat. Cityscape. Sundown.
Cockroaches are alive in the skirting-board.
Domestos swirls in the cistern. Suburban children
Sniff glue and smell of deodorant. Photons
Oscillate through the atmosphere. Skin cancer.
Maybelline. Lazarus. The truth is somewhere
Else. Men without jobs make love to women
With many children. They are all choking.
I am Legion I am Legion
The electric goes off again. Something takes hold
Of his hand and draws him on. Something
Is in his heart. Two rats gnawing electric cable.
His skull explodes. Alopecia. Sickle-cell anaemia.
True love. A child’s drawing of a house.
Smoke spirals. Fridge magnets. His smile
Is nailed to his face. Chemotherapy. Particles
In motion in water. Poor children play football
In the shadows of chimneys. Mirages. They tell him
To lie down and he lies down. They say rise
And he rises. Guard dogs patrol these premises.
I am Legion I am Legion
Frayed kettle-cord across hotplate. An accident.
Sirens. A shotgun beneath the counter. Incinerator.
He is ashes in the wind. Gastric reflux. He burns
From the inside out. Washing-lines. The sun
Is enormous. Pakistanis. June. July. He tests
The blunt edge of a carving-knife with his thumb.
A baby with its fingers in the socket. A toddler
Tumbling into an open fire. Flyover. The sky.
Boredom. His bed is soaked with sweat. Soap.
I am Legion I am Legion
Everyone is insane. Scrap metal. Dogs in hot cars.
Dead flies. Sometimes he is Christ. They tell him
To be quiet and he screams. Vacuum cleaner.
Fish and chips. Vomit on the kitchen floor.
Trauma. Vertebrae crack. Little freak.
Lighter fluid. A crowd gathers round a dead
Child or animal. Alzheimer’s. there is no replacement
For a mother’s love. Paracetamol. A dull, lasting
Pain. Heat. They devour him entirely.
Matthew is in his final year at Adams’ Grammar School, Shropshire, where he studies English Literature, French, History and Government & Politics. He hopes to study English Literature at university; works by Updike, Joyce and Kerouac are amongst his favourites. He is also Chairman of Shropshire Youth Theatre, through whom he was introduced to Shakespeare, Sheridan, Brecht and Chekhov (though not in person.) Poetry, for him, came about as a way of expressing the unutterable anguish of being a middle-class schoolboy with a caring and supportive family, as well as, of course, impressing girls. The works of poets such as Adrian Mitchell, Peter Reading and Simon Armitage were his starting point for inspiration, and he also has a passionate belief in the poetic merit of hip-hop lyrics. Literature aside, Matthew loves good music, bad jokes, calorific foods, lively parties (not always involving poetry readings), a second-rate football team and going to church.
I felt like I was drowning in an endless shingle of X’s and Y’s.
I wanted to build a fort of cereal boxes in between me, and them, I wanted to hurl text books at them like a noisy hermit.
Instead I gave up, doodled on school desks, ruled out engineering as a profession.
Is it possible to feel aeronautical, beneath graph plotted stars?
I wanted to draw a positive correlation, from me to you. No marks (?)
No marks at all (-)
It doesn’t matter how pretty your handwriting is.
Phoebe Stuckes is 15 and lives in West Somerset. She has been writing poetry since she was 12, after growing out of a phase of wanting to be Tolkien, and was commended by the Foyle competition in 2009 before winning in 2010. She has performed at The Poetry Cafe in convent garden with other Foylers, written for the Poetry Society’s YM e-zine and has even attempted pop-punk lyrics for a friends’ band. Her favourite poets are Brendan Cleary, Carol Anne Duffy and Luke Kennard, and her favourite novelists are Barbara Trapido and John Green. Although writing is her main occupation, she also enjoys wearing obscure shoes, writing cryptic messages on exam desks, dancing in thunderstorms and running for public transport.
Staring through the mirror-glass
She primes the wreck to be,
Marble-eyed and mobilized
To scorn philanthropy
No accounting for the sheets
Hard-tossed with sanguine love;
Preening as a courtesan
With kohl reminiscent of
The blackened air around a flame
That gutters in the breaths
Of would-be lovers, half and half,
Where only one bequests
A sentiment of something more
There lingers here an aftertaste:
La Belle Dame sans Merci!
