Sixth form poetry talent on show


A talented Oxford teenager has won one of the most prestigious poetry competitions in the UK.

A talented Oxford teenager has won one of the most prestigious poetry competitions in the UK.

Dominic Hand, 18, was awarded the 2014 Christopher Tower Poetry Prize, an annual award to encourage aspiring poets aged 16 to 18.

The theme for this year’s competition was “News”, a subject which attracted 630 entrants from a total of 345 schools.

Dominic, a year 13 student at Magdalen College School, won the £3,000 first prize for Annunciation, his poem based on an 1887 painting by George Hitchcock. He has an offer to study English at Oxford’s Oriel College.

The winner of the £1,000 second prize was Sam Buckton, from Rudolf Seiner School in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, for a poem called Hell-of-an-island, while Masha Voyles, from Charterhouse in Godalming, Surrey, was awarded the £500 third prize for Bat Child Found.

Alexander Shaw, from King’s Priory School, Tyne and Wear, Charlie Holmes from George Heriot’s School, Edinburgh, Jessica Matthews, from Coleg Gwent Crosskeys Campus, Newport, and Phoebe Stuker from West Somerset College, Minehead, were shortlisted for the prize, receiving £250 each.

They were all presented with their awards at a special ceremony held at Christ Church, Oxford. This year’s judges were poets Olivia McCannon, Kei Miller and Peter McDonald.

Speaking at the prize-giving, Ms McCannon said: “It was a pleasure to read so many inventive submissions approaching the theme in different ways – engaging with current affairs and historical events, playing on the language of headlines and captions or exploring the point at which information becomes news.”

The competition, now in its 14th year, has built a reputation for discovering fresh and exciting poetry talent, with previous winners going on to develop successful writing careers. More than 9,000 young poets have entered the competition since it launched in 2001.

To read the winning poems, go to

CAPTION: Towering talents: The shortlisted poets (l-r) Charlie Holmes, Jessica Matthews, Sam Buckton, Masha Voyles, winner Dominic Hand (also pictured alone), Alexander Shaw, and Phoebe Stucker (Photos: Ralph Williamson)

Annunciation by Dominic Hand (After George Hitchcock, 1887) 

On the brink of a late-
nineteenth century twilight, this girl is still
at the edge of the lake. See how silently she gathers
each stem – the wavering rows
like a passage of time – as between
the layers of lilies like a veil,
her agitated movements go unseen.


The water is hard in the milky light, taut
as her dress in the labouring wind.
And behind her the deserted fields recede
into an empty sky. This is the way
we enter in: threading back
down to the horizon, back
to before the birth of god.


Eyes closed, she does not know
that a bud has slipped
from out of her grasp. How, in an instant,
like a bead of glass, it will break
the surface of the upturned sky. And,
like a wing unfurling, the world
will loosen into beauty.


Here it will set the seed
of sorrow at the heart. Here
at the quiet centre of each minute, she holds
the lilies in her pure white frame.


So she waits with patience for the aftersong
of silence, forever as the world becomes undone.


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