TEENAGERS from Oxford won a war of words yesterday to be named young poets of the year in a worldwide competition .

Esme Partridge, 16, from Oxford Spires Academy, and Dominic Hand, 18, from Magdalen College School, were named Foyle Young Poets of the Year.

They beat off 7,748 other young poets between 11 and 17 who entered from 75 countries across the world.

The pair were awarded the title at London’s Southbank Centre on National Poetry Day.

Esme, from Cowley, said: “I was over the moon when I found out. I was really, really happy and pleased.

“It was the first time I entered so I didn’t know what to expect, I just knew it was massive.”

The teenager wrote her poem, “I took God with me camping…”, after getting home from a Christian festival in August.

She added: “I just love the freedom that comes with writing poetry and the ability to express whatever you want to.

“I write about anything I am passionate about or anything that happens to me in my life. I get inspiration from all kinds of places.”

Esme and Dominic won a week’s poetry writing course in February and membership of the Poetry Society as part of the prize.

Dominic, from Iffley, said: “I was quite surprised when I found out I won but it was something I hoped for. It is such a platform for getting published in the future.

“Poetry is what I want to do with my life, so whenever I have a moment I write. I have never had any blank stage yet.

“For me poetry always starts with an image or a line of music which comes to you from somewhere unexpected. “They really stay with you, which you craft poetry around.”

Dominic based his poem, “An Interior Scene”, on a painting by 17th century Dutch painter Pieter de Hooch.

Rather than writing a poem for the competition he picked one he had already written that he thought was suited to it.

Dominic is hoping to study English Literature at Oxford University’s New College and work as a poet.


Dominic's poem

An Interior Scene
Pieter de Hooch, Mother Lacing Her Bodice beside a Cradle, 1659-60
How lines structure these receding rooms – their polished floors and divided halls –
is how light fractures in their passages.
Apertures divide the corridors:
every angle strung to a balanced hold.
A mother sits enclosed by the shade,
before a curtain fringed with
copper light:
her hand poised, threading a lace,
over an empty cradle.
The pictures on the walls
withdraw into their muted scenes.
She has not seen that the evening
is arriving, that the candle
on the table has burnt out.
Taken by symmetries, we wait
at the point of movement.
Her child in the distance,
in a flood of light – already gone
into the next room – drawn
by the open door, ready to depart.


Esme's poem

I took God with me camping...
I took God with me camping.
Here God – this is a tent.
It leaks;
round raindrops soak our bedclothes
and we wake up with wet toes.
This is my dominant friend,
ordering the poles,
when she doesn’t know what the hell she is doing.
You made her God.
These are my wellies.
Thank you for the gift of these
and for the provision of money to buy them.
When I camp, they are
(dare I say it) a God-send.
God, these are portaloos.
They are crap.
Yesterday’s grass stains, mud clumps
and only you know what else,
litter the hollow floor.
God, this is a zip.
It is the only thing standing
between a thief and the contents of my purse.
My dominant friend declares,
with hands on hips,
she knows who did it.
She has no more clue
than the rest of us penniless sods
staring down at open suitcases.
But someone did it God.
They are one of six thousand
on this campsite,
spending my change on doughnuts and coke.
‘The Prodigal Son’ springs to mind,
but God, that lesson
is one of the hardest to learn.
Besides, forgiveness is not one
of the ten commandments and
Thou Shalt Not Steal
is number 8.
I know you didn’t make our tent,
the loos or zips...
but why did you make all this rain?
Even my dominant friend
calls on you God
when she sees the state of the sky.
But now it is eleven pm
and the dark that you called night.
This is a thermos flask:
hot chocolate – would you like to taste?
This is a woolly hat, a hoodie,
wellies that I haven’t removed
since Thursday.
These are four folding chairs,
arranged in a neat circle.
And above us, God, are all your stars.