Young Poets Network Golden Shovel challenge winners announced

Earlier this year The Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network ran a challenge with US poet Peter Kahn to inspire young poets aged 5-25 to write Golden Shovels. Find out more about the Golden Shovel form here.

We are delighted to publish the winners and longlistees of the Golden Shovel challenge today – congratulations! You can read the winning poems in the sidebar of this page, and here.

The challenge was judged by Peter Kahn, who said of the winning poem:

I selected ‘My mother’s last mid-autumn festival in Saigon, 1977’ for a variety of reasons.  The title itself drew me in and did a lot of work setting the scene for the reader.  The poet uses the personal to invoke the universal—a sign of a great poem.  The fact that this is a Golden Shovel poem drawing inspiration from a writer of Vietnamese descent—Ocean Vuong—adds another layer of power to this piece.  A line that grabbed my attention is, ‘The school monks said English nouns taste of honeysuckle.’  What gorgeous use of the word that Ocean Vuong uses in his poem—‘honeysuckle.’   I also love ‘every ghost of your blood,’ which is indeed haunting phrasing.  I believe many great poems appeal to the ‘head’ and the ‘heart’—they make the reader think and feel.   This poet accomplishes both.  The line, ‘Your father teaches you to say/sorry in five languages’ is an absolute gut punch.  So is, ‘To see it, you are ready to lose everything but the language you pray in.’  In the context of current world events, this poem makes the reader think about what it’s like to be forced to emigrate.  It creates empathy.  This poet has accomplished so much in this poem and clearly has a bright future ahead.

Congratulations too to the poets whose work made it to the longlist: Shreya Aravinthan, Alice Brooker, Rachel Bruce, Annika Cleland-Hura, Charlotte Chalkley, Jack Cooper, Tomos Dargie, Nora Gaby-Biegel, Amalia Khatri, Lauren C. Maltas, Sarah Nachimson, Tom Nalder, Fiyinfoluwa Timothy Oladipo, Bethany Sankey, Nazanin Soghrati, Elizabeth Thatcher and Amy Wolstonholme.

Young Poets Network is The Poetry Society’s platform for young writers up to the age of 25. We run free competitions, articles, interviews with poets and more. For more information, and to sign up to our mailing list, visit

10 May 2019