Azfa’s powerful poem scoops prestigious prize


A talented Oxfordshire teenager has won one of the most celebrated poetry competitions in the UK.

A talented Oxfordshire teenager has won one of the most celebrated poetry competitions in the UK. 

Azfa Ali, 18, (pictured above) scooped the 2013 Christopher Tower Poetry Prize, an annual award to encourage aspiring poets aged 16 to 18. The competition, now in its 13th year, has a reputation for discovering fresh and exciting poetry talent. 

The theme for this year’s competition was “The Details” and Azfa, a year 13 student at Oxford Spires Academy, won the £3,000 first prize for her poem entitled Origins.

Azfa, who is going to study creative writing at Warwick University this autumn, was presented with her award at a reception held at Oxford University’s Christ Church last week.

Sue Croft, principal of Oxford Spires, said: “We are so proud of Azfa’s achievement and her poetry and believe this is the most prestigious beginning to her recognition as a talented poet. Azfa joined Oxford Spires in September 2010 and we have been fortunate to have experienced her talent regularly as she is a stunning performance poet as well as a writer of poetry. Her writing is so lyrical and she is a great orator.”

The winner of the £1,000 second prize was Sarah Fletcher from The American School in London, while Erin Tunney, from De Lisle Catholic Science College in Loughborough, was awarded the £500 third prize. 

Kathryn Cussons, from St Paul’s Girls’ School in London, Luke van den Barselaar, from Colyton Grammar School in Devon, and Eva Wallace, from Strathearn School in Belfast, were shortlisted. 

More than 600 young poets, from a total of 313 schools, entered this year’s competition, which was judged by poets Bernard O’Donoghue, Carrie Etter and Peter McDonald. Visit

Origins by Azfa Ali 

1 Killindoni
In my hometown:
I felt the rough sand
scrub against my feet;
chased salty orange crabs
who pinched my pinkie tight; so by firelight,
I would crunch into lemon-seeping shells,
feel the faint texture of sand resting on my tongue.


2 Refugee on a Motorway
Clutch the parcel of clothes
balancing on your head,
stare at the cluttered road ahead
with your Kanga
wipe off beads of sweat.
With trembling legs,
brush past the first car’s face:
enter the metal maze,
feel the hot steel
crush you into a flower.
See the world like a
white square tower
turn into a haze.
Let your skin shed its brown
and instead become blue,
violet, pomegranate red.


3 Scotland
In my country:
I grew up in the Gorbals,
with Kwiksave, the Junkies,
and chucking snowballs;
watching fireworks
on the eighth floor of my council flat,
listening to the bangs and cracks;
watching the orange flames
flower out.


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