Forward/emagazine Creative Critics 2019 – Results!

We were thrilled to receive so many entries for this year's Forward/emagazine Creative Critics competition – and of such a high quality. Once again the power of responding creatively in order to deepen critical understanding was evident: sensitive, thoughtful, sophisticated responses to the source poems shone through in both the poems and the reflective commentaries. We were particularly pleased that the entries came from such a wide range of schools, from all over the country. We hope that the pleasure these students took in writing creatively and critically will encourage them and their classmates to continue engaging with poetry, both in and beyond the classroom.

The results!

We're delighted to announce that Lucy Thynne from Lady Margaret School has won the Forward/emagazine Creative Critics Competition 2019 with her poem 'My mother, swimming', a response to 'Dubrovnik'. Click on the links below to read her poem and commentary, as well as those of our runners-up – Katie Kirkpatrick (Hills Road Sixth Form College) and Anna Holland (St Nicholas Catholic High School Sixth Form).

The entries were judged this year by emagazine editors Barbara Bleiman and Lucy Webster. Poet Daljit Nagra made the final selection from the 10 shortlisted pieces. You can read his comments on Lucy's winning poem and on those by our runners-up, Katie and Anna.


Lucy Thynne, Lady Margaret School, Hammersmith Fulham

Daljit Nagra comments:

A stunning, wise, structurally complex yet immediate and heart-stopping whopper of a poem, which is beautifully explained in the commentary. I love the way Ravinthiran’s compact sonnets have served as source of influence to create a series of quatrains that look ahead to the absence of the mother, then return to the speaker’s own birth, and then back, further back to the grandmother and the mothers before in a lineage of creation, ‘like Russian dolls’. There are many striking achievements in the poem, including the precise diction, the assured tone and the lovely syntax as it loops around the lines and runs over verses. This poem is elegy, is dithyramb and ultimately it’s a love letter to birth and life and death. The poem ends with a domestic rapture that in a darker reading moves both forward in time to convey the love of joy and communion, and of despair at the final breath, ‘I love you, I love you’.


Katie Kirkpatrick, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

  • Title: 'mosaic'
  • Responding to: 'Scenes for a Bright Town' by Helen Tookey

Daljit Nagra comments:

A piece of mosaic lies ‘just beyond the coastline’, which becomes the central focus of this delicate and sensually alert poem that is always precise in its focus. This poet has learnt well from Tookey’s poem that the expansive power of poetry lies in synecdoche, where part symbolises something vaster. In the case of this formally subtle poem, we are given glimpses of a life that takes on several possibilities, as indicated by the insightful commentary. I love the exactness of detail, ‘the inside of his lip’ and ‘he looks up expectantly’, as though the past is coming alive again, as the commentary states of the ending, is this ‘really mosaic, a memory, or a living person.’

Anna Holland, St Nicholas Catholic High School Sixth Form, Northwich, Cheshire

Daljit Nagra comments:

Dynamic performative style of the repetitions that help cut through the chase to reveal a passionate plea for compassion. The simplicity and clarity hark back to Jay Barnard’s oral poems, and like them this poem spoke of hurt and fear, it spoke of contemporary politics of a place that in turn speaks of all places, which to some degree, seek to silence certain ways of being. The bare final line is well achieved and earns its right to simple address and exposed vulnerability.

Highly commended

The following students were all shortlisted by the emagazine editors and are highly commended for their poems and commentaries.

Lyra Christie, Gosforth Academy, Newcastle upon Tyne

  • Title: 'Protest Poem'
  • Responding to ‘We Lived Happily During the War’ by Ilya Kaminsky

Em Power, Esher College, Thames Ditton

  • Title: 'Happy Valentine’s Day'
  • Responding to ‘Donut Secret 2’ by Stephen Sexton

Chantelle Arangalla, Gumley House Convent School, Isleworth, Hounslow

  • Title: 'Ward Round'
  • Responding to 'Clapping Game' by Niall Campbell

Isabella Bonnell, Rugby High School, Rugby

  • Title: 'A Shame'
  • Responding to 'The Perseverance' by Raymond Antrobus

Lily Rachel, East Barnet School, Chestnut Grove, London

  • Title: 'We Lived Happily in the Present'
  • Responding to Responding to: 'We Lived Happily During the War' by Ilya Kaminsky

Naomi Thomas, High Storrs School, Sheffield

  • Title: 'Clean-looking'
  • Responding to 'Scenes for a Bright Town' by Helen Tookey

Adelaide Whitelaw, Bedford Modern School, Bedford

  • Title: 'Creeper'
  • Responding to 'The Starfish' by Isabel Galleymore