The New Northern Poets

By Rosie Catcheside, and

Penny Boxall

Penny Boxall, a born and raised Northerner, has recently gained recognition and acclaim for her poetic contributions. The Northern Writers’ Award for poetry has selected three poets in recognition of their talent. Although this accolade is a grand achievement, it is not the first award Boxall has received for her work, and most definitely not the last.

Boxall was the winner of the Women’s Poetry Competition just last year, for her poem ‘The Wedding List’. This poem offers a refreshing point of view, excellent understanding of the effect of rhythm and visuals, and a playful yet honest insight into her mind. These attributes are also present in her poem ‘The Dub Artist’, which won The Poetry Society’s Stanza Poetry Competition for 2019.

Alongside the many awards and achievements under Boxall’s belt, she has published two collections of poems: ‘Ship of the Line’ in 2014 and ‘Who Goes There?’ in 2018, with a new collection, ‘Lights Out’, under way. Considering the recognition and awards received for her formerly published work, there is no doubt her new work will not disappoint.

Many words and phrases have been used to describe Boxall’s poetry: unexpected, refreshing and original, to name a few. But perhaps the most important thing to remember about Boxall is that she is just getting started.

But perhaps the most important thing to remember about Boxall is that she is just getting started.

Sam Buchan-Watts

Sam Buchan-Watts is the youngest of the three winning poets, yet he has already established himself as one to watch in the poetry scene. At 31, Buchan-Watts has won the Eric Gregory Award, received an AHRC Fellowship at the Yale Centre for British Art, and is co-editor of clinic press. In 2015, he was announced as a Faber New Poet, beating around nine hundred other applicants to be published. His work is not confined to this collection however; he has also published poems, essays, and interviews in a myriad of other publications, including the Poetry Review, Chicago Review, and Poetry London.

Buchan-Watts is currently completing his PhD at York, and is deeply engaged with the contemporary poetry scene. His book Try To Be Better challenged contemporary artists to respond to extracts from W.S. Graham’s notebooks through poems, art and installations, among other mediums. The project demonstrates how each generation of artists inspire the next, and showcases the incredible talent in contemporary art today.

In his own poetry, Buchan-Watts has a talent for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. In poems like ‘The Dentist’s Chair’ and ‘Car Game Logic’, everyday scenes are made beautiful through minute observations and highly sensory depictions. Whilst he uses more conventional poetic forms in poems like ‘The Dogs’, he is particularly skilful in his prose poems. These more experimental works are so replete with images and associations that readers may find themselves feeling disoriented. Buchan-Watts takes an innovative approach with his expert command of poetic language to create work which is simultaneously highly readable and immensely clever.

In his own poetry, Buchan-Watts has a talent for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.

Rommi Smith

The multi-talented Rommi Smith is a poet, playwright and performer. Smith has also received the Hedgebrook Fellowship in the United States and its Elizabeth George award.

With a calming yet firm command over language, Smith’s style is unique, fusing the creative power of language and music in what she has called her “creative crossroads.” Her focus on musical composition is reflected in her highly meditative verse on sexual and identity politics. She also has an astute focus on metrics and sound, ideas which she explores in her collections Moveable Type and Mornings and Midnights: A Collection in Progress.

Smith has held a large variety of writing residencies which range