Apr 17, 2023

‘Incredibly high’ standard in poetry competition

First prize goes to US poet

The Guernsey International Poetry Competition truly lived up to its ‘international’ status this year with winners from across the world.

The top prize (£1000) in the Open Category of the competition, which is organised in conjunction with the Guernsey Literary Festival, went to Owen Lewis, a published poet who is also Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University in the United States.

Second went to Irish poet Nina Quigley, who lives in Donegal and is a member of Shy Wolf Writers, and third place went to talented young poet from New Zealand, Sarah-Kate Simons, who also won the Young People’s Category.

The Channel Island Category was won by Guernsey poets Kevin Bales, for his poem Between the Sun and the Snail Slime. Second was Sally Pond from Alderney with All Aboard the 92, and third Hayley North from Guernsey with Diversion.

The competition, which was sponsored by Specsavers and supported by Guernsey Arts, was judged by acclaimed poet and novelist Jackie Kay, who from 2016 to 2021 was the Makar, the poet laureate of Scotland.

‘The standard for this year was incredibly high,’ she wrote in her judge’s report.  ‘Often, when judging a competition, you’re left frantically looking for something good. Guernsey seems to do things the opposite way around; you’re left frantically trying to find something not so good so you can eliminate. That was a stubborn process, and many of the poems that didn’t make it into the final shortlist still hovered around my kitchen for days.’

The competition is divided into three classes, Open (which carries the first prize of £1000), Channel Islands (£250) and Young Poet (£250). There are prizes for first, second and third in each class and these poems and another 12 will be part of the Poems on the Move display, at Guernsey Airport and other island sites as well as on Guernsey buses. There will also be a display of the winning poems on show in the gardens outside the Priaulx Library from 02 May-16 June.

This year there were 1672 poems submitted to the competition, of which 183 were in the Channel Island Category and 223 in the Young People’s Category. Past judges of the competition have included Poets Laureate Simon Armitage and Andrew Motion, Kate Clanchy, Ian MacMillan, Maura Dooley, Daljit Nagra, Gwyneth Lewis and Michael Symmons Roberts.

Co-founder of competition sponsors Specsavers, Dame Mary Perkins, said ‘It is fantastic to see the high number of entries of this year’s competition. The joy of reading can be difficult for those who suffer with poor eyesight, that’s why enhancing the lives of others is at the heart of what we do at Specsavers.’

The Guernsey Literary Festival will host the Awards Ceremony and Winners’ Reading for the Guernsey International Poetry Competition on Wednesday 10th May from 17:00-17:45 at the Guille-Alles Library. The event is free to attend and everyone is welcome. Afterwards, at 18:00pm Jackie Kay will also be doing a Poetry Reading from her latest work, A Life in Protest, and earlier work from Bantam and Fiere, poems about family, song, love, grief, and rebellion. 

Jackie will also be hosting a Poetry Workshop on Thursday 11th May from 10:00-12:00 at the Bathing Pools. This workshop will discuss the breadth, depth and complexity of the small poem: the way that it spans time in a couple of stanzas, the way that it can surprise and astonish and accompany you. Each participant will have a go at writing their own short poem. This event is sold out.

For more information and to book tickets , please visit www.guernseyliteraryfestival.com

Guernsey International Poetry Competition 2023

Open Category

1. On the Hospital Bed, by Owen Lewis (USA) (£1000 prize)

2. At St Augustine’s, by Nina Quigley (Ireland) (£500)

3. Whale Bones, by Sarah-Kate Simons (New Zealand) (£250)

Channel Island Category

1. Between the Sun and the Snail Slime, by Kevin Bales (Guernsey) (£250 prize)

2. All Aboard the 92, by Sally Pond (Alderney) (£50)

3. Diversion, by Hayley North (Guernsey) (£30)

Young People’s Category

1. Growing Pains, by Sarah-Kate Simons (New Zealand) (£250 prize)

2. Bat Detecting, by Emily Hunt (Warwickshire) (£50)

3. Memories, by Oshadha Perera (New Zealand) (£30)

Poems also selected for Poems on the Buses exhibition

Bottom of a Barrel, by Lorelei Clarke (France)

It Rains When I Miss You, by Lorelei Clarke (France)

Cornucopia, by Simon Evans (Wales)

At Night, by Sarah Hemings (Bristol)

The First Time I Saw, by Judy Mantle (Jersey)

A Sudden Turn, by Jenny Mitchell (London)

Inundation, by Sally Noel (Jersey)

The Nightie I Keep at my Mother’s House, by Martine Padwell (London)

Accident, by Miranda Pearson (Surrey)

Swing Set, by Divya Venkat Sridhar (Switzerland)

Elsewhere, by Divya Venkat Sridhar (Switzerland)

Like a Sonnet, by Roger West (Glagow)