Mar 01, 2024

Iona wins top prize in Guernsey International Poetry Competition

A British artist and poet based in Helsinki, Finland, has scooped the £1000 first prize in the Guernsey International Poetry Competition.

Iona Roisin’s short poem Conch was chosen by judge Paul Muldoon from a record number of more than 3000 entries. The competition truly lived up to its ‘international’ status this year, attracting entries from 49 countries, including UK, Australia, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Japan, Nigeria, Taiwan, Aland Islands and UAE.

The annual competition is organised in conjunction with the Guernsey Literary Festival, sponsored by Specsavers and supported by Guernsey Arts.

Iona Roisin, who works across moving image and text, graduated from The Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki and The Cass School of Art, London Metropolitan University, London. They are a member of the Trans publishing collective Almanac Press and a founder of Trans Library Helsinki.

‘I’d never entered this competition before and have never won a prize for my poetry so I was very surprised and excited – it felt so good to get a ‘yes’! Conch is a poem that came out almost as-is, which is not very common for me. It was drafted during a period of change in my life and then returned to in a later period of change in which I’d been thinking a lot about ageing, gender, love, queerness, home etc,’ says Iona.

Second place went to writer and poet Nicholas Hogg, who said he had a ‘real buzz’ when he heard that Paul Muldoon had chosen his poem Swimming with Horses to be Open runner-up.

As well as winning awards for his first novel, short stories, screenplay and poetry, Nicholas’s novel Tokyo is currently in production as a Ridley Scott film.

Third place went to West Yorkshire’s Jo Haslam for her poem Bewick. Jo, whose work has featured highly in the Guernsey International Poetry Competition in past years, has published collections of her work, which has also featured in poetry magazines and won accolades in other competitions, including the National Poetry competition.

Both top places in the Channel Islands section went to Guernsey this year. First prize was awarded to Theodore Cross for his poem After Guernesiais. Theo is currently doing a masters in creative writing in Guernsey with the University of Glasgow.

‘I had wanted to write about the rapid decline of Guernesiais for a while, how it’s only been in two or three generations. I wanted to do this by looking at my maternal lineage which is the Guernsey side of my family,’ says Theo.

‘Other than that I think I wanted to express some of the profound weirdness of Guernsey’s ritual landscape and the almost mythic dimension that this lost language has for me and others that I know.’

‘I was glad to win and I hope that soon the conversation about Guernesiais will become more serious as it seems to me we are reaching a crucial point.’

Theo has worked on projects with similar themes to the above, ‘and very different stuff too’.

Second place went to local poet, musician and Guernsey Press features writer Shaun Shackleton for his poem Goit.

'Goit is an area in Yorkshire where I grew up that was built on by a particularly repellent property developer and the poem is about nature getting its own back. I have no doubt that one day it will.

'It was an honour to have been picked by Mr Muldoon and I look forward to meeting him.'

Tomos Wynne from Denbighshire, who took first prize in the Young People’s section with his poem Remember was very happy – and surprised – to have won.

Tom is 14 and since 2022 has been going to a poetry group called Deud' O! which is based in Llandudno, North Wales. It’s a very small group -- he can sometimes be the only person there -- but is lucky to have the opportunity to do a creative class.

His inspiration was a picture of a once strong rope that was slowly losing its threads. This gave him the idea for the main character who was developing dementia.

Runner up in the class was Beth Parker from York with A Love Letter.

The competition was judged by award-winning poet and teacher Paul Muldoon who has an impressive list of poetry publications and awards to his name, including the Eric Gregory Award, the T S Eliot Prize and the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. He has been Oxford Professor of Poetry and Professor at Princeton University in the United States. He now lives in New York.

The competition is divided into three classes, Open (which carries a first prize of £1000), Channel Islands (£250) and Young Poet (£250). This year, Paul Muldoon awarded prizes for first, second and third in the Open class and first and second in the Channel Islands and Young People’s classes. These poems will be part of the Poems on the Move display, at Guernsey Airport and other island sites as well as on Guernsey buses.

Another 14 poems were chosen by him to be part of the Poems on the Buses display.

Past judges of the competition have included Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, Kate Clanchy, Ian MacMillan, Maura Dooley, Daljit Nagra and Gwyneth Lewis.


Open Category:

1, Conch, by Iona Roisin, Helsinki, Finland (£1000 first prize)

2, Swimming with Horses, by Nicholas Hogg, Leicester (£500)

3, Bewick, by Jo Haslam, West Yorkshire (£250)

Channel Islands Category:

1, After Guernesiais, by Theodore Cross, Guernsey and Glasgow, (£250)

2, Goit, by Shaun Shackleton, Guernsey (£50)

Young People’s Category:

1, Remember, by Tomos Wynne, Denbighshire, UK (£250)

2, A Love Letter, by Beth Parker, York, UK (£50)

In addition to the winners the following poems were specially chosen by Paul Muldoon for the Poems on the Buses exhibition:

Gaslight, by John Atkinson, Dunfries, Scotland

I Tried to Write a Break-up Poem but I Wrote This Instead, by Tom Bailey, London

Things I Can Finally Afford, by A V Bridgwood, Norwich, UK

Basho at Dawn, by Tom Bryan, East Ayrshire, Scotland

The Optimism Principle, by Ken Evans, Derby, UK

The Swim, by Sally Festing, Peterborough, UK

Sir Lowry’s Pass, by Sarah Frost, South Africa

Hat, by Andy Jackson, Perth, Scotland

The Electrician, by Vanessa Lampert, Oxford, UK

Low Tide, by Lynda Planter, Lincoln, UK

Carboniferous Limestone, by Michael Powell, Durham, UK

The Geese Return, by Alison Stark, York, UK

When the Knacker Man Visits the Barn, by Christina Thatcher, Cardiff, Wales

The Sparrowhawk, by Margaret Wilmot, Brighton, UK