Poets' corner: The Foyle Young Poets Award
Andrew Johnson and Jonathan Owen speak to the 15 winnersBritain's new generation of poets have little time for TS Eliot's gloomy assertion that a literary life is "a mug's game". Fired by the power of the internet to spread their words, the nation's teenage versifiers form the vanguard of an upsurge that has seen the number of entries to Britain's longest-running competition for young poets soar.
A record-breaking 20,510 poems from 11- to 17-year-olds around the country were entered in this year's Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. It is the highest number of entries in the competition's 13-year history.
The 15 winners of this year's competition will not be announced until National Poetry Day on Thursday. Here, however, we publish exclusive extracts from the winning poems.
Some "show a directness to the reader that adult writers would envy", said Jane Draycott, one of the judges. She added: "This generation think differently about exposure and publicity, because they expose themselves in all kinds of ways through Facebook and YouTube. I don't think they'll feel precious about their early work in years to come, and that's amazing."
Winners from the 15-17 age category will be sent on a special week-long retreat at the Arvon Foundation at The Hurst, set in 30 acres of woodland in the Clun Valley, Shropshire. Younger winners will be mentored by poets who will visit their schools to help the budding writers.
And the future of the competition was boosted last week with the news that the Foyle Foundation has committed to another three years of funding. Judith Palmer, chairwoman of the National Poetry Society, which organises the competition, said: "Older poets often spend decades unlearning all the things they've been taught to do," she said. "These poems are really impressive. There isn't the imitation of other poets you might expect."
Luke Kennard, another of the judges, added: "Teenagers are not afraid of over-reaching yet; whereas 19- to 22-year-olds are so afraid of being pretentious that they hold back and start falling back on clichés."