But in the sweat of grating skin
And melodrama queer,
She may white-flag through all her tears
A spell of lovely fear
And when the act is dead as rope
She’ll smear her ember eyes
Across the virgin lily-silk -
A hanging compromise
Retreating back behind the door
To purge the depthless glass
With arrogance and seamlessness
And mouthing de-ca-dence
She’ll clock within an hour or two
A waking-time of sense
And regret that she did not slip out
A smirk at his expense
And the mirror-glass will echo her
In rude delicacy
Whilst the smoky air renounces
Although ‘home’ is quite a transient term for an army brat, Polly considers herself to be a Windsor girl. Her second home – and an arguably a more permanent one – is Tudor Hall School in Banbury, where she has boarded since the age of eleven. Whilst she has always loved creative writing, poetry is a relatively new thing for her. Over the last few years in particular she havs been blessed with the most fantastically enthusiastic English teachers, who have opened her eyes to the poetic genre. Last January, she came second in the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize Shadowing Scheme, and is currently writing an Extended Project on Sylvia Plath alongside her A-Level studies of English, History, Art and Chemistry with a Dance GCSE. Polly is inspired by the unsaid and the underrated; although she doesn’t think she’d shy away from a big conceptualization. She believes great poems aren’t simply ‘the right words in the right place’; they’re heartfelt, thought-provoking and, more often than not, truly beautiful.
Layers of Kant reveal:
The clouded mind is Kant without his hair extensions, his eyelash curler.
We met last night and he was like Christmas, sad, a tree.
Kant told me to toss my arms in the oven,
think of the world as a big wound.
Kant is Japanese and has a cremated heart. He asks if I'm married although
my hands are full of wild sea creatures.
Kant has a smooth back and he is like my husband. I wrap my face in yours
and we giggle because I love you when you are a honey collector,
straw hat touching my nose, when you hum feminist mantras to me, and
me and Kant, we giggle when I tell him, I love my husband.
Safrina is 16 years old and from Birmingham. For her, writing was always there- it was that feeling of holding a metaphor and moving away like a sad planet, it was that moment in which you feel ‘like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth’ as Kurt Vonnegut said. It is apparent in her work that she is inspired often by people; the way in which their shoulders sag like two trees, animals, nature and always, the heart.
I took Sadness to a boxing match.
He pushed the door open slowly with one finger
dragging his feet, it sounded like
a snake hissing as it died.
With his face light blue and his clothes faded grey,
his eyes showed that something he’d loved had gone.
Others looked, but ignored him and carried on.
Sadness became sadder, and shrunk a bit.
I sat with him and said “you don’t have to be sad
because you still have a friend.”
He started to smile and shine more brightly
and his light blue face had more colour to it
and his clothes beamed brighter too.
When the first match was over
people came and started to talk to him and said
“We just looked away because the match was on…,”
and Sadness became bright gold and was happy.
Robert Martson is 11 years old and comes from Ealing in London. He attends Twyford Church of England High School. He discovered poetry by attending the Horizon Centre in Ealing, taking part in workshops with poets Caroline Bird and Lemn Sissay. Robert’s favourite hobbies are reading and swimming.
Variation on César Vallejo’s “Black Stone on a White Stone”
I will die in the South, in a field of corn husks,
outside a town with trailers, with plastic picket fences,
a town passed through by the narrow highway belt,
a town you flash by on your way to somewhere else,
noting the briefly picturesque field labourers,
shimmering with sweat in the haze of summer. Now
they pile into a rusty pickup, laughing, leaving
to head south with the butterflies. One last time
they tromp through the familiar furrows. They find me
while they are saying goodbye to the land.
I think it will be on a Sunday, when the weather is solemn,
and the whitewashed Baptist church is suddenly silent,
the hush after a hymn when all bow their heads. Waiting,
for something as great and beautiful as a stained glass window.
The margins of the bible are very small, and I am scrawling
this there, for writing is a kind of prayer. It is the ritual
of the dots and the commas and the continuing
hope that someone will read your words. I could not minister,
because I would never be willing to stop praying,
to signal the organist to commence with praising.
Emma McNairy is dead. One Sunday the sermon ended,
and people went home to Saran-wrapped trays of devilled eggs,
nestling in plastic divots, filling fridges and picnic tables.
