The winning poems of the Torbay Open Poetry Competition were announced at the Poetry Festival; I went to the prize-giving of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year in September; and, for fun, we instated a Festival Challenge at the Robay Festival in which any poet could write, then read, a poem under 24 lines on a set theme (this year’s: ‘Ships’). This challenge was announced on the Thursday evening and the poems had to be read on the Sunday lunchtime. They were judged by the audience who had to five marks for both the poem and the reading of it. All these competitions had very good winners and I am happy to print some of the various winning poems in this issue. I’m sure one of more of the readers will, of course, remember my strictures against competitions in earlier issues.
Mostly I still stand by what I wrote in those years: I still think most poetry competitions are mostly for money-raising (as, if I am honest, is the Torbay Open Competition). But when the competition has a competent judge ((no pun intended) who reads ALL the entrants who are presented anonymously, and quality work is usually picked up, I have no complaint. It is when a famous poet’s name is used to attract entrants who, not being fully aware of the way some competitions work, part with their money in the belief that Joe Famous will actually read their poems but who in reality only reads the last, say 50 poems, I still begin to get hot under the collar.
The two Foyle Young Poets I have chosen to publish are real representatives of the next generation of poets; young, under 18 when they sent in their work, and already possessed of a talent which needs encouraging. As Alan Brownjohn said in an Acumen interview, poets are both born and made; they have to have the talent, but in needs nurturing and encouraging as it first starts emerging. As to June Hall’s poems, which won the Festival Challenge, it is a fine piece of versification, and if you feel you could do better in 3 days, come along to next year’s Festival and prove it. And have some fun into the bargain.