Young Romantics Prize 2018

Young Romantics Prize Shortlists 2018

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Poetry Prize Shortlist

Poets were asked to write on the theme of LIBERTY, to celebrate the bi-centenary of PB Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. Essays may be on any aspect of the lives of the Romantics and their Circles.

In alphabetical order

The Grey Nightingale in my Box
by Owoh Ugonna Alexander (College of the Immaculate Conception, Enugu, Nigeria)

A nightingale so nitty white and grey in shade,
Trapped and caged in my grey-sheer box.

It swoops and glides swiftly, withes and twigs
Glintly on a wee mastagba,
Width slender.

It weeps and sobs, so tatty and phony
Soliciting for liberty.

It sways in taut looks, puffs in cramps,
Twines in pang, twitch in lurks.

No birch to crouch, No nest to sing,
Linger and dwell.

Like a cuckoo, its growls and paints in tempo,
It racks wiggly and smirks pompously.

It owns a dream; to sing aloft the birch,
With its kind.

To flutter and sway sturdily in the thwarting sky.

Oh smuggling nightingale,
Let thy freedom be regain.

Owoh Ugonna Alexander is a Nigerian-born, award-winning author of five novels and novellas. He is a poet, historian, essayist, editor, and book reviewer. He was a shortlist in the 2018 live cannon poetry prize. A finalist and honourable mention at 2018 TSL essay and debate competition. A highly commended at 2018 author world poetry contest. An honourable mention in the 2018 February Poetry Pulse contest. And 2017 Agbowo poetry Nigeria prize. His first poetry collection, ‘The Beauty of an African Woman’, will be published in May 2018.

by Poppy Crossland (Rugby High School)

Poppy Crossland And Liz Lochhead

Water turns to blood,
life to death,
until nothing is left,
of this flawed species,
we pour and we gush,
at the hands of another,
blood pooling in the street,
like inkblots on a page.

Freedom never felt so caged,
we all become
the things we hate,
polluting our own lungs,
with hatred,
fight against it-
twisting knives in our own wounds
in a blind effort to heal them,
cutting their own stems.

Blemishes on the face of the earth,
creases on paper once flat,
droplets of water in the desert,
knives in a nursery,
toys at a murder scene,
silence in a crowded room,
we are spelling our own doom,
we are inkblots.

I am a 16 year old aspiring poet from Rugby, currently studying English Literature, Classical Civilisations and Maths (bad decision) at A Level, and am hoping to study English Literature and Creative Writing at university. Contrary to many people's beliefs, I am not a cat.

Little Liberty in London
by Anna Friedland (St. Paul’s GDST)

Anna Friedland And Liz Lochhead

Walking along the Thames. Zero o’clock.
A black, musty cardboard cut-out of a city
Draped unflatteringly on a wet, white piece
Of paper, smeared with watercolours. It
Bleeds in amber. Shepherds’ delight.

A couple sits on our bench. They eat rubbish.
Tomorrow’s a new day. A new year. He kisses
Her until his hat fell off. Or his hate. I don’t
Remember. He dangles his pistol behind him
Like a cigarette out of a dark car window.

I am standing on the bridge. It is motionless
Now. I plunge into the water below. It is not
Grey but an electric blue, and the deeper I get
The more its white edges burn my eyes. Gliding
Like blood: a poor replacement for burning salt.

But I am dry. A million miles away the same
Electric blue lights up the sky of a Los Angeles
Design school while friends and fiancées drop
Dead on fortified frontiers. I have danced
On tables in a drained Paris, almost free.

Anna Friedland is a first year A-Level student studying English, History, Latin and Maths, living in London. She gets inspiration from walking around the city, running and music, and, of course, loves writing poems!

Remember the Future
by Emily Howling (Royal Holloway University of London)

Emily Howling And Liz Lochhead

Remember that you will learn so much you do not yet know.
Remember the books you will read that have not yet been written.
Remember the music you will hear; new combinations of sound to make you sing and dance and laugh and cry.
Remember the people you will meet.
Some will be destructive,
But some will be brilliant.
Remember all the things you have yet to do,
All you have yet to discover,
The people you have yet to love.
Remember how you will find the answers to so many of your questions,
And remember also how you will realise that some will remain unanswered forever.
Remember how old things will end and new things will start,
Moments will pass,
And moments will last.
Set yourself free from the past,
And remember the future.

