After Sylvia poetry competition winners announced

The Poetry Society is delighted to announce the winners of Young Poets Network’s After Sylvia poetry writing challenge.

Ahead of Sylvia Plath’s 90th birthday in October 2022, Young Poets Network invited writers aged 25 and under to write poetry inspired by the Plathian themes of Nature or Magic. The top three poems will be published in a new anthology from Nine Arches Press in October, also entitled After Sylvia. The competition judges are poets Sarah Corbett and Ian Humphreys, who are editing the anthology.

Nearly eight hundred entries were sent in from forty-four different countries, and from across the UK. More entries were received for this challenge than any other in the ten-year history of Young Poets Network. When The Poetry Society surveyed young writers about their favourite poet of all time in 2018, Sylvia Plath came top – and the incredible number of entries shows how inspirational her work is for so many.

The first prize winning entry is ‘The Crow’ by Nina Billard Sarmadi. Nina is ten years old, and she lives in London. The judges said about the winning poem:

The Crow struck us with its immediacy, directness and beauty. Each line contains an image that is at once surprising, complex and yet immediately graspable, and each image continued to surprise, building on the last but taking the poem that bit further, that bit deeper. The final lines of the poem brought to mind Plath’s poem ‘Wuthering Heights’, locating the poem and the reader in a landscape that Plath knew well, but responded ambivalently to. The poem effortlessly contains both the recognisable world and the mythic, in the way Plath’s poems do; but the ultimate test was in the reading and the re-reading, and the ‘shiver’ of authenticity the poem gives.

Nina has said, “I hope my poem to be an homage to Sylvia Plath and her way of capturing the beauty of less obviously exquisite elements of nature – ‘Mushrooms’, for example – and shining a gold light on them.”

Watch Nina perform her winning poem ‘The Crow’ below.

The judges said of the range of entries: “It’s heartening to see so much love and respect for Plath’s work amongst a new generation of young and emerging poets – from all corners of the globe.

“The high level of entries is another indication of Plath’s enduring popularity. Her influence was evident in many of the poems we received, in the primacy of the image and the willingness to take risks with voice and subject matter. From the number of poems that dealt with difficult personal material, Plath’s role as ‘permission giver’ remains evident, and the quality of the work submitted, with its attention to craft, shows how Plath’s high artistic values continue to inform and influence the writing of poetry today.”

Congratulations to the winners:

1st prize: ‘The Crow’ by Nina Billard Sarmadi
2nd prize: ‘Scavengers’ by Jonah Corren
3rd prize: ‘The Collectors’ by Clara Elisabeth Rosarius
Commended: ‘Makeshift’ by Kaycee Hill
Commended: ‘Squirrel’ by Elsie Hayward
Commended: ‘Stepping into the Afterlife’ by Dhwanee Goyal

The Poetry Society also congratulates the longlisted poets in this challenge:

Sophia Black, Georgie Evans, Hannah Hodgson, Grace Liu, Trini Rogando, Amy Wolstenholme and Angelina Wu.

The winning and commended poets have shared videos and audio recordings of their winning poems. You can read, watch and listen to the top poems, and find resources to write your own poems inspired by Sylvia Plath on Young Poets Network.

More about the winning poets

Nina Billard Sarmadi is ten years old and enjoys curling up in her bed with a pen in one hand, and a slab of chocolate in the other. She was born in Madrid, grew up in London, and is half French, half Iranian. Currently, she is devising a plan to convince her parents to adopt a cat, and thinking of new poem ideas. 

Hailing from West Dorset, Jonah Corren is a songwriter-poet. His work has been published by Nine Pens Press, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and others. He is also an alumnus of BBC New Creatives (2019/20) and The Apples & Snakes Writing Room (2021). His debut alt-folk EP, Dreaming and Petty Crime was released in December 2020, his spoken word and music single Borderlines, produced by Rowan Sawday, was released in December 2021.

Clara Rosarius is a native of Cologne, Germany, and is currently an undergraduate at Oberlin College. In 2018, she attended the Iowa Young Writers’ Workshop, where she studied poetry. She has received a National Silver Medal for poetry from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and was a finalist for the 2021 Adroit Prize for Prose. 

Kaycee Hill is a creative and professional writing graduate based in Southampton. She won the James Berry Poetry Prize 2021 and is currently being mentored by Malika Booker. Kaycee is working on her first collection, which will be published by Bloodaxe Books. She was selected for Poetry Ambassadors during the pandemic, was shortlisted for the Poetry London Mentoring Scheme 2020, and has been commended in Young Poets Network writing challenges. @kayceefaerie on Instagram.

Elsie Hayward is a seventeen-year-old poet from very rural Dorset. She has been published several times on Young Poets Network, as well as winning her age category in the 2020 Live Canon Children’s Poetry Competition. She has been commended in the Never Such Innocence competition giving young people a voice in conflict, and her work is featured in About Us, a live outdoor multimedia show exploring the relationship between people and the universe.

Dhwanee Goyal is sixteen and getting through life one donut at a time. The editor-in-chief of Indigo Literary Journal, her work appears or is forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Foglifter Journal, Variant Literature, and more. Find her on Twitter @pparallel, or at dhwaneegoyal.weebly.com.

Young Poets Network logo, with characters like a yeti boy with hands on hip, a capybara, a yeti

24 March 2022