Apr 23, 2021

Guernsey International Poetry Competition Results

The standard of entries in the 2021 Guernsey International Poetry Competition (Poems on the Move) was ‘dazzlingly high’, according to judge Kate Clanchy.

This year’s competition, organised as part of the Guernsey Literary Festival, had a record entry of more than 2,000 poems from across the world. There was also a record participation from young poets worldwide. The competition was sponsored by Guernsey Post and supported by Guernsey Arts.

The winner of the Open Category, which has a first prize of £1000, was UK poet Ros Woolner with her poem Pruning The Laurel. Judge Kate Clanchy said that in a high quality entry ‘I like the unexpected: I  had never read a poem about feminism and hedge trimming before, and in the end, that supplied our winner.’

Second place went to another UK poet, Katriona Campbell, for her short poem Flack.

The competition has three categories, Open, Channel Islands and Young People’s and this year the Channel Islands title went to Guernsey poet Camille Brouard, for her poem She’s Not Out of the Woods Yet. Second place went to Alderney’s Poppy Bristow for Where Are Your Architecture Critics Now? And third to Jersey poet Judy Mantle for Warp and Weft.

First place in the Young People’s Category went to Emily Hunt from Warwickshire for School Bus.

In her judge’s report, Kate Clanchy, herself an award-winning poet and short story writer, says, ‘Usually, in a competition, an initial read through will yield a small pile of ‘yes’s and a large heap of ‘no’s: this time, my heaps were in the wrong order. There were simply so many accomplished, clear, beautifully edited poems that spoke of long apprenticeship, deep feeling, and wide reading that is was impossible to disregard more than a tiny handful.’

‘Which was an encouraging finding for British poetry, but made for  tough winnowing for a judge: it took three more read-throughs using ever tougher criteria such as ‘deeply ambitious’; ‘bright new language only’; and ‘original thinking ’ until my heaps were in any way reduced.’

‘Then at least I could be grateful I had several prizes to give. The Channel Islands residents category, for example, yielded a special haul of fresh, nature-themed poems and allowed me to reward a poem I especially loved about a grandmother with dementia. A poem for a bus is a wonderful idea: competitions so often reward longer poems, but this category allowed me to pick out shorter, brighter, poems which would shine out when ‘on the move’.’

‘Young people’s poetry is developing a stronger profile across the UK every year just now and the huge and wildly diverse pile of entries to the poetry competition fully reflected that. I’m very proud of the variety of comedy, tragedy, protest and elegance in the final three.’

‘All this, though, still left me with just three prizes for the main competition when I would have been happy to have given twenty. If you are reading this, and feeling hard done by, please know that in the end, I was guided only by personal taste. I like form to be understated, but present – like the underlying sonnet in our winning poem. I love wit in a poem, and social observation. I like to be moved: I was very much so by the raw emotion in the runner up, Flack.

‘The good thing about poetry competitions is that they encourage poets to finish work and send it out. The bad thing is that those poets do not always feel read: if you entered this year, I promise that you were read,  several times, and that you weren’t in the ‘yes’ heap only because the piles were so full of so much excellence.’

Boley Smillie of competition sponsors Guernsey Post says, 'We have been delighted by the great success of this year's competition, not only in the large numbers of entries but also their quality and wide variety. It's a wonderful tribute to the creativity of people in difficult times.'

The winning three in each category will displayed in the Poems on the Move and Poems on the Busses exhibitions, and another 12 have been chosen to be displayed as part of Poems on the Buses.

The Poems on the Move Winners’ Reading will take place at Les Cotils from 17:30-18:15 on Friday 14th May and is open to all and free to attend. This will be followed at 18:30 by Kate Clanchy’s talk entitled “Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me”. Her book has been described by fellow writer Philip Pullman as “the best book on teachers and children and writing that I’ve ever read’. Tickets are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children 17 and under. To book, visit https://guernseyliteraryfestival.com/book-events/event/some-kids-i-taught-and-what-they-taught-me

 Results: Open Category:

Ros Woolner (UK) Pruning the Laurel (£1000)

Katriona Campbell (UK) Flack (£500)

Ros Woolner (UK) The Last Changing Room (£250)

Channel Islands Category:

Camille Brouard (Guernsey) She’s Not Out of the Woods Yet

Poppy Bristow (Alderney) Where are Your Architecture Critics Now?

Judy Mantle (Jersey) Warp and Weft

Young People’s Category:

Emily Hunt (Warwickshire) School Bus

Armance Flesselle (France) Sonnet to Surrender

Robert Ebner-Statt (UK) Modern Foreign Language

Three other poems in this category were highly commended:

Tinnitus, by Holly Harrison  (N. Ireland) Peacocks, by Freya Leech (Oxford) The People in the Pond, by Madeleine Jones (UK)

Poems on the Buses:

Vasiliki Albedo (Greece) After Three YearsCarole Bromley (York) RosCarole Bromley (York) The FishmongerChristina Buckton (Cambridge) It Seems Like YesterdayJordan Guillou (Guernsey) (Y) Have-NotsJo Haslam (Huddersfield) Twenty MoonsStephen Keeler (Ullapool) UnsungShirley Nicholson (Manchester) SuddenlyJudy O’Kane (N. Ireland) MackerelSteve Pottinger (West Midlands) True Love, BilstonOwen Rees (Manchester) (Y) Start at the StartMark Totterdell (Exeter) 2000