Emily is currently studying Physics at Royal Holloway University of London, but is passionate about a wide variety of subjects. She has previously written lyrics to original Christmas carols by John Wilson. Above all, she really loves ducks.

Cast Off by
Nadia Lines (The Broxourne School).

Nadia Lines And Liz Lochhead

I would like to not be in me for a while
I would like to escape this material plain, just for a day
Leave my body behind
its desk in its chair
No one would know that I’m not there, that,
For now, I’m a daisy on a grave or a rose on a doorstep
I could be a computer virus- a line of code that knows
Perhaps I could be surgical thread- being unwound and rebound around skin
Or I could be a book on a shelf and loose myself between the pages and the ages between them and me
Maybe I’ll find freedom in a melody
Notes played so precisely that I forget I am not comprised of its chords

But I’d get bored
Sooner or later I’d float back to my little sailing boat of a body.
but I’d be grateful for my swim

My name is Nadia Lines, I am 16 years old and I live in Hertfordshire. I have always adored poetry, particularly the work of Keats, and so I am deeply honoured to be shortlisted for the Young Romantics prize!

They Say Love is Blind by
Cerys Minty (Aylesbury High School)

Cerys Minty With Liz Lochhead

Like the slats in your Venetian Blind
I’m twisted shut or opened wide
Or yanked from cill to ceiling brisk
Or pulled apart for a quick glimpse

Don’t gaze through me at better views
With dreams beneath knitted brows you muse
Then veil me with curtains to hide my beams
Let me look at you if you won’t look at me

Here like swine after slaughter I swing
Suspended, hooked or nailed in
But I’d still sooner be at your liberty
Than at my own, unbound and drifting aimlessly

My name is Cerys Minty, I’m 17 years old and live in Milton Keynes. I am currently studying A Levels in English Literature, History and Politics and hope to study English Literature at university level in the future.

by Noor Isra Muhammad (Brighton College, Abu Dhabi)

Noor Isra Muhammad And Liz Lochhead

You say as the rain begins falling.
I watch you dash out without a worry,
And within minutes your black hair wet and dripping.
Your laugh thunders over to me,
Edging me to join you- a turbulence pushes through.
You start to spin,
And the droplets dance at your feet.
When our hands meet,
The stars in your eyes are spinning.
Lightning gathers at your fingertips.
Looking out towards the sinkable ships
I’m swimming in your smile, drowning in your blues.
We draw the eyes of faceless strangers
Too soon you’re no longer mine.
Our raft is drifting, our moon is melting away.
You thought it all too consuming, stifling and suffocating,
But it is me who is struggling for air
Lost for words and full of despair
As you spin out of my life.

2018's Winning Poem
by Allegra Mullan (Camden School for Girls)

Allegra Mullan And Liz Lochhead

Day one:

Over the crust of the world
The storm hums
And rolls thickly,
Considers bursting free.

Day two:

It hollows away the light,
Saturates the air.
Our bulbs bleed softly against it.

Day three:

The rain finally erupts,
And I feel the suck of gravity.
It rattles on leaves, umbrellas,
Glosses over the pavements.

This water swells in every street,
Breaks the land apart, quietly.
It has the soft colors of something gentle.
Smearing it all dull brown.

Prometheus's Song
by Nandita Naik (Proof School)

Nandita Naik

My song tumbles over the rose-lit meadow,
crawls childlike towards dawn.
Farmers pause to listen; cries of revolutionaries
rush through their ears.
These thundering voices are the only song I know.
With every trembling note, my song wades
through mountain streams, rappels down cliffs,
inhales the minty grass.
When wild horses stampede,
my song is the wind lifting their hooves.
I want to dance among feathers of fallen eagles,
to release the flames from the hearth.
I might be chained to this rock,
but my song sews wings to my spine
and I fly with my arms wide open.
Nandita Naik is an eleventh grader at Proof School, a math immersion school in San Francisco, California. She enjoys computer programming, music, and writing poetry, and is interested in combining the arts and technology.

Musings from a Revolution Mist
by Isabel Waters

Isabel Waters And Liz Lochhead

O Oracle
Do not lie to me.

