Leytonstone Walthamstow

Borough’s best poems announced

The winners of the borough’s annual poetry competition
By Victoria Munro

First place winners Cat and Luca with judge Joelle Taylor
First place winners Cat and Luca with judge Joelle Taylor

The winners of the borough’s annual poetry competition were announced last month, with poems about violence against women taking home the top prizes.

Walthamstow residents Cat Turhan, 30, and Luca Parry-Williams, 13, won the local adults and young poets categories, accepting their prizes at Ye Olde Rose & Crown pub on 8th December.

All winners and commended poets read their entries to the gathered crowd, with the youngest poet to read being 10-year-old Chingford student Frankie Goldhill.

The winning poems were picked from thousands of entries by award-winning Walthamstow poet Joelle Taylor, whose most recent collection is shortlisted to win the T.S. Elliot prize.

Joelle Taylor (credit: Roman Manfredi)

Cat, who moved to Walthamstow in 2018, said her poem ‘Gorgon’ came about thanks to a Zoom art club in lockdown, when she was randomly assigned the gorgon card from Magic: The Gathering to inspire her next piece. The challenge coincided with the murder of Sarah Everard so the poem became a way of dealing with “feeling angry and unable to get vengeance for that death”.

Cat credits her success to the “amazing poetry community in Waltham Forest”, adding: “Walthamstow is an inherently arty community and the poetry aspect is absolutely alive and kicking.

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“The poets network is really active and so many people regularly contribute, it’s been a real source of inspiration. I’m relatively new to the area so it’s been really great having that feeling of being part of something.”

Young winner Luca, who attends Walthamstow School for Girls, also chose to focus on sexual assault in their poem ‘Glass Body’, inspired by the experiences of people they know.

They said: “I wasn’t expecting to win because I know there are a lot of talented writers around Walthamstow so I was dancing around the kitchen for ages.

“I don’t really have an outlet to vent my feelings so I like to do it through poetry to keep a healthy mindset. I sometimes find myself writing it automatically because I’ll have a thought and have to write it down in case I forget.”

Both second and third place in the young poets prize went to 12-year-old Walthamstow Academy student Kerrisha Alexander-Thompson, whose poetry is inspired by her identity as a black girl in Britain and said winning two top spots “felt unreal”.

Third place adult winner JP Seabright, from Leytonstone, said it felt great to share their work after decades of “writing in the dark”.

They said competitions like this one, run by Forest Poets, are “incredibly important to encourage people to write”, particularly children, adding: “If I had something like this growing up, I wouldn’t have waited until 48 to start writing things.”

The local prize awards £50, £30 and £20 prizes to the top three poets in both categories, sponsored by The Stow Brothers.

Follow Forest Poets on Twitter @ForestPoets and prize winners Cat and JP at @cattyfantastic and @errormessage

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