Winners of the Christopher Tower Poetry Competition 2021 anounced

Image produced by Year 12 student Carolina Cortes-Vilaplana (St Leonard’s Catholic School, Durham) in response to Amy’s poem ‘Dance of the Prisoner’On Wednesday 21 April, the six young winners of the 2021 Christopher Tower Poetry Competition were recognised for their poetic accomplishments at a remote prizegiving ceremony. This year marked the competition’s 21st anniversary, and so ‘The Key’ was chosen as the theme. The concept was warmly received, with almost 600 UK-based entrants aged 16-18 producing poems inspired by (but by no means limited to) digital, musical, metaphorical, and ordinary metal keys.

Tower Student Peter McDonald was joined on the judging panel by renowned US-based poets Kwame Dawes and Elise Paschen, and all three judges met in March to discuss the entries. It was a formidable task given the range and quality of the writing, and after careful consideration the judges selected six winning poems from the 60 longlisted submissions.

The winners and their teachers, families, and friends attended the virtual awards ceremony, at which members of the Tower family were also present. Before the order of the prizes was announced, the judges were invited to share their thoughts on the entries and on the creative responses to the set theme; they were especially impressed at the standard of the writing given the young age of the entrants. Each winner in turn was then invited to read their poem aloud to the audience, and the results were finally revealed.

The winners are:

First Prize: Amy Beverley from St Leonard’s Catholic School, Durham, with the poem ‘Dance of the Prisoner’.

Second Prize: Victoria Fletcher from St Paul’s Girls’ School, London, with the poem ‘15 days in a cage with Charlotte Brontë’.

Third Prize: Ayra Ahmad from Dyce Academy, Aberdeen, with the poem ‘Victoria Street’.

Commended: Naz Kaynakcioglu from Exeter College, Devon, with the poem ‘Daughter’.

Commended: Skye Linforth from Sir John Deane’s Sixth Form College, Cheshire, with the poem ‘A House With Narrow Windows’.

Commended: Em Power from Esher College, Surrey, with the poem ‘Ode To All The Locks’.

The schools and colleges of the winners were awarded £150, and the first prize winner, Amy Beverley, won £3000 for her accomplished sonnet on a trapped, mechanical dancer. Her entry is the first sonnet to win the competition in the 21 years of Tower Poetry’s existence. The judges were delighted to discover, after discussing the anonymised poems and selecting the winners, that Amy attends a state school in the North East of England; this is one of Christ Church’s link regions for targeted access work.

St Paul’s Girls’ School has donated their prize money to the Christ Church Access Team, to enable students from non-selective state schools to engage more deeply with poetry through the Horizons outreach programme.

Congratulations once more to the six winners, and to everyone who entered the 2021 competition.

Copies of the winning poems are available to read on the Tower Poetry website: