Two Kentish teens win prestigious global poetry competition


Lulu Marken, 15, from Tunbridge Wells

Submitted to Kent and Sussex Mail

Two young writers from Kent have been named among the top 15 winners of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2021.

Lulu Marken, 15, of Tunbridge Wells, and Erin Hateley, 16, of Dartford, beat more than 6,000 youngsters from around the world in this prestigious competition.

Managed by The Poetry Society and supported by the Foyle Foundation, the prize is firmly established as a premier competition for young poets between the ages of 11 and 17.

This year, young people from 109 countries have entered from as far away as Argentina, Egypt, Kenya, South Korea, Seychelles and all over the UK.

From these poems, this year’s judges Clare Pollard and Yomi Sode selected 100 winners, comprised of 15 great poets and 85 recognized poets.

“After a period where the burden of the pandemic has often fallen so heavily on young people, we have been moved by the beauty, fire and resilience of these poems,” the judges said.

Lulu Marken’s Dragon Tails

Limestone wraps around a cork hole like a dragon’s tail.
I washed underwear, color of Virginia red clay mines
In the same sink
In which I spat toothpaste at 5 years old.
Nimbostratic rusty water, rimmed with soap scum,
The kind of water you could drown in –
while your mother sits near the stove, searing onions in oil –
Without ever being killed.

Loulou said:

“It was so unexpected; I never thought I could actually win, and when I found out I did, it was the best kind of shock.

The judges said, “These poets write from diverse backgrounds, landscapes and experiences, and this has resulted in a rich variety of forms and languages. Here are poems on youth, gender, poverty, love, struggle, politics, culture, family. Poems full of legitimate anger and hard-earned hope.

“But it was the vivid images that stuck in our minds: ‘a big chalk of canned coconut milk’; the “tender sloppy” garlands; “Limestone wrapping around a cork hole like a dragon’s tail”; the “glow” of dust in the spotlight; the smell of ‘Chick King’; ‘cracked plastic cups at children’s parties’. These are poems that fully inhabit this present moment.

Sh * tty poem by Erin Hateley

Write a shitty poem
cause shit poems are like
left unsent at the back of the post office
half-smoked cigarettes,
a deflated rugby ball in the bushes behind the school field.
poems of shit
are like headphones
but when one ear is awake,
warm bread instead of toast,
cracked plastic cups at children’s parties
this orange squash cries all over the ground and ends up cutting someone’s lip.
sh * tty poems are like me.
Poem poems are like me when I’m barely awake
Poem poems are like me when I haven’t eaten in days
Poem poems like me when my hair looks like a fucking troll doll
Poem poems are like me when I’m face down and haven’t moved for an hour
Poem poems are like me and always have been
because poems are shit
but damn it, they’re alive
and they’re so messy and so stupid and so cranky and so wonderfully, horribly, fantastically
and so beautiful.

Erin Hateley, 16, from Dartford

Erine said:

“When I found out I was a winner, I was speechless! I never thought that my poem would be chosen, but I am incredibly happy and very grateful that I won.

Winners receive a fantastic range of prizes to help them develop their writing.

The top 15 poets are invited to take a residential writing course at the Arvon Center in Shropshire. There, they will spend a week with this year’s judges, Clare and Yomi, focusing on improving their poetry and building a community of writers.

Next spring, the top 15 poems will be published in a print winners anthology (also available online) and the 85 recommended poems will appear in an online anthology.

Both anthologies showcase the talent of the winners and are distributed free of charge to thousands of schools, libraries, reading groups and poetry enthusiasts across the UK and the world.


The 100 winners receive a year of Poetry Society youth membership and a goodie bag full of books donated by Foyle’s generous sponsors. The Poetry Society continues to support recipients throughout their careers by providing them with publishing, performance and development opportunities, and access to a paid internship program.

The 15 best young Foyle poets of the year 2021 are:

  • Lulu Marken, 15, Tunbridge Wells
  • Erin Hateley, 16, Dartford
  • Evie Alam, 14, Southern Shields
  • Ahana Banerji, 17, Putney, London
  • Alex Dunton, 15, Cambridge
  • Hollie Fovargue, 17, Peterborough
  • Dhruti Halambi, 13, Cupertino, CA, USA
  • Jenna Hunt, 16, Great Yarmouth
  • Anja Livesey, 13, Nottingham
  • Sarisha Mehta, 11, Staffordshire
  • Briancia Mullings, 17, Bedford
  • Giovanni Rose, 17, Tottenham, London
  • Daniel Wale, 16, Coventry
  • Ran Zhao, 15, Hong Kong
  • Chenrui Zhang, 16, Nottingham.

Foyle patrons Arlo Parks and Ben Bailey Smith helped publicize the competition.

Award-winning musician Arlo said:

“I think it’s a beautiful thing that poetry is defended in this way. Congratulations to all of you for being winners. Keep writing, it’s a sign that you are on the right track. Keep on going.”

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