First of all I would just like to say thank you to all of the young people for trusting me with your work. I know it can be a nerve-wracking thing to send your words out into the world, and I would just like to reassure you all that each entry was read with care and attention.
I really enjoyed the judging process – I knew I would enjoy reading the poems that were written in response to the Forward Prize shortlisted poets, but I didn’t expect to love reading the commentaries just as much! The commentaries were so perceptive and thoughtful. They not only gave a beautiful insight into the creative process behind the poems that the young people had written, but they also made me think differently and reflect more deeply on the poems that were being responded to. The commentaries really did feel like an unexpected and precious gift to me.
My first placed poet, Charlie Bowden, chose to respond to Selima Hill’s ‘The Beautiful Man Whose Name I Can’t Pronounce’. This poet has put a wonderful twist on Hill’s poem, changing the title to ‘The Beautiful Girl Whose Country I Can’t Pronounce’ in a poem that seethes with anger against racism and the way immigrants are treated by both government, society and individuals. The commentary was illuminating and traces clearly and carefully how the new poem has its roots in Hill’s poem before blossoming outward to become something really original.
My first runner-up is Charlotte Vosper for ‘Up and Away’. Through their commentary, the poet describes how they have taken inspiration from the musicality and formal drive of Kayo Chingonyi’s poem ’16 Bars for the Bits’ to create their own reflection on teenage experiences. The jaunty rhythm and rhyme scheme deployed in the poem contrast sharply and effectively with the disturbing portrayal of misogyny in the poem.
My second runner-up is Florence Burdge for ‘Things I Have Caught’. This poet was inspired by Caleb Femi’s poem ‘Things I Have Stolen’. The poet pivots around and explores different connotations and ways of using the word ‘caught’ to create a moving portrayal of the highs and lows of growing up.
I would also like to Highly Commend Matilda Haines for ‘Le Crime de metro’, Anjali Mistry for ‘hardware’ and Matilda Collard for 'Mind of mirrors’.
In this competition students are asked to respond creatively and critically to a poem taken from one of the books shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.