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We are delighted to announce the winners of our competition, which this year was judged by the award-winning poet and editor Kayo Chingonyi. Two top prizes of £1,000 were on offer in a competition that seeks to celebrate the great diversity of poetry being written in English all over the world. We would like to warmly thank all the poets who entered!
Poems were submitted in two categories: EAL category (open to all poets over 18 years of age who speak English as an Additional Language), and Open category (open to all poets over 18 years of age). You can find the list of winners and the shortlisted poets below, as well as the judge’s report by Kayo Chingonyi.
Kayo’s first full-length collection, Kumukanda (Chatto & Windus), won the prestigious £30,000 Dylan Thomas award for the best literary work by an author aged thirty-nine or under. He is a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry and the author of two pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016). He was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016 and co-edited issue 62 of Magma Poetry and the Autumn 2016 edition of The Poetry Review. He is poetry editor for The White Review.
Many congratulations to the winners and those poets shortlisted! We will be holding a prizegiving ceremony at Oxford Brookes University on the evening of Thursday 15 November, which will feature readings from the winning poets and from Kayo Chingonyi as well. So do join us for what promises to be a wonderful evening! Everyone - whether you entered the competition or not - is welcome to attend. Please just register (for free) on this page.
There is a durability to a good poem that I find endlessly inspiring. Here we are beset by so many pressures on our attention and still a line of poetry, a turn of phrase, can stop us in our tracks. In reading this year’s selection of poems for the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition I was struck by how many of the poems proceeded with assurance, wedging themselves in my mind. In particular I was moved by the clarity of the writing as well as what these poems seem to say about the wider environment that is giving shape and space to poetry at the moment. Some of the poems I read collapsed and interrogated the act of poetry writing to frame questions about how and why we write in the ways we do; others revelled in wordplay, placing sonic patterns at the heart of the poem’s argument; elsewhere the narrative impulse was celebrated in poems that foreground, or eschew, story. In the end, the poems I chose as winners in each category were those that seemed to me exceptional examples among their field of the ways a poem builds its own logic under the right steam.
I have decided to award first place in the open category to ‘Coronary’, a poem which is movingly precise in its evocation of guilt. The poet exhibits an understated but nonetheless impressive flair. There is not a word wasted in this poem and it carries the hallmarks that make a memorable poem feel like it has always existed. The second place poem in the open category, ‘Bugs’, unsettles and haunts its reader. There is a well-wrought quality to the poem which is illustrated in particular by the endurance of the central metaphor, the poet’s confidence in the reader’s capacity for interpretation, and the propulsive flow of the poem’s syntax. I cannot get the image of a ‘gauntlet’ of bugs out of my head. I wish to award a Special Commendation to ‘Ionian’, a deceptively simple account of origins that feels both contemporary and arcane in its frequent recourse to the language of myth.
In the EAL category there was a great deal of variety such that choosing between the poems was difficult. The first place poem, ‘Jean Rhys’, was striking on first reading because it moved in such an unexpected way. On reading the poem a number of times I was beguiled by its idiosyncrasies; a tendency towards fragmentation; a polyvocal sensibility; the poem’s ambivalence towards neat rhetorical ‘strategies’. It is helpful to be reminded that language cannot be used as a utensil and often has its own designs and this poem is an exemplary affirmation of this. I read, in both categories, a number of poems that riff on other poems and the second place poem in the EAL category, ‘Sweet Like A Bao’, takes this impulse and extends it to become a piece reflecting on how we subvert received tropes and, thereby, refresh our notions of ‘representational’ writing about place. With its cumulative, insistent, form the poem creates a finely woven, expansive, picture. I decided to award a Special Commendation to ‘Lune’, a poem underscored by an insistent musicality that places the sound and texture of the words in the foreground in a manner that is finely balanced so as to eke out the resonances of each word.