King Edward's School BATH

this year's Poetry competition winners and runners-up revealed

this year's Poetry competition winners and runners-up revealed

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5 March 2019

As part of the KES week-long festival of events to celebrate World Book Day, we were delighted to welcome to assembly today guest author, Tracy Darnton, judge of the 2019 KES Poetry and Short Story Competitions. Tracy’s debut novel The Truth about Lies was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Waterstones Book Prize, and Tracy has been sharing writing tips with older pupils in the School’s Culture Vultures Society, running writing workshops in Creative Writing Club, and inspiring Year 8 pupils with insights into the writing process. She also came into launch the 2019 Short Story Competition, the theme of which is ‘Truth and Lies’, inspired by Tracy’s critically acclaimed debut. She also awarded prizes to the winners of our Poetry Competition, whose work will feature in the 2019 Anthology.

The theme of this year’s Poetry Competition was ‘Remembering and Forgetting’ and it really seemed to strike a chord with many of our pupils. There were poems about forgotten species, forgotten socks and forgotten lives; poems about the memory of animals, memories of childhood, remembrance of things past. Many pupils wrote incredibly moving and thought-provoking verse addressing themes of dementia, amnesia, repressed memories, memorials and remembrance. Our judge was astounded by the beauty and originality of so many of the entries.

In the Junior category, Years 7 – 9, Tracy was incredibly impressed by the ingenuity and insight of KES young poets.

Highly Commended certificates were awarded as follows:

  • Ada Bateman’s Remembering and Forgetting was one of many entries on the theme of amnesia or dementia.  Tracy commented: ‘This was a beautiful reflection on the confusion of not remembering through the well-chosen but spare lines and powerful use of repetition.’
  • Ellie Martin’s Remembering/Forgetting Tracy observed: ‘This poem tells a story, packing so much into a few lines. I liked the ‘I remember…But I forget’ structure which worked so well, and how the poem gained pace towards the accident before slowing for the great ending.’
  • Orson Savage’s Dr Newby ponders the question ‘Given the size of their brains, do orcas ever forget?’ ‘Such a novel and interesting subject choice for the remembering theme, using the capture of an orca,’ observed Tracy. ‘Plenty for the reader to reflect on. I like the title too!’

Runners up in the Junior Category were awarded to the following poems:

  • Anni Moorhouse’s Hello, I’m Mark was described by Tracy as, ‘Interesting and thought-provoking. I found Mark’s situation was made even more moving by the style and choice of language. The clever repetition of ‘hello I’m Mark’ made it so poignant. And I really liked the use of the well-chosen image of marbles in a jam jar.’
  • Patrick Hewett’s The Flow was also awarded Runner Up and Tracy commented: ‘This poem was deceptively simple but used structure and repetition so effectively to perfectly reflect the way memory works. The mirroring of lines and images read beautifully and brought something new to those well-chosen words.’
  • The winner in the Junior Category was awarded to Elise Withey for her poem Memories in Ink.  Tracy was blown away by this, ‘Original take on the theme, tracing memories through tattoos with such evocative images. I liked the rhythm and structure of the poem and was impressed by the rhyming – a difficult task!). This terrific poem was so beautifully concluded in the last two verses.’

Not to be outdone by the younger pupils, poets from Year 10 – 13 produced verse of astonishing originality, versatility and flair.

Highly Commended in this category were awarded as follows:

  • Sophie Swale’s Lonely Minds, about which Tracy observed, ‘Dementia was a popular choice of topic amongst all ages for the competition, but this one really stood out. I loved the way the poem flowed through the eyes of both the husband with dementia and the wife watching and mourning. I teared up at this one, particularly the last stanza.’
  •  Abbey Vaid’s Filter Coffee ‘This was a beautiful poem about love and lost opportunities with a devastating final couplet,’ observed Tracy. ‘Simple but poignantly effective.’
  • Solenne Scholefield Remembrance ‘The language leaps out of this one,’ said Tracy. ‘Creating such vivid images, but balanced by the simplicity of the single, repeated lines. Having a living, breathing city witnessing and remembering events was an interesting and original take on the theme.’

Runners Up were awarded as follows:

  • Sam Shepherd’s Oh, To Forget Our Joys, But to Forget Our Sorrows, ‘This has a timeless feel about it,’ said Tracy, ‘It made me reflect on memory and remembrance. Clever use of repetition and very effective last lines.’
  • Ella Fairhurst’s The Vanishing Pier Tracy observed: ‘This really lingered in my memory. One small, original moment of the boy on the pier is brought to life so vividly. It reflects beautifully the ephemeral nature of memory.’

Finally, the winner in the Senior Category and Overall Winner of the 2019 Poetry Competition is

Netta Claydon for her stunning piece Write a Eulogy, Burn an Effigy about which Tracy observed: ‘So thought-provoking about how we should be memorialised! The theme is dealt with so effectively and economically throughout the poem and I took something new from it each time I read it. A big concept tied up so well and movingly by the ending. (Consciously or not, it evoked for me Shelley’s Ozymandias.)’

You can read the two category winning entries below.


Memories in Ink – Elise Withey

A swallow swoops and coyly twists 
On violet skies in violet ink, 
That trace the veins webbing your wrists 
With looping swirls of palest pink.


The night sky spreads across your neck, 
A spider’s song of woven black, 
The stars nothing but silver flecks 
Studding a path onto your back.


A mermaid’s tail curls round your hand – 
You inked it when we left for dreams 
And sailed in search of golden sands, 
But tired of never-ending seas.


Tangled roses graze your throat,
Your pulse guarded by warding thorns,
Whilst twining leaves and petals coat 
The gentle curving of your jaw.


Each finger glows with crimson dye, 
A careful mess of scarlet whirls – 
I watched you ink those writhing skies, 
Cheeks flushed and pink, hair in loose curls.


A serpent snakes across your chest, 
All emerald scales and greengage eyes. 
Its red-tinged hood and pine-dark crest 
Croon hidden truths and honey-sweet lies.


And as I lie in bed at night, 
Too tired to sleep, too awake to try, 
I look, despite the gloomy light, 
And map your body with my eyes.


I see our firsts, I see our lasts, 
Our broken bonds and reforged links, 
I see our dreams, I see our pasts, 
Frozen in time in swirls of ink.


Write a Eulogy, Burn an Effigy – Netta Claydon

What is more frightening than the oddity of the pyramids, 
those dark, brooding objections 
to a brief lifespan.


They are notable only in how much they obstruct the horizon, 
how, with such finality, they outlast that which they commemorate 
fading, before the world, into meaningless obstinacy - 
I would sooner Ramesses had had a cremation 
than such gargantuan burial.


Memories – such as these – 
ought not to subsist outside of us. 
they are not intended to possess an identity of their own – 
they are not kind with such independence.


they will make you a tourist of your own grief, 
ceaselessly extracting you from mundane tasks 
to make pilgrimage to them and their permanence, 
strange and windswept in the heart of the desert 
as they often are.


leave your memories, your despairs and your joys 
where you found them when you are finished. 
allow them to rot back into the earth behind you.


By all means, write a eulogy, burn an effigy, 
But do not build a monument.

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