Judge’s blog: Maura Dooley

Prize-winning poet Maura Dooley is judging this year’s Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Maura says be bold and enter your poems! 

I am so happy to be asked to be part of this year’s Foyle Young Poets. I have met many fine poets over recent years who first came to attention through this competition.

We can go on writing quietly, secretly, for ourselves, on a phone, in a notebook, on a scrap of paper but there usually comes a moment when we want to polish it up and share it with someone else. Taking that step can feel frightening but be brave! Be bold! You’ll find that poetry draws friends; it’s a community and, for many young writers, Foyle is at the heart of it.

Do you read lots of poems? I hope so because I believe that to write anything that will interest someone else we have first to work out why we liked a particular poem ourselves. What made us go back and read it or listen to it again? What made us keep a copy? What made us look up the writer and see what else they might have written?

Was it because it said something you had never seen captured so well before? Something you thought only you had felt and yet here was someone else saying it. Or was it because it told you something new or made you see something in a way you’d never thought of before? Was it compelling or moving? Was it daft and sweet and funny and made you laugh? Did it speak in a voice you thought you’d never heard before? Was it unforgettable, an image or a line that stuck in your head for days? Was it because it sang off the page to you? Those are the qualities I’m looking for in your poems.

My school wasn’t very interested in poetry but I wrote it anyway. I entered competitions and came nowhere in most of them but I won one in the local paper. It gave me such a boost of confidence – someone I didn’t know had liked it enough to notice it! It made me up my game. Like most things, poetry gets better with practice. So send in your poems – I can’t wait to read them – but if, like many of mine, your poem doesn’t come through this time, never let that stop you, just make the next poem even better.

Maura Dooley, smiling.
Maura Dooley. Photo credit David Hunter.

Maura Dooley
Maura Dooley’s most recent book (with Elhum Shakerifar) is translation into English of the poetry of the Iranian poet Azita Ghahreman, Negative of a Group Photogaph. Whilst The Silvering is her own most recent collection. She was a Centre Director of the Arvon Foundation, founding Director of the Literature and Talks programme at the South Bank Centre and is Professor of Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has served as judge for many literary awards, including the T S Eliot and Forward Prizes and the National Poetry Competition. She re-established Poetry International in the UK, worked for Jim Henson Film and, in theatre, for Performing Arts Labs. Her poetry has received an Eric Gregory Award, a Cholmondeley Award and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2020 is now closed. Good luck to everyone who entered! The winners will be announced in October. Check back in Spring 2021 for next year’s competition.
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