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“the task of being real”: Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award and National Poetry Competition Ledbury Poetry Festival showcase (Zoom)

Friday 10 July 2020, 6:30 pm8:30 pm


Each year at Ledbury Poetry Festival, The Poetry Society traditionally showcases a selection of the finest new voices to have emerged from its flagship poetry competitions, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award and the National Poetry Competition.  This year, The Poetry Society is pleased to bring these celebratory readings to the comfort of your home through a digital special event.

In this double-bill set of readings, here is your chance to hear live performances from recent winners of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award alongside the top three winners of the 2019 National Poetry Competition.

The Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award readings will feature Fiyinfoluwa Timothy Oladipo, Lauren Hollingsworth Smith, Maggie Olszewski and Thomas Frost.

The National Poetry Competition readings will present Ann Pelletier-Topping, Natalie Linh Bolderston and Susannah Hart, and include a guest appearance from one of the judges from the 2019 National Poetry Competition, poet and editor Maurice Riordan.

Founded by The Poetry Society in 1998, the Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award is firmly established as one of the leading talent development opportunities for young poets worldwide. The competition attracts around 11,000 entries a year by young people aged under 18 from every corner of the world. Maura Dooley and Keith Jarrett will be judging the 2020 award, closing date 31 July. Tonight’s readers are emerging poets who have been recognised in recent years of the competition, and join us from UK and USA.

The National Poetry Competition was established in 1978 and is one of the world’s biggest and most prestigious poetry competitions for a single unpublished poem.  The 2020 competition, will be judged by Neil Astley, Jonathan Edwards and Karen McCarthy Woolf and is open for entries until 31 October.

Foyle Young Poets of the Year

Fiyinfoluwa Timothy Oladipo is a British-Nigerian writer whose work was been recognised in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2018, and has been published severally by The Poetry Society. He was also a second prize winner in the University of Oxford’s Christ Church Tower Poetry Prize 2020.

Lauren Hollingsworth Smith is an 18-year-old writer from Rotherham and a member of Hive South Yorkshire and a new recruit for the writing squad. She won the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards in 2019, and was highly commended in the Young Northern Writers Award and Ilkley Young Writers Competition in the same year. Her debut collection, Ugly Bird, won the 2020 new poets Prize and will be published by Smith Doorstop in summer 2021. She has been published in Hive anthologies, halfway smile and surfing the twilight, and by The Poetry Society. Lauren has performed at various young writers’ events and festivals including the Ted Hughes Poetry Festival, and will be young poet in residence for Sheffield Sheaf festival. Lauren volunteers for children’s literary charity Grimm & Co, and will hopefully study English and French at Oxford University in October.  

Maggie Olszewski is 19 years old and from Columbia, South Carolina, USA. She is a rising sophomore at Smith College where she intends to major in English with a concentration in poetry. She was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2018.

Thomas Frost was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award winner in 2019. He lives on the north coast of Scotland, and studies English at the University of St Andrews. Thomas first started reading poetry when one of his teachers lent him a copy of The Rattle Bag, and started trying to work out how to write it not long after. Today, he is particularly interested in modernist poetry and theology, which his poems try to get as near to as they can.

National Poetry Competition

Susannah Hart’s poems have been widely published in magazines and online, including Smiths Knoll, Magma, The North, The Rialto and Poetry London. She has won several prizes for her work and her debut collection Out of True won the Live Canon First Collection Prize in 2018.  Susannah is on the board of Magma Poetry.  She works as a freelance copywriter and is a long-serving governor at her local primary school.  She lives in London with her husband and two sons.

Ann Pelletier-Topping was born in Montreal, Canada, and has lived in the UK since 1989.  She has been writing since 2012, but her interest in poetry began in 2015 while doing a Creative Writing module at the Open University.  Writing and reading poetry have since become a necessity and a little haven of happiness.  In 2018, two of her poems were published in Moor Poets’ fourth anthology.  She belongs to a Poetry Seminar Group led Greta Stoddart of the Poetry School.  When she’s not writing she teaches French in Totnes.

Natalie Linh Bolderton is a Vietnamese-Chinese-British poet from Stoke-on-Trent, now living in Greater London.  Her work has been featured in The Poetry Review, Magma, Oxford Poetry and elsewhere.  She received the silver Creative Future Writers’ Award in 2018, and was a runner-up in the BBC Proms Poetry Competition in 2019.  She is a member of the 2019-20 Roundhouse Poetry Collective.  Her pamphlet, The Protection of Ghosts (2019) is published by V Press.

Maurice Riordan’s most recent collection of poems is The Water Stealer (Faber, 2013).  Among his previous collections are The Holy Land (2007), Floods (2000) and A Word from the Loki (1995).  He edited The Finest Music (Faber, 2014), an anthology of early Irish poetry  in translation.  He is a former editor of The Poetry Review and Poetry London.  Currently he teaches at Faber Academy and is Emeritus Professor of Poetry at Sheffield Hallam University.