For our third Foyle Friday, we’re speaking to award-winning writers Jade Cuttle, Richard Osmond and Laura Potts – three exciting voices in contemporary poetry who kick-started their careers with the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Just over two weeks until the 2018 Award closes…
FYP: Commended twice, in 2010 and 2012.
What did winning mean to you? It was incredible and I’m so grateful – it’s really kicked off my passion for poetry and opened doors to exciting opportunities. It gave me the courage to keep doing what I adore.
What have you gone on to do? I studied French & Russian Literature at University of Cambridge, and will hopefully be starting an MA in Poetry at UEA soon! I also did the Foyle internship at The Poetry Society, and created my first workshop for Young Poets Network (on mathematical poetry), which inspired me to devise my Poetry of Trees workshop for Ilkley Literature Festival when I was Daljit Nagra’s Apprentice Poet-in-Residence (which I heard about through YPN!). I’ve also performed at lots of literature festivals, with upcoming performances at Ledbury Poetry Festival, and have self-released an album of poetic-folk songs (poeme-en-chansons), called ‘Leaves & Lovers’. I’ve been reviewing poetry a lot as part of Ledbury Poetry Festival’s Emerging Critic Scheme (founded by Sandeep Parmar & Sarah Howe, who have been incredible!), and recently won Best Reviewer (Editor’s Choice) in the Saboteur Awards 2018.
Favourite poets then? I’ve always enjoyed Simon Armitage and Carol Ann Duffy since studying them at GCSE.
Favourite poets now? Since I’ve started reviewing poetry, I’m sent books on a regular basis, which means I’m constantly discovering new favourites: Tishani Doshi, Alice Oswald, Doris Kareva…
Top tips for poets? I’ve learnt to enjoy experimenting with poetic form, testing the limits of language and embracing its limitless potential. I’ve created receipt poems, mathematical poems and film-poems. Currently, I’m using legalese to detail a boundary dispute between trees. I’d encourage all budding poets to embrace the ‘risk-taking’ aspect to poetic exploration!
FYP: Top 15 winner in 2005.
What did winning mean to you? It felt amazing – to have something validated so early meant that I felt I had permission to put much more energy and time into it in the future. Before, I would never have described myself as a poet, but after the FYP I did. Only later did it turn out to be true of course…
Favourite poet then? Eliot and Pound. Fire Sermon from ‘The Waste Land’ was a favourite. Those writers seemed an antidote to, a literal BLAST against, everything a typical teen boy dislikes about poetry – its fusty ornamentation, its chimey rhymey twee-ness. Of course I later learned the value of such things, embracing Wordsworth and Emily Dickinson and various other rhymers and flower-enjoyers.
Favourite poet now? Someone I am passionate about now, but had no interest in back then, is John Clare. I think he’s very misunderstood. The whole rustic, uneducated country madman thing conceals an incredible realness.
What are you up to now? I work as a professional Forager, hunting fruits, flowers, herbs and fungi among the hedgerows of Hertfordshire and serving them at my pub, The Verulam Arms in St Albans. In poetry, my first collection Useful Verses was published in 2017. It was awarded an Eric Gregory Award, shortlisted for the Costa Book of the Year Award, and has just been announced on the shortlist of the Seamus Heaney First Collection Award.
Top tips for poets? If there’s something you saw or heard about that inspired you and you want to write a poem about it, don’t spend ages trying to describe this initial thing in a vague, poetic way. Just come out and say it, and spend the energy on writing the poem. Rather than “There it was, the muscled male fallow / on hooftip stepping from the thicket with his leafless head-tree, / his forehead fork, adorned with the tiger-coloured plastic danger / of a giant’s upside down ice cream-holder”, just say “I saw a stag with a traffic cone stuck on its antlers” and go from there. If the main effect and value of your poem is making the reader try to figure out what on earth you’re talking about, you’re writing a riddle. (Riddles are good too though.)
Top tips for Foyle entrants? Read more. Read at least one book of poems for every poem you write, and decide what you like and what you don’t, and what you think poetry is for. Because some older poets, especially the big and famous ones, can’t even agree on that.
FYP: Commended in 2012 and 2013.
What did winning mean to you? Foyle was the spark that started the flame. It seemed to defend those long, contemplative hours in front of the page and said that, although they were spent alone, the voice they created reached far beyond those bedroom walls. It was a comforting thought; I felt like my voice needed to be heard. Most of all, Foyle helped to justify an entire sense of myself. Those acceptance letters carried more than just a fleeting week of joy. It’s still with me today.
Favourite poet then? It had to be Carol Ann Duffy (‘Hour’ and ‘Whoever She Was’ especially). Dylan was haunting me, too.
Favourite poem now? Those two are still around and always will be, but they’ve gained a few more friends. Clare Pollard a lot. Sometimes Kim Moore; sometimes John Foggin. And Leonard Cohen always.
What have you been up to? I became one of the BBC’s New Voices last year and my first poetic radio drama aired at Christmas with Carol Ann Duffy and Hollie McNish. I’m now in the midst of writing a second piece for the BBC and have high hopes for a stage play early next year. But we’ll see! When not writing I’m reading, so the poetry is always alive and well.
Advice for poets? I’ve always believed that the best writers are the best readers; that no writer exists in a vacuum. Writers find their own voice by gauging their place, almost by trial and improvement, in the epic annals of Literature. So read. Read. Pick up a book and read.
Any tips for Foyle entrants? The only regrets you’ll ever have are for the times you didn’t try.
The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is an opportunity for any young poet aged 11-17 to accelerate their writing career. Since it was founded in 1998 the Award has kick-started the career of some of today’s most exciting new voices. This year the Award celebrates its 20th anniversary, with lots of exciting activity throughout 2018.
Each year 100 winners (85 Commendations and 15 Overall Winners) are selected by a team of high profile judges, this year Caroline Bird (herself a former winner) and Daljit Nagra. There are loads of exciting prizes up for grabs, including publication, mentoring, poetry books and long-term support from The Poetry Society. Teachers can also access free teaching resources. Find out more and enter by 31 July 2018 at foyleyoungpoets.org
Don’t miss the other features in our Foyle Friday series…
- 2017 FYP Andrew Pettigrew interviews 2008 judge Ian McMillan
- We speak to former winners Helen Mort, Ankita Saxena and Richard O’Brien
- We catch up with former FYPs Amanda Chong and Phoebe Stuckes
- Hear from two FYPs and novelists Michael Donkor and Anbara Salam
- YPN speaks to literary agent Hattie Grunewald and once YPN editor Phoebe Walker
- Margot Armbruster interviews fellow FYP Peter LaBerge, founder of The Adroit Journal, in an American special
- FYP Meredith LeMaître interviews Sarah Howe
- Jay Bernard, Phoebe Power and Imogen Cassels reflect on winning the Foyle Award
- FYP Rachel Hard speaks about her job in children’s publishing now