Men filled a rusty truck, headed for a warm winter home.
Beetles crackled over corn chaff, burrowed deep for winter.
At the crossroads a car idled, caught behind a freight train,
lumbering like some massive, ancient animal. I was a husk,
and to the police all the fields looked the same. Waiting,
the driver noted the loneliness of the train’s low whistle,
glanced out at the corn field, and accelerated onward.
Emma’s grandfather taught her Shakespeare and how to knead bread. Her grandmother made her artwork out of spools and scraps of material. Her mentor reminds her that as a poet, her nerves lie closer to the surface. From this, she became. Emma was raised by her unconditionally delightful family in North Carolina, and hopes to move to a city with a metro. She’s interested in handwritten letters, people, neuroscience, publishing, and travelling anywhere and everywhere.
Daniel Annett, Ameerah Arjanee, Allison Avila-Olivares, Rosie Bingham, Selina Borji, Helen Bowell, Ella Bucknall, Rebecca Burgon, Joanna Burton, Amy Carter, Imogen Cassels, Jordan Casstles, Kirill Chernyshov, Charlotte Cohen, Charlotte Corderoy, Shannon Cox, Kathryn Cussons, Laura Donald, Ella Duffy, Luke Edgar, Clara Fannjiang, Kenzo Follows, Francesca Gallio, Poppy Garrett, Calder Gillie, Alessandro Giovannone, Naomi Hamilton, Madelaine Hanson, Cleo Henry, Zohar Mendzelevski-Steinberg, Aithne Moran, Eloise Hewson, Catline Hill, Catherine Hodgson, Connor Hogan, Joanna Hollins, Amanda Huelin, Zainab Ismail, Imani Jeffers, Joshua Kam, Misha Karmiloff, Natasha Keary, Jacqueline Khor Tze Pei, Laura Xin-Mei Lee, Emma Lister, Violet Macdonald, Sorley MacKay, Ruth Maclean, Laura Manders, Yasmin Mannan, Agnes Martin, Sophia Martins, Ruby Mason, India Rose Matharu-Daley, Holly Matthews, Dominic McGrath, Amber McKean, Liam Morgan, Sarah Murphy, Mary Newman, Beth Nixon, Ryan O’Halloran, Melissa Margaret Powers, Natalie Richardson, Sarra Said-Wardell, Jani Salminen, Bianca Sarafian, Catherine Saterson, Ankita Saxena, Rosie Scott, Helen Scott, Catherine Shafto, Alexander Thomas Shaw, Florence Taylor, Deva Taylor, Kwek Mu Yi Theophilus, Emilie Thompson, Katie Tunstall, Isaac Turner, Olivia Valdes, Sylvia Villa, Nicky Watkinson, Rosie Wells, Matt Wild, Anna Willis.
Glyn Maxwell is an established and critically-acclaimed poet, novelist and playwright. His collection The Breakage (1998) was nominated for the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Nerve (2002) won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. He has written a number of plays including Broken Journey (Time Out Critics' Choice), The Lifeblood, Anyroad and The Only Girl in the World. His radio play, Childminders, was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2002. He has also written opera libretti, including The Girl of Sand with composer Elena Langer, and a libretto based on Euripides' The Birds with composer Ed Hughes which performed at the City of London Festival 2005. Blue Burneau (1994), his first novel, was short listed for the Whitbread First Novel Award. He is currently adapting Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose for Moving Pictures Theatre Company. His latest poetry collection, Hide Now, was published in 2008, and shortlisted for the 2008 T. S. Eliot Prize and the 2009 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year).
Imtiaz Dharker was born in Pakistan, raised in Glasgow, and now lives between London and Mumbai. She is the author of five poetry collections: Purdah and other poems (1988); Postcards from god (1997); I speak for the devil (2001); The terrorist at my table (2006); and Leaving Fingerprints (2009) (Bloodaxe). She works as a documentary film-maker in India, and is also an artist, having shown solo exhibitions in the UK, India and Hong Kong. Her work has been described by critic Bruce King as “consciously feminist, consciously political, consciously that of a multiple outsider, someone who knows her own mind, rather than someone full of doubt and liberal ironies”.