At a lunchtime reception at Christ Church on Wednesday 19 April, Ella Standage, from Alleyn's School, Dulwich, London, was awarded the £3,000 first prize for her poem 'rosetta'. The judges were Vahni Capildeo and Sarah Howe.
The Christopher Tower Poetry Prizes were launched following a bequest to Christ Church, which provides for the promotion of the art of writing 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. This year's theme of 'stone' for the 17th Christopher Tower Poetry Competition attracted over 1000 entrants, all born between 1998 and 2001, with many schools encouraging entrants for the first time.
The winner of the second (£1,000) prize was Annie Fan (Rugby High School, Warwickshire) with 'Quianling Stele', and the third prizewinner, Rachel Oyawale (Woldingham School, Surrey), won £500 with 'If I Gave You a Stone'. Their schools receive £150 each, and the three prizewinners are invited to the Tower Poetry Summer School.
The other shortlisted winners, who each received £250, were: Freya Gray Stone (Bristol Grammar School), Flora Barber (Malvern St James Girls' School, Worcestershire), and Sofia Al-Hussaini (The Maynard School, Exeter, Devon).
53 entrants (excluding the winners) from 50 schools were placed on the longlist representing most regions of the UK. Five of the six prizewinning schools had not previously had winners, and a record number of schools, new to the competition, entered this year.
"This competition encourages 16-18 year olds to engage with poetry as creative writers, and I was struck by the quality of the entries, some of which would easily be publishable in any standard poetry magazine, others of which showed real originality and ambition. While there was a great variety of treatment of the subject - stone - certain themes and approaches emerged. Stone, it turns out, can speak for local communities; bridge generations; function as a backdrop, or be gathered as a treasure; appear as part of the scenery, or offer a portal into the voice of a landscape. It was heartening to see these writers taking risks, and honing the truth of their own styles" - Vahni Capildeo.
Now in its seventeenth 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. Previous prizewinners such as Helen Mort, Caroline Bird, Richard O'Brien, Anna Lewis and Annie Katchinska are now gaining further acclaim in other competitions or within the publishing/writing world. The competition is just one of the initiatives developed by Tower Poetry to encourage the writing and reading of poetry by young adults. Other projects include summer schools (to which the first three winners are invited as part of their prize), poetry readings, conferences, and an ongoing publication programme and website, which is used as an education resource in schools.
You can see the winning entries for yourself on the Tower Poetry website, where the talented young authors read their own poems (www.towerpoetry.org.uk), and further information on the competition and other Tower projects is available from firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01865 286591. Follow us on Twitter @TowerPoetry, on our Facebook page or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/christophertower1.