“The Best Place for Young Poets”: YPN at 10

How can Young Poets Network change your life? This month, we’ll be hearing from some of the young people involved in YPN from the past ten years, starting with two brilliant poets from different continents, who curiously got started with the same challenge.

Jayant Kashyap

Jayant Kashyap turns to his right and smiles with arms crossed
Photo: Harshit Saurabh

I first got involved in Young Poets Network in 2017, I think, but my poem ended up not winning that particular challenge (Melting Ice). When I was eighteen, I submitted a poem to the Bletchley Park challenge and that’s where my journey with YPN really began. Winning the third prize in the challenge was the best thing that has ever happened to me, and with YPN’s support through the past few years, I’ve had the confidence to write more and to focus even more on improving my writing.

I think my poetry has improved significantly after my first win, and having been commended or longlisted in quite a few other challenges at YPN has given me the much-needed boost at different times to keep working on my writing. The added confidence as a result has always been a treasure.

I’m a student-poet from India and I’m currently working towards getting into a UK uni for a Creative Writing MA. One of my poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018, and I’ve had a couple of chapbooks (pamphlets) published in the US – Survival (Clare Songbirds, 2019) and Unaccomplished Cities (Ghost City, 2020) – and am working on a couple of other collections, one of which has a lot to with Adam and Eve, and the other has almost all of its characters’ names beginning with an E. I also read poetry for Quarterly West as a volunteer reader and manage Bold + Italic. Other than that, I’m keeping an eye out for workshops (free, mostly) to learn even better things.

In India, it has actually been a bit difficult for me to find friends who work on poetry with the same craziness as myself. During the lockdown in 2020, I ended up making a few friends online via YPN and they’re amazing at what they do. I’m really grateful for being able to find people I can discuss a lot of poetry with. I’m sure YPN is the best place for young poets based anywhere in the world.

Book cover: Unaccompanied Cities by Jayant Kashyap. Black and white photo of a lightning bolt striking a forest Book cover: Survival by Jayant Kashyap. A single desert weed on sand.

Jack Cooper

Jack Cooper reads at a podiumI first got involved in Young Poets Network in late 2018, with the Bletchley Park challenge, which asked for poetic responses to the facility’s wartime codebreaking. I hadn’t felt inspired for a while, and played around with some ideas on the bus home from a writers group at the Southbank Centre (where I’d brought some ancient poem of mine, pretending it was fresh). The challenge had the perfect blend of novelty and whimsy, and ended up having a lot of fun. I was commended and featured in the Ode to Code anthology, and haven’t looked back since!

The greatest pleasure of YPN challenges is how they lead you away from well-trodden paths, overworked muses. They take you to a creative buffet! You might not like every dish, every form, every concept offered to you, but you’re willing to take a bite of each. I’ve entered almost every challenge since I got involved with YPN, writing at least one new poem for each. Thanks to YPN, I’ve written over thirty poems that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

My writing has become more precise; I’m more willing to follow an idea as far as it can take me, and really dig into absurd and razor-sharp imagery. My knowledge of contemporary poets has grown, as has my understanding of the forms poetry can take. I’ve been collaborating with musicians recently, and am thinking of doing a multimedia poetry project. I’ve become more adventurous, and shed any anxieties about my writing. Poetry is a place to be playful, no point worrying!

Don’t see the challenges as something to win, but something to have fun with. You’ll be surprised at how much you end up taking away from that play, that experimentation.

@JackCooper666 (Twitter) / @JackCooper0696 (Instagram)

April 2021 marks ten years of Young Poets Network, and we’re celebrating all month! Send your poems to our YPN10 challenge, discover the history of Young Poets Network and sign up to our free mailing list to join this community of young poets worldwide.

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