Brighton Festival 2020Public booking opens: Wed 19 Feb, 9am

Peacock Poetry Prize: The Youthful Poet

Victoria York is administering the Peacock Poetry Prize for Brighton Festival 2014. The Prize is supported by Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College. In celebration of the number of high quality entries the Prize has received this year Victoria wrote this article in celebration of The Youthful Poet.

Wisdom is often said to be an ingredient of good writing, and one assumes that with wisdom comes the experience of having lived a long and fruitful life. Yet the proverb 'age and treachery will overcome youth and skill' sits uncomfortably with me. A simple look at some of our best loved poets and you see that it is youth and talent that often go hand in hand. A Google search quickly found me many literary greats whose work had the strength to survive beyond their short lives disputing Stanislaw Jaenzy Lec's idea that 'youth is a gift of nature but age is a work of art'. Their poetic accomplishments are celebrated long after they’ve deceased, opening up the question of poetry’s relationship with youth and proving that those on the other side of thirty are capable of achieving literature worth celebrating.

If I think about it, I would not consider John Keats to have been particularly young when reading his work. The way he describes the bright star’s eternal lids and the aches of love so evidently felt and read between the lines of his poems, evoke maturity and experience. Keats however, died at the age of 25. This was a man (not far off being a boy) that existed and still exists forever ageless within his poetry, opposing the fact that age is relevant at all. It proves that children, teenagers and young adults are exposed to the very same beats and rhythms of life and can offer a perspective beyond innocence and naivety that would be so quickly associated with youth. This is not a matter of offering 'a voice of a generation', any person, young or old, big or small, can resonate with a good poem, just as any person young or old, big or small, can write a good poem. AA Milne wrote my favourite poems from childhood despite the fact that he was an adult. And why shouldn't it work the other way?

Unfortunately young people aren’t always encouraged to celebrate their own talents, thinking that time and experience will give them artistic development and improvement. Emotions can often be dismissed with comments like 'oh darling you are too young to experience THAT' when from my first-hand experience it is during youth when things are the most intense and so much feels amplified. The list below should be enough to inspire those that do write, that they can write and sit among the greats. There are no boundaries and there should be no limits. Submit your words and your work could be applauded, long after the standing ovation sits back down.

See below for small extracts from some of the world’s best loved, young poets. Can you think of any youthful poets whose work you love? 

John Keats (died aged 25)

Bright Star
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

Fragment: Modern Love
And what is love? It is a doll dress'd up
For idleness to cosset, nurse, and dandle;
A thing of soft misnomers, so divine
That silly youth doth think to make itself
Divine by loving, nad so goes on
Yawning and doting a whole summer long

Wilfred Owen (Died aged 25)

The Anthem for Doomed Youth
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.

Sylvia Plath (Died aged 31)

I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do

I Am Vertical
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.

Doom of Exiles
Backward we traveled to reclaim the day
Before we fell, like Icarus, undone;
All we find are altars in decay
And profane words scrawled black across the sun.

Thomas Chatterton (Died age 17)

A New Song
A blame me not, Broderip, if mounted aloft,
I chatter and spoil the dull air;
How can I imagine thy foppery soft,
When discord's the voice of my fair?