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Local Poetry Competition Winners Announced

  • Snr Winner Chris S.jpeg
  • rev poet (1).jpg
  • andrew mcmillan with credit to Urszula Soltys.jpg
  • Disha C.jpg
  • Rebecca Z.jpeg

On National Poetry Day in October of last year, poet Andrew McMillan, in conjunction with Bolton School Boys’ Division, launched a poetry competition for children aged 5-18 years across the Bolton borough. The Revisioning Poetry competition riffed on the National Poetry Day theme of ‘Vision’.

The results are now in! The award-winning poet said: “What a joy it was to spend time with all this creativity! There were so many exciting poems here, some using form in news ways, some rhyming brilliantly, some doing entirely new things. Many of these poems seemed focussed on loss, on what might happen if the sun or our school or our own house disappeared; poems like this have, at their core, a deep concern for our planet which is great to see and which hopefully we can harness to do all we can to help the environment as we get older. So many of the poems too, were simply having fun which is one of the most important things for writing. It can be something we forget as we get older, and something I was really pleased to be reminded of! It was incredibly hard to pick out poems and rank them. If I were allowed I would have given everyone a prize!”​ 

The Secondary School challenge for 11-18 year olds asked entrants to write a poem from an unusual point of view. McMillan suggested that the poems might look at things slightly askew, from the point of view of an inanimate object, or from several different views at once. He encouraged students to surprise themselves with their approaches – to move away from the idea that a poem is just a poet looking at someone or something and describing it.

Christian Stapleton, a Year 12 pupil at Bolton School Boys’ Division, was selected as the overall winner. McMillan praised his poem, ‘Trench of Youth’, describing it as: “a poem that takes a unique, original form. It is really three poems in one, each one shedding new light on the others – a three-dimensional experience.” Christian reflected, “I really enjoyed inventing and playing with the structure of my poem, envisioning the best way to convey my ideas by both weaving themes together and contrasting narrative threads. I was interested in conveying the clockwork nature that can be forced on relationships by the habit and expectation. Now, the idea of readers drawing their own conclusions about my work is just as exciting as doing the work in the first place - it's a huge privilege to be published and to have an audience!”

Reflecting on the benefits of the competition, Disha C from Bolton School Girls' Division said: "The reason I wrote this poem is that I wanted to express my feelings in these strange times. I enjoyed writing from an object’s point of view because I imagined the object I did, was actually a person with feelings and emotions.​" Rebecca Z, from the same school, reflected on her inspiration: "I have always loved animals and plants, and knowing that they are losing their homes is dreadful. So I picked up my pen, pushed my piece of paper towards me, and wrote. I imagined as if I were a tree, standing there for decades, as an experienced witness of the beauty of life and its modern and brutal threats.​"

The Primary School challenge for children aged 5-10 years asked pupils to think about something they encounter every day. The poet suggested they might think about something small such a spoon in the kitchen cutlery drawer or conversely, something big like a particular tree at the end of the street or the building that they attend school in. The twist was to imagine that one day, their focus vanishes and to write about the disappearance. Lucy, aged 10, from St Catherine’s CE Primary School in Horwich was the Primary Category winner. She was very excited to have her work recognised and said, "My dad introduced me to Brian Cox and I have been interested in space ever since. I wanted to bring this feeling into the poem." McMillan described Lucy’s work as a poem in which “the world is transformed by this unique departure; the idea that the waves die, the great image of the ‘winking stars’, and the ending are all very powerful. Maisie, also aged 10 and from St Catherine's, wrote a poem that received a commendation from Andrew. Maisie said, "I wrote about the disappearance of my brain because it’s a dramatic moment in many ways. I wanted to introduce a cliff-hanger to make my poem spooky! At the end of the poem I used repetition to have a questioning effect on the reader. I wanted my poem to be like a guessing game in which the reader had to guess what happened to the character. ​I really enjoyed the rhyming and having poem fun with friends!"

The winning poets, commended writers and their teachers have been invited to tour the new Manchester Poetry Library later in 2021. The pupils also receive book tokens; winners receive a collection of poetry books for their school library. The young writers’ work is published in a Re-visioning Poetry anthology.

Andrew McMillan’s debut collection physical was the first ever poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award. The collection also won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award (2016), an Eric Gregory Award (2016) and a Northern Writers’ award (2014). In 2019 it was voted as one of the top 25 poetry books of the past 25 years by the Booksellers Association.

His second collection, playtime, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2018; it was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Autumn 2018, a Poetry Book of the Month in both The Observer and The Telegraph, a Poetry Book of the Year in The Sunday Times and won the inaugural Polari Prize. 

Andrew's latest collection, pandemonium, will be released in May 2021. He is a senior lecturer at the Manchester Writing School at MMU and lives in Manchester.

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