Meet this year's top 15 winners of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year award
The Poetry Society announced the top 15 winners and 85 commended poets in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year award 2023 at a special celebration at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, on National Poetry Day.
The Foyle Young Poets of the Year award is one of the leading competitions in the world for young poets aged between 11 and 17 years old, and this year 15,800 poems from 6,600 young people in 119 countries entered the competition.
One of the judges, award-winning poet Jonathan Edwards said: “The poems show such joy and invention in language that it is an absolute pleasure to spend time with them. Sometimes they play language like a big bass drum, setting a marching band strutting through the reader’s head. Sometimes the poems walk on their tiptoes across a high wire in a sparkling costume, and we all hold our breath. Sometimes they step out on stage, wave a magic wand and reach into a hat, winking at the camera. Always the poems coin images and metaphors so inventive that they render as daft any judge’s attempt to describe them.
“The poems are suffused with love, whether this be familial or romantic or for our natural world, and they look in an open-eyed way at all sorts of difficult experiences, from bigotry to loss. In every situation they offer their beautiful and uplifting singing. The achievement of the poems is enough to drive faith not just in the future but in the present of the art. Like all great poems, these entries make us better people and they make us less alone, and I think any doctor might offer half an hour with the Foyle poems for anyone who’s jaded or tired or fed up. What a wonderful advert these entries are for the importance of poetry, and – more – how much faith they give us in people, our capacity for empathy and tenderness and how, with nothing more than words, we can make the world go ‘Wow’!”
Fellow judge, poet Jane Yeh said: “In judging this award, I was astonished – and humbled – to read so many poems brimming over with inventiveness, ambition, and sheer quality. The standard of numerous entrants’ work was equal to, or indeed higher than, that of the adult writers in other competitions I’ve judged over the years, displaying remarkable maturity and talent. I was deeply impressed by the artfulness and linguistic sophistication to be found in many of these poems, as well as the engaging, ardent lyricism of their unique voices. It was actually a bit heartbreaking not to be able to reward more of these wonderful young poets, who I hope won’t be discouraged if they didn’t win this time round. For me, it was a privilege and a pleasure to read these entries, which make me feel excited and energised about the future of poetry. I look forward to reading many of these writers’ work in years to come.”
The top 15 poems will be published in a printed winners’ anthology (also available online) from March 2024. The 85 commended poems will appear in an online anthology. The Top 15 Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2023 are:
Tyra Alamu, 14, Dartford, Kent; Cameron Calonzo, 17, Anaheim, California, US; Heather Chapman, 17, Oxford; Freya Gillard, 17, Uffculme, Devon; Rishi Janakiraman, 14, North Carolina, US; Charlie Jolley, 16, Sheffield; Ellen Bray Koss, 17, York; Sidney Lawson, 17, Lutterworth, Leicestershire; Lauren Lisk, 17, Potters Bar, Middlesex; William Marshall, 17, Perth; Frank Qi, 17, Sevenoaks, Kent; Dawn Sands, 16, Portsmouth; Isabel Sharp, 17, Lingfield, East Sussex; Bea Unwin, 14, London; Eva Woolven, 13, Wiltshire.
PHOTOGRAPH: HAYLEY MADDEN