Talented young writers announced as winners of the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize 2019

The winners of this year’s Terry Kelly Poetry Prize have been announced at The Customs House.

Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 10:48 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 2:48 pm
Some of the young people whose poems were shortlisted pictured at the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize 2019 ceremony

The competition, set up in memory of former Shields Gazette journalist Terry Kelly, attracted over 100 entries from young people across the north east.

Sophie Barnard won the primary category with her poem, ‘Don’t Put Plastic in the Sea’, with Brody Wotherspoon winning the secondary category with ‘Thinking Back’, and Julia Atherley being named the post-16 winner with ‘Blue Hydrangeas’.

A total of 47 poems - including three group entries - were shortlisted, by a judging panel made up of playwright Tom Kelly, senior lecturer in journalism Alistair Robinson, Sheila Wakefield, from Red Squirrel Press and former prize winner Lauren Apery.

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Late Gazette reporter Terry Kelly

The winners were announced at a ceremony held as part of the Takeover Festival at The Customs House during the May half-term holiday.

Elizabeth Kane, Learning Officer at The Customs House, said: “Once again the judges had a hugely unenviable task. Tom, Alistair, Sheila and Lauren spent a considerable amount of time deliberating. We are grateful for the time they give this prize.”

Lauren, who acted as the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize co-ordinator as part of the Takeover Festival, added: “It has been a pleasure receiving so many wonderful entries from young people all the way from primary school up to university.

“This competition is a testament to the young artistic talent in the north east and I am so proud to be a part of it.”

Now in its fourth year, The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize was set up by the Kelly family, to celebrate the life of its namesake and encourage young people in the north east, from all backgrounds, to enjoy reading and writing poetry.

Head judge Tom Kelly, Terry’s brother, said: “Terry was an avid reader and particularly loved the work of Bob Dylan and the poet Philip Larkin and wrote many articles and reviews on both.

“He enjoyed regular correspondence with poets including Hugo Williams, Barry MacSweeney, Tom Pickard and Brendan Cleary, among many others. Hugo Williams said Terry knew his poems better than he did.”

The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize 2019 was supported by Scottish Power Foundation, The High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear, South Tyneside Council, Arts Council England and the Gillian Dickinson Trust.

The shortlisted entries have been published in an anthology, which can be picked up for free at The Customs House.

Read the winning poems below.

Primary Winner – Sophie Barnard

Don’t Put Plastic in the Sea

Don’t put plastic in the sea,

it’s just not meant to be.

Fish, turtle, shark and seal,

really think this food is real.

They eat it up in their tummy,

then start to feel a bit funny.

They get stuck in nets all tangled,

this they really can’t have handled.

So please don’t put plastic in the sea,

it’s just not meant to be.

Secondary Winner - Brody Wotherspoon

Thinking Back

Thinking back, back in time,

it was never to be the same.

Tears broke out

just hearing your name.

There in your room,

which is frozen in time

as if it wasn’t true

that you aren’t there any more

yet you are the perfect part of me

that I just can’t ignore.

Each night awake

thinking of you

dreams await, yet are out of reach.

Tears caught by my pillow

as I call your name,

an emotion inside

I tried to hide,

impossible to say nor teach.

If only I could hug you

or just see your face

yet now only memories

to stand in your place.

She’s still in your heart

is what they say

which will always be true

yet I feel so far apart from you.

Post-16 Winner - Julia Atherly

Blue Hydrangeas

Looking back, I see the small obsessions – the deliberations

bordering on annoyance when you failed to find the thing

to fill the space.

The plastic greenhouses, oak sideboards, and

the china cockerel which we joked I would inherit when you were gone.

So, when I came across those Blue Hydrangeas, and carried them,

priest-like through the cul-de-sac to your door,

I linked our lives with more than Christmases.

Flowers that made me the golden granddaughter for a few dog walks.

Those Blue Hydrangeas picked out from life’s little day,

Earth’s joys, and a vicar telling me that December is a

Good Time To Die.

Blue Hydrangeas which you planted

in a water trough a little taller than you.