Top line achievement for Scotland’s only winner in worldwide poetry competition

Top line achievement for Scotland’s only winner in worldwide poetry competition

14 October 2020

Anna’s work ‘Total’ – equating exam stress for teenagers to a balance sheet – was chosen from a field of 6,000 entrants and over 15,000 poems. First, Second and Third places were not awarded, with all fifteen winners earning equal significance.

“The poem was written the week before results day, it’s a poem about exam anxiety,” Anna, commented on her submission. She continued, “Every line was given a monetary value to equate to the emotional strain I was experiencing. However, you can’t put a price-tag on personality; I am so much more than just results. The final line – ‘Trying to add up the breeze’ – represents the impossible, like catching smoke, it’s a poetically expressed concept of being unquantifiable. I think the judges all had their own results day memory so this struck a chord.”

Entries were selected by two judges, distinguished poet Maura Dooley and UK Poetry Slam Champion, Keith Jarrett, whose work explores Black British and Caribbean history and religion.

Dorothy MacGinty, Head teacher at Kilgraston School, said: “Anna has been an inspirational pupil to teach throughout her seven years with us. We have witnessed her talent and enthusiasm for the subject of English rapidly develop and could not be more thrilled for her.”

In normal circumstances, competition winners would be invited to attend a prestigious ceremony at the Southbank Centre in London. However, the on-going situation with Covid-19 required the move to an online celebration. In addition to the digital ceremony on Thursday 15 October, Anna’s winning poem was published on the The Poetry Society’s website and featured on its YouTube and Vimeo channels. Anna will also receive a range of prizes, including an invitation to attend a writing residential course at the Arvon Centre, ‘The Hurst’, during February 2021 half term. At the ‘ceremony’, Anna read her poem to the other 14 winners, assembled guests and judges. “It was still a very moving experience. Such a shame not to actually be with the other winners and to meet the judges face-to-face but a momentous opportunity none-the-less,” she said.

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is for entrants aged 11-17. Since beginning 22 years ago, the Award has kick-started the career of some of today’s most exciting new voices like Caroline Bird, Martha Sprackland and Jay Bernard. It is the largest competition of its kind and free to enter. Each year 100 winners (15 overall winners and 85 commendations) are selected by a team of high-profile judges. The top 15 and 85 poets receive a range of book prizes, membership to, and continuing support from, The Poetry Society.

Commenting on Anna’s success, Natasha Ryan of the Poetry Society, said: “This is an amazing and impressive achievement.”

Last year, Anna achieved a top 85 place in the competition when judge and national Poet Laureate of Scotland, Jackie Kay CBE, FRSE, vividly recalled judging Anna’s entry when speaking to her at the London ceremony: “Jackie immediately remembered the name of my poem and its content as being truly unique,” noted Anna. “I was so flattered that out of all the thousands of entries mine stuck in her head.”

Anna started entering competitions when she was 13, inspired by poets like Philip Larkin and Seamus Heaney: “From an early age, Mum really encouraged my sister and I to read and appreciate poetry. I’ve always preferred creating more abstract work which can be interpreted individually by each reader, provoking reaction,” she continued, “During lockdown I continually wrote poetry, finding it therapeutic and soothing. I had control over my words, allowing my individual voice to be heard. Exam concerns consumed my head-space at that time, so this was a reflection of my true feelings.”

Commenting on her Anna’s success, Margaret Saunders, her English teacher, said: “Anna has a unique talent. She has the ability to come at a subject from a totally unexpected angle creating an element of surprise and delight. The overall effect seems effortless and light-hearted but belies a deep awareness of structure and the potency of language. She is always a complete pleasure to teach.”

Anna’s winning poem:


All slow summer long £9.99

I have been living £6.90

in a glass jar of anxiety £16.60

and dreading £7.68

a day in August £6.57

when a devious envelope £12.90

with a barbed paper tongue £3.76

will slither through the door £2.46

to determine my fate £6.83

with only a few £5.80

letters: grades that might £5.45

be as sharp as blades £9.90

or as soft as rising dough. £5.67

At the end of the day, is this £3.54

all that I amount to? £12.80

Five letters on a flimsy £6.53

ghost of paper? £6.45

The narrowest indication £3.87

of my past £7.90

and my future. £14.90

God, these £1.65

endless days of waiting £8.76

and balancing on these tenterhook £17.76

cobweb tightropes just won’t do, £4.50

they just won’t do. £14.90


I don’t want to be calculated £8.76

counted, £6.84

or summed up £7.36

in cold numbers and letters £3.56

that are typed by robotic fingers £4.90

that have no grace nor growth, £23.90

because I am breathtakingly £16.00

three dimensional, and £5.35

to total me £2.95

would be like £0.90

trying to add up the breeze. £??.??????

⁎//Please retain receipt for your records//⁎

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