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Vote of confidence for young writers

Andrew Bailey explains how the Foyle Young Poets of the Year award can help nurture students' creative talent and get their work published

It is thrilling to have a poet in your class, reading their poems, talking about their inspirations and working with the students, but it is even more exciting to find that the talented writer is one of the students.

Naturally, you encourage the young poets to explore their talent, and let them know about the fact there's a large and diverse community of poets of all ages writing around the world. However, once poets embrace writing, their thoughts turn to publication, and the school newsletter can seem too small very quickly. One of the most frequent queries to the Poetry Society's education department - after "Can you find my school a poet?" - is "How do I get this talented young poet published?".

The answer is much the same as for adults - the usual way in is through competitions and magazines. The Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition, for example, publishes 15 poems every year by poets from around the country, and gives recognition (and prizes) to 100 winners. All of these students become Youth Members of the Poetry Society, and therefore able to publish more of their poems in a devoted section of the Poetry Society website. Poems are now invited for the 2005 award, which is open to young writers aged 11-17. It's free to enter, so if you don't want to single out a specific poet, it's just as easy to send a class set of poems.

Can teachers help nurture young poets' work so that it gets better and better? It is an ongoing argument, but one of last year's winners, Maria Onyango, remembers a teacher who was able inspire the entire class to write sonnets, by giving the students enough knowledge and confidence in the formal techniques to feel free to express themselves in them. Helen Mort, another 2004 winner, believes that teachers can "encourage students to develop independent responses to poetry and to express their opinions".

Of course, those independent responses may be expressed in the form of poems and encouraging students to send their poems out for publication can be one of the best ways to show your belief that their poetry deserves a place in a more public arena than the school.

* The closing date for entries to The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2005 is July 31. Winners will be invited to the prize-giving on October 6, National Poetry Day, and to attend a week-long residential course at the Arvon Centre in Lumb Bank. They will also have their poems printed in a specially published magazine.

There are no limits on the length, subject matter or number of poems submitted. It is important to include the name, address, date of birth and school (if appropriate) on the back of each poem or on the top of the email. Send entries to: Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award (TES), Poetry Society, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX or Email:

To receive a free copy of the 2004 winners' anthology, And the Air Sang, send a 35p stamped addressed envelope to the Poetry Society.

* The competition is supported by The TES

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