The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association is pleased to announce the shortlists for 2021’s Young Romantics Poetry and Essay Prizes. You can see the three finalists in each category, and download the shortlisted poems and essays, below. Because the standard was so high, we have also asked the Judges to name essays and poems of high quality that deserve to be ‘Highly Commended’.
The shortlisted entries are now being sent to Simon Barnes, the Chair of the Judging Panel, who will make the final decision. We hope to announce the winners in early September.
- Listen to Simon Barnes talk to the Keats-Shelley Podcast about nightingales and skylarks - both real and poetic.
We would like to send extra special thanks to our amazing Judging Panel – Professors Sharon Ruston and Simon Bainbridge for the essays, Professor Deryn Rees-Jones and Will Kemp for the poems. They always deserve huge credit for their expertise and hard work, but never more so than in this year of all years. You can read their thoughts below.
We also want to thank and congratulate everyone who entered 2021’s Prize. Inspired by the bicentenary of John Keats’ death, we have spent a lot of the past year wondering how poetry can help us confront, understand and if possible overcome adversity. Reading your work, whether poems or prose, gave us enormous pleasure and considerable hope during these dark times. We hope that the challenge of writing them did something similar.
Any questions regarding the 2021 Prize: email@example.com
Many poems showed great touches and a keen eye (or ear) for detail, but the ones that stood out were those that seemed most complete, fresh and contemporary. These poets seemed to use the theme as a loose starting point, let their thoughts and feelings wander, then sought to instil that sense of wonder in the reader. The three that made the shortlist felt the most ‘complete’ and generated lively and engaging poems that said things only those particular poems could say.
‘in the kelp forest’ by Katrina Naomi. The form of this poem, with perfectly positioned breathing (and perhaps thinking) spaces, allows us to explore an underwater world. There is something melancholic about how the speaker positions herself, knowing perhaps that to join the kelp would be to surrender her human life. But the poem also asks how we connect with the richness and difference of the world, and how we know and open ourselves in knowing it. Deryn Rees-Jones
‘Letters from Manuela’ by Victor Tapner. Manuela Sáenz was a revolutionary, a women’s rights protester and Simón Bolivar’s lover. The poem relates how Manuela ended her days translating letters from “one-night wives” for American whalers. Beautifully paced and under-stated, this refined but accessible poem has succinct imagery and a precision that belies the difficulty of writing in such a slender form. A great sadness pervades the poem as we – like her – are drawn to reflect ruefully on what might have been. A moving poem, then, and one that helps to rescue Manuela from obscurity. Will Kemp
‘Actaeon’ by Sam Garvan. This poised and elegant poem captures the moment when Actaeon, seeing his reflection in a pond, realises he has been transformed into a stag and is subsequently devoured by his own hounds. The poem beautifully suggests a before and after moment. In a deft fifteen lines, the poem uses the image of light as water as a vehicle for literal and metaphorical reflection. By focussing on immediate experiences, the poem moves deftly from “something” to “nothing”. We also participate in the moment of change, which here is the instant between life and death. Deryn Rees-Jones
Professor Deryn Rees-Jones and Will Kemp
Highly Commended: Poetry
‘Stainforth Force, North Yorkshire’ by David Wilson
‘Rime’ by Yvonne Reddick
‘Bathers’ by Ellora Sutton
There was an impressive range of response in the Keats-Shelley Prize Essays with a few themes emerging across the board. Some entries reflected upon personal circumstances but many demonstrated the quality of work being achieved—despite all this pandemic year has thrown at us – in English literary studies. We had essays on gender and sexuality, close readings of individual poems, introductions to lesser-known writers of the period, and re-introductions to well-known authors. There were some sophisticated and clever responses to Keats and Shelley and others of their era.
The field was strong and, in addition to the short-listed essays, Honourable Mentions should go to the following (in no particular order).
Professors Sharon Ruston and Simon Bainbridge
Highly Commended: Essays
‘Sympathetic Fluidity in Isabella, or The Pot of Basil and The Eve of St Agnes, alongside Pre-Raphaelite Artwork’ by Ella Mackenzie
‘On Descent into Ambiguity: John Keats, Charlotte Smith, and the Transitions of the Nightingale’ by Olive Amdur
‘“The Tale / Of what we are”: Shelley’s Formal Mythmaking in Alastor’ by Shellie Hester Audley
‘More than a Muse: Keats and the Feminine’ by Theresa Sowerby
‘“A troubled stream from a pure source”: the Promethean legacy in the works of Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron by Martin Vaux
‘A Tangible Darkness: Demogorgon, Dominion, and Doom’ by Lauren Schenkman
‘Edinburgh-Replies: A Genre’ by David O’Hanlon-Alexandra
‘Catastrophizing Time and Literary Form in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man’ by Jingsi Shen