This time, this time
The clouds have uncrossed,
Our hands are unbranded,
My future’s unlocked and the
Careless are stranded,
Or Dead.

We threw up their heads in celebration
Those who would not listen
Up into the sky to watch like stars,
Oracle come and see
We pulled their bloody regime,
Apart and apart and apart.
Not to come back together,

Oracle Tell me
“Liberty is yours forever”
This time, this time
It must not be a lie.

Squash by Isabel Waters

Baby you’re a fly
That’s my mantra now
Flies can’t howl when I squeak them
With my thumb,
Ow, ow, ow,
Into some lost sun,

So buzzer beware
You sound stain, parashite,
Tiny goon- the Next
Victim of the vacuum,

You have an ending,
It is mine for the moulding
I’ve already started folding
Quiet after quiet into you
Like I was blanketing a riot
Or carving out a bruise.

There is nothing,
You can do.

Essay Shortlist

'Sense and Sensibility (on Keats)' by Bryony Adshead (Derby High School)

Bryony Adshead And Liz Lochhead

I am a student in my final year of A-levels studying English Literature, History, German and Psychology. In September I will start my undergraduate degree in English at the University of Nottingham.

2018's Winning Essay
'Of Liberty and Revolutions' by Mine Kovavisarach (Wycombe Abbey School)

Mine Kovavisarch

Mine Kovavisarach is a 17 year old student at Wycombe Abbey. She loves history, contemporary literature and poetry.

'Hartley Coleridge' by Lucinda Menaul (Ibstock Place School)

Lucinda Menaul And Liz Lochhead

I am 18 and currently taking A-levels in English Literature, History and Latin at Ibstock Place School in London. I have a particular interest in the Romantic and Medieval periods, and the way in which authors’ lives and historical context inform their works, so I hope to pursue either English or History at university.

Young Romantics Prize 2018

A call to 21st century Young Romantic poets: to write on ‘Liberty’

Young Romantics is a prize established in 2015, for writing inspired by the Romantics, for all between 16-18.

In 1818, Percy Bysshe Shelley began work on his first and most famous hymn to Liberty – ‘Prometheus Unbound’, based on the myth of the chained Titan Prometheus, who had stolen fire from the Gods of Olympus to give to mankind.

“The nations thronged around, and cried aloud,
As with one voice, ‘Truth, liberty, and love!’”

It was the forerunner to his ‘Ode to Liberty’ written two years later.

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So what do we want from Liberty in 2018?

You are invited to write your own poem on Liberty; or an essay, which can be on any aspect of the work or lives of the Romantics and their circles.

Cash prizes of £2,000!

The Prize Chair is Liz Lochhead, the former Makar of Scotland and Winner of the Queen’s Medal for Poetry.


The Judges’ Panel for Poets will consist of Matthew Sweeney and Jo Shapcott; for the Essayists of Professor Simon Bainbridge and Professor Sharon Ruston. For more information about our Prize Chair and Judging Panel, click here.

The deadline for entries is 15th January 2018. Winners will be announced at an Awards ceremony in London, April 2018. Shortlisted entrants will be notified in person in March and their names posted on the website, and they will be warmly invited to attend. The winning poems and essays will be published. Full details of how to enter below.

Inspire us with your writing!

Conditions of Entry

You must be 16 and no more than 18 on 1st January 2018.

Entries may be submitted from any part of the world, but must be in English.

All entries are FREE. They must be in Microsoft Word format and accompanied by a completed and signed Entry Form.

Download the entry form here . Email it to: Entries will be acknowledged.

NB: Poems and essays are sent to the judges anonymously so please do not put your name on your actual entry.

Your Entry

Poems must be on the theme of Liberty, not a pastiche, and be of no more than 20 lines.

You can enter up to 2 poems and 2 essays.

Essays may be on any aspect of the lives of the Romantics and their circles, should be no more than 2,000 words including quotations, and should be written in a clear and accessible style. All sources must be acknowledged.

Winning entries will be published in the April 2019 issue of the Keats-Shelley Review (for copyright conditions see Entry Form). Entries must be original works. Plagiarism will not be accepted. They must not have been published previously, either in print or online or in any other media, nor previously submitted to us.

Deadline for entries: 15 January 2018