Harlow woman wins National Poetry Competition

Education: Secondary / Wed 3rd Apr 2024 at 07:00am

JUDGES Jane Draycott, Clare Pollard and Will Harris have awarded first prize for the National Poetry Competition 2023 to Imogen Wade, for her poem, ‘The Time I Was Mugged in New York City’.

The judges described the winning piece as ‘An extraordinary and thought-provoking poem, whose paradoxical lyricism in the account of an abduction demands reading and re-reading.’

Imogen grew up in Harlow. She has previously won First Prize in the Ware Poets Open Competition 2023 and was runner- up in The Poetry Business New Poets Prize 2023. Imogen was captivated by poetry from a young age and was commended in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, run by The Poetry Society.

Her winning poem, ‘The Time I Was Mugged in New York City’ is inspired by a real life experience. Imogen explained what led her to work on this idea:

‘Writing this poem helped me step into my memories and unknot an event that I’d never processed. I revisit my nineteen year old self, an exchange student in the hazy cityscape of New York, as she travels from the airport to the station. The van’s interior emerges as a charged symbolic space when the narrator encounters it again in her interactions and dreams. I learned that the past doesn’t always stay past and sometimes in order to process a trauma, I have to revisit it — even if that means entering the same van I am trying to escape from. Process is progress and poetry carries great psychotherapeutic power.’

The judges selected the winning poem from 19,000 poems entered into the competition from 8,841 poets in 110 countries. All the poems were read anonymously by the judges.

The judges said of the winning poem: ‘An extraordinary and thought-provoking poem, whose paradoxical lyricism in the account of an abduction demands reading and re-reading. Opening with the speaker’s recollection of ‘finding herself’ in her abductor’s van, the poem narrates in strangely beautiful detail how she travels with him as his prisoner through the city, where he finally takes all her money and then helps her out of his van ‘like a princess’, holding her bags ‘like a vassal’ and kissing her on the cheek.

It’s a poem which very skilfully and subtly opens up the psychological complexity of assault accompanied by an insidious kind of chivalry – ‘Sometimes in my dreams…I don’t need to be ordered’ – where the mugging might also perhaps stand for other kinds of violation or abuse or manipulative relationship. Most skilfully of all, its invitation to think and think again about the apparent paradox at its heart hauntingly mirrors the recurrence of the victim’s after-dream at the poem’s astonishing close.’

Imogen said of the win: ‘Winning the National Poetry Competition feels like a dream come true. I work so hard at my writing, and to have recognition at this level from the judges is incredible. It marks an important transition point in my career as a poet.’ Since it began in 1978, the National Poetry Competition has been an important milestone in the careers of many leading poets, with previous winners including Sinéad Morrissey, Ruth Padel, James Berry, Carol Ann Duffy, Jo Shapcott and Tony Harrison. Imogen Wade wins £5,000 for her First Prize poem. Nine other winners were also named in the National Poetry Competition, including Second Prize winner Fawzia Muradali Kane for her poem ‘Eric’ and Third Prize winner Rency Jumaoas Raquid for ‘Like Her’. The seven commended poets are: A.V. Bridgwood, ‘You have eaten the patriarchy’; george graves, ‘crying at video’; Harriet Jae, ‘God has M.E.’; Katie O’Pray, ‘Sertraline Fever’; Jack Nicholls, ‘To Do’; Anna Selby, ’Liberty Caps’; Madeleine Wuzburger, ‘Oranges’.

All the winning poems will be published on the Poetry Society’s website at www.poetrysociety.org.uk/npc.

The top three poems will be published in the Spring 2024 issue of the Poetry Society’s poetry journal, The Poetry Review. An interview with Imogen Wade can be found in the Spring issue of The Poetry Society’s quarterly newspaper Poetry News. The next National Poetry Competition will be open in June with full details of how to enter at www.poetrysociety.org.uk/npc. The closing date for entries is 31st October 2024.

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3 Comments for Harlow woman wins National Poetry Competition:

2024-04-03 11:02:14

Brilliant. Brought up in Harlow, one wonders which school?

2024-04-03 13:12:18

Great to hear about local talent doing well nationally or globally. Congratulations!

Matthew Gillman
2024-04-03 18:54:04

The poem is at the end of this article: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/books/2024/mar/25/poem-inspired-by-new-york-mugging-wins-top-prize-in-national-poetry-competition

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