This year’s theme of stone for the 17th Christopher Tower Poetry competition attracted over 1,000 entrants (all born between 1998 and 2001) with many schools encouraging entrants for the first time.
At a lunchtime reception in Christ Church, Oxford on Wednesday 19 April, Poetry Society Member Ella Standage, from Alleyn’s School, Dulwich, London was awarded the £3,000 first prize for her poem ‘rosetta’. Ella has previously been a Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award winner twice, and Young Poets Network winner three times.
The winner of the second (£1,000) prize Annie Fan (Rugby High School, Warwickshire) with ‘Qianling Stele’ and the third prizewinner, Rachel Oyawale (Woldingham School, Surrey) won £500 with ‘If I Gave You a Stone’. Annie has previously been a Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award winner, and a Young Poets Network winner. Their schools receive £150 each. Each of the three prizewinners are invited to the Tower Poetry Summer School, worth £750 approximately.
The other short-listed winners, who each received £250, were Poetry Society Member, and Foyle Young Poet Commended Freya Gray Stone (Bristol Grammar School), Flora Barber (Malvern St James Girls’ School, Worcestershire), and Sofia Al-Hussaini (The Maynard School, Exeter, Devon).
53 entrants (excluding the winners) from 50 schools were placed on the longlist representing most regions of the UK. One of them – Yasmin Inkersole (St Helen and St Katharine, Abingdon) – has now been longlisted twice. Five of the six prizewinning schools had not previously had winners. A record number of schools, new to the competition, entered this year.
“While this competition encourages 16-18 year olds to engage with poetry as creative writers, I was struck by the standard of the entries, some of which would easily be publishable in any standard poetry magazine, others of which showed real originality and ambition. While there was a great variety of treatment of a perhaps unforgiving subject – stone – certain themes and approaches emerged. Stone, it turns out, can speak for local communities; bridge generations; function as a backdrop, or be gathered as a treasure; appear as part of the scenery, or offer a portal into the voice of a landscape. It was heartening to see these writers taking risks, and honing the truth of their own styles.” Vahni Capildeo
Now in its seventeenth year, the Christopher Tower poetry competition is one of the most prestigious poetry competitions in the UK, with a reputation for discovering fresh and exciting poetry talent. Previous prizewinners such as Helen Mort, Caroline Bird, Richard O’Brien, Anna Lewis and Annie Katchinska, are now gaining further acclaim in other competitions or within the publishing/ writing world. The competition is just one of the initiatives developed by Tower Poetry at Christ Church to encourage the writing and reading of poetry by young adults. Other projects include summer schools (to which the first three winners are invited as part of their prize), poetry readings, conferences, an ongoing publication programme and website, which is used as an educational resource in schools.
The 2017 competition was judged by poets Vahni Capildeo and Sarah Howe. Previous prizewinners such as Helen Mort, Caroline Bird, Richard O’Brien, Charlotte Runcie, Anna Lewis, and Annie Katchinska are now gaining further acclaim in other competitions or within the publishing/ writing world.
24 April 2017