Hailsham young person’s work wins ‘largest poetry competition in the world’

Libby Russell, photo by Hayley Madden
Libby Russell, photo by Hayley Madden

A young person from Hailsham has won a national award for a poem.

17-year-old Libby Russell’s work stood out from more than 11,000 other poems to become a winner of the Poetry Society’s Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award.

Libby Russell with an illustration of her poem by Chris Riddell

Libby Russell with an illustration of her poem by Chris Riddell

Described as the largest poetry competition in the world, it is aimed at 11-17-year-olds and previous winners include Game of Thrones star Ellie Kendrick and Sarah Howe, who went on to be a TS Elliot prize winner.

This year’s winners received their awards on Wednesday (October 2) at the Royal Festival Hall.

Libby was among the top 15 winners out of 6,000 young poets that entered this year from around the world.

Young writers from 76 countries entered the competition, from as far afield as Vietnam, Romania, Mexico and Japan.

The winners were selected by this year’s judges Jackie Kay and Raymond Antrobus.

Libby’s poem, A Word of Advice, is copied below in full.

A Word of Advice by Libby Russell

Stop falling in love with people you could write poems about.

Stop tripping over and drowning yourself in metaphors

And obsessing over similes

Like your silly white shirt is clouding your judgement.

Resist those with whom you can be Radcliffian,

Fall in love with no one in any way Byronic,

Or those who may resemble, in any sense, the rose.

Do not fall in love with someone who could

Drive you down a highway at night and

Make it feel like you were flying, dizzy

On the vitality and the necessity and the kissing

And the kissing and the kissing.

Minimise the ways in which your love is Italian,

And ensure that it is in no way French.

Just be a bit British about the whole thing.

Avoid great passion – keep your head.

It cannot end in anything

Better than a rhyming couplet.

Fall in love with someone who is prose at best.

Somebody you could write an article about -

A conversational, informational blog,

Someone fit for the BBC homepage on a Sunday:

Sticking to the facts with just a touch of emotion.

Perhaps find someone with clammy palms

So you won’t mind letting go.

Someone who has kissing down to a fine art,

By which I mean, a neatly framed watercolour:

Firm pecks – you could call them sobering -

Lipless; polite, with just a touch of affection.

Don’t get used to kissing in Kadinsky colours –

Find someone you can go grey with.

Hurdle the white picket fence and tumble

Through the window of a semi-detached,

Onto the sofa next to the sensible choice –

Someone you could take home to your mother –

Someone you can sit with, woodenly,

With the cat, and a cup of tea,

And ‘Songs of Praise’ providing the soundtrack

To your domestic tedium.

Calm down. Grow up. Come to terms

With the fact that love like that

Just isn’t for the likes of you.

It belongs to Other People, sealed away

Between the pages of an anthology,

(Think ‘The Nation’s Favourite Love Poems’)

Stowed secretly, adulterously, away in a nightstand.

Life will be sufficient, and you’ll get along just fine,

Because a tree grown in the dark can never miss the sun.

Consider settling for someone you could safely live without,

But please – stop falling in love with people you could write poems about.