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National Poetry Day: Foyle Young Poets and Betjeman prize announced


In a National Poetry Day double whammy, Foyle young poets of the year are celebrated at the Royal Festival Hall, while the winner of the John Betjeman poetry competition for young people is announced by the poet's statue in St Pancras

Read the Foyle winners' poems

The winners of one of the most prestigious competitions for young poets have been announced today, on National Poetry Day.

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year award, which has launched the poetry careers of many former winners, including Caroline Bird, Sarah Howe and Caleb Klaces, is open to 11-17-year-olds from around the world.

The top 15, who were chosen from a record 7,351 entries to the competition, attended a prize ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall in London along with 85 commended young poets.

Their poems, many of which take on mature and intimate narratives of bereavement and loss, beauty and destruction will be published in March next year in an anthology which goes out to more than 20,000 people worldwide.

This year's prize-winners are Naomi Hamilton, 16, from Northern Ireland, Conor Mckee, 17, from Kent, Clare Carlile, 17, from Sheffield, Abigail Setchfield, 18, from Bedford, Emily Burns, 17, from Pittsford New York,  Phoebe Stuckes, 16, from West Somerset, Sonja Moore, 16, from San Diego USA,  Jesse Rodrigues, 13, from Maine USA, Phoebe Boswall, 17, from Kent and (all from London), Flora de Falbe, 16, Dillon Leet, 16, Sarah Fletcher, 17, Tallulah Hutson, 16, Jessica Kelham-Hohler, 17 and David Carey, 17.

Poet and judge Helen Mort, who herself won the award at the age of 13, said: "Many of this year's entries were eye-catching, but the winning poems were so vivid they played tricks with the light. Some of them cast strange shadows. Some of them switched on lamps… they all left the room altered, somehow."

The youngest winner, 13-year-old Jesse Rodrigues, for example, examines the notion of the void in "Fire Knows":

"Last, but not least, fire knows how to die with a flourish/ A flame, a spark, a winking coal/ Then cold, hard, black, silence."

Award-winning poet and judge Christopher Reid said: "It is a joy to see young minds and spirits using poetry as a means of revelation, for their own benefit and for ours – addressing the world as their elders are no longer equipped to do –which gives so much hope for the future."

The winning 14-17-year-olds will attend a week-long residential course run by the famous Arvon centre, where they will be tutored by judges Helen and Christopher, while those younger than 14 will have a poet visit their school. All the top 100, who come from as far afield as the USA, New Zealand, Nigeria and Thailand, will also receive book prizes and become Youth Members of the Poetry Society.

Also announced today, as part of National Poetry Day celebrations, is the winner of the John Betjeman poetry competition for young people. First established in 2006 by the family of the former poet laureate, the competition aims to encourage children to read, write and be inspired by poetry.

The winner will be awarded their prize of £1000 and Eurostar tickets by the actor Richard E Grant next to a statue of John Betjeman in St Pancras station, where the winner and shortlisted finalists will read their poems.

Full list of Foyle Young Poet winners

Read their poems

Naomi Hamilton, 16, Northern Ireland, "The Wilderness"
Conor Mckee, 17, Kent, "Hemingway's Thirst"
Clare Carlile, 17, Sheffield, "The Everyday Hymn"
Tallulah Hutson, 16, London, "The Accident"
Abigail Setchfield, 18, Bedford, "Reduced"
Emily Burns, 17, Pittsford New York, "Minutiae"
Sarah Fletcher, 17, London, "Brighton"
Jessica Kelham-Hohler, 17,London, "Jim"
Phoebe Stuckes, 16, West Somerset, "Reach/Throw/Wade/Row"
Sonja Moore, 16, San Diego USA, "The Frame"
Jesse Rodrigues, 13, Maine USA, "Fire Knows"
Flora de Falbe, 16, London, "Five things about the Lake"
Dillon Leet, 16, London, "Birthday Present"
Phoebe Boswall, 17, Kent, "Baking"
David Carey, 17, London, "The Apple Tree"

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