Judge’s blog: Keith Jarrett

Award winning poet Keith Jarrett is one of the judges of the 2020 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Keith gives some tips as to what he is looking for in this year’s poems. 

Keith Jarrett wearing a t-shirt that says poem
Photo credit Ajamu

I’m delighted to be judging this year’s competition. It’s a real honour, and I’m looking forward to reading lots of excellent poems.

What I’ll be particularly seeking out is the daring and the imaginative – the poems that make me experience the world in a new way. I like to feel that I’ve been on a journey when I read, and that journey could be full of silliness, or sadness, or it could navigate a whole range of sensations.

There isn’t just one way to write, so I’d encourage any young poet taking part this year to experiment. Take your time over your word choice and style until it feels right. I know a poem has hit the right note when it makes me feel differently after I’ve read it, when it demands to be reread, again and again.

I know how nerve-wracking it can be to enter a competition, but it can also be thrilling – liberating, even. I’ve grown in confidence not so much through writing poems, but through sharing them with audiences, through feeling that I’m part of a poetry community. I owe so much of this confidence to taking part in slams, and the joy of listening carefully to others – and being listened to. It wasn’t always easy at the time, but the more I shared my poetry with other people, the more I grew as a poet.

Sending off your work into the unknown can be daunting, but you could also see it as a regular part of your poetry journey, a way to connect with other writers and readers and open up your words to the world. I hope you’re as excited as I am!

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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