Charlotte Runcie (third from left) and the other prize winners
Is poetry a flourishing and popular art form in UK schools today? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’, judging by the winning poems in this year’s Christopher Tower poetry competition, the country’s most valuable poetry prize for sixth-form students. The six top poems all showed startling originality, inventiveness, wit, and an assured mastery of form and imagery, but it was seventeen-year-old Charlotte Runcie of St Albans High School for Girls who fended off strong competition to land the £3,000 first prize with her poem, ‘Flying Fish’.
This year’s competition theme, ‘Flight’, inspired entrants to write some powerful and thought-provoking poetry, and the judges, Jo Shapcott, Francine Stock, and Peter McDonald, were unanimous in their praise of the sophistication and maturity of many of the poems. They were particularly impressed by the imaginative ways in which the winners explored the creative possibilities of the theme to produce poems which confidently tackled subjects as diverse as a contemplated suicide attempt, a starlit sky above Edinburgh, and a dark and perceptive take on Bulgakov’s masterpiece, The Master and Margarita.
Charlotte Runcie received her prize, as well as a prize for her school, from the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Reverend Christopher Lewis. The winner of the £1,000 second prize was Annie Katchinska (17) from St Dunstan’s College, London, while the £500 third prize was awarded to Sophie Mackintosh (18) who attends Ysgol y Preseli in Pembrokeshire.
The other commended winners, who each received £200, were Alice Howlett (17), of St George’s School for Girls, Edinburgh, Laura Marsh (18) of Redborne Upper School, Ampthill, and Rees Arnott Davies (18) of Pimlico School, London.
Now in its seventh year, the Christopher Tower poetry competition is one of the most prestigious poetry competitions in the UK, with a reputation for discovering fresh and exciting poetry talent. It is just one of the initiatives developed by Tower Poetry at Christ Church to encourage the writing and reading of poetry by young adults. Other projects include summer schools, poetry readings and conferences, an ongoing publication programme and a website which is used as an educational resource in schools.
All the winning poems can be read on the Tower Poetry website (www.towerpoetry.org.uk), and further information on the competition and other Tower projects can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01865 286591.
The Christopher Tower Poetry Prizes were launched following a bequest to Christ Church, Oxford, which provides for the promotion of the art of writing poetry in English. The prizes aim to encourage the writing of poetry amongst young people in the 16-18 year-old age group by establishing an annual set of prizes on a given theme.
Registered Charity Number: 1143423