BBC Proms Poetry Competition 2016

The BBC Proms Poetry Competition 2016 is open for entries!

Phot: BBC/Chris Christodoulou
Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

The BBC Proms Poetry Competition, run by the BBC Proms in association with The Poetry Society, explores the connection between words and music by asking entrants to submit a poem about a piece of music in this year’s Proms season. The Proms is an eight-week series of music concerts and other events, held mainly at the Royal Albert Hall in London. 

The 2016 season includes classical composers such as Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart, as well as special concerts, including a tribute to David Bowie, a celebration of Shakespeare, creative compositions by teenage musicians, and much more.

There are two age categories in the poetry competition: 12-18 and 19 and over, so all users of Young Poets Network are welcome to submit!

All you have to do is:

  1. Choose a piece of music from this year’s Proms season. You can hear some clips on the event pages.
  2. Write your poem (up to 25 lines in length).
  3. Download an application form from the competition website and enter it with you poem(s).

The poems will be judged by a panel which includes Ian McMillan, presenter of Radio 3’s The Verb, poet Jackie Kay, Judith Palmer, Director of The Poetry Society, and a member of The Proms Extra Literary team or Radio 3 editorial team.

An interview with Rhiannon Williams

Young Poets Network caught up with the 2015 winner in the 12-18 category, Rhiannon Williams to talk music, open mic nights and a first attempt at NaNoWriMo. You can read Rhiannon’s wonderful winning poem, ‘Behind the Dynamics’, here

  • You’re a pretty prolific young writer Rhiannon! When did you start writing, and what was it that prompted you to write?

I caught the writing bug early; I can remember filling notebook after notebook with short stories and poems from a very young age and proudly telling anyone who asked that I wanted to be an ‘authress’ (authoress) when I grew up.

I suppose I attribute it to the fact that I was such a voracious reader and naturally wanted to try my hand at creating the stories on the page myself. But another fairly significant prompt was the National Novel Writing Month project where I tried to write a novel in a month when I was 13. As well as prompting me to write regularly it helped me to feel like an ‘actual’ writer because at that age you need to take yourself very seriously of course

  • What was it about this competition that particularly attracted you to enter? Are you a very musical person?

Describing myself as a very musical person would not be very truthful, but I do enjoy listening to and playing all kinds of music. The competition seemed like an exciting opportunity and something challenging to occupy myself with over the summer.

  • What’s your opinion of the relationship between poetry and music?

I think there is a very poignant relationship between the two; each is highly emotional and a way of communicating that attempts to say old things in new ways. Rhythm, lyrics and sounds also play such a key role in each art form. I think the fact that Chopin is known as ‘the poet of the piano’ speaks volumes for the connection between romantic music and poetry, and the title fits so perfectly when you listen to his compositions.

Then there is the more modern relationship between music and poetry which thrills me – where poetry is now rapped and performed as spoken word, a perfect hybrid of music and poetry pioneered by the likes of Kate Tempest.

A Proms orchestra
A Proms orchestra
  • Why did you choose Mahler’s Symphony No.5 in C Minor as the inspiration for your poem?

Mahler’s 5th struck me as having so many hidden depths to it that I wanted to explore what the music was trying to say with my own words.

  • Tell us a little bit about the awards ceremony and the experience of being at the Proms

The ceremony was much larger than I thought, and passed in a bit of a blur. I didn’t feel nervous because I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. One minute I was arriving and meeting people and being offered milky tea, then suddenly I was talking into a microphone on stage… But looking back it was an incredible experience. I’m very grateful to have had the chance to be involved with the Proms.

  • What was it like meeting poets Ian Macmillan and Kate Clanchy? What did you talk about?

It is always fantastic to meet established and renowned writers. We generally talked poetry, influences and Ian calmed me down no end about the prospect of being interviewed. Talking to Kate Clanchy was very illuminating, particularly in regards to the poetry world and what it is like out there. I have reservoirs of respect for both writers and their work.

  • What was it like to meet other young poets? Is it tricky finding other young writers to talk to?

I enjoy finding other young writers to talk to, and wish it could happen more often! The internet is obviously great for keeping in touch and finding like-minded people. The friends that I have made in poetry this far have been from the open mic spoken word nights that take place around London, as people work the circuit and familiar faces pop up recurrently. It is limiting being on the younger end of the spectrum however… 

  • How did it feel having your winning poem read out?

Surreal. I had a moment where I was doubting the fact that I had actually written the words and wondered if it was all an elaborate daydream.

  • What plans do you have next for your writing?

Concrete plans are hard to make because it depends how well the writing is going! Recently my inspiration has been coming in stops and starts, often the words feel congealed inside my head. But I plan to enter more competitions and perhaps submit to online magazines as well as continue to network and practice both page poetry and spoken word writing.

  • If you had to choose one piece of advice to give to other young writers, what would it be?

Enter competitions! If you are shortlisted or win it does wonders for your confidence. If nothing comes of it there is no harm done and at least you will have been writing. Also, I would like to say that you shouldn’t get hung up over whether you are writing the ‘right’ kind of poetry – there is no right or wrong way to write poetry, that is why it’s so marvellous.

This competition is now closed – you can read the wonderful winning poems at the top of this page.

Published July, 2016

2 thoughts on “BBC Proms Poetry Competition 2016

    1. Hi Riwaj,

      This competition asks you to create a poem in response to a piece of music in this year’s Proms season. You can hear some clips on the event pages here:

      You can then submit your poem(s) via email or post – the contact details, along with all the competition information and guidelines, are listed here:

      I hope that makes things clearer – best of luck with your writing,

      Young Poets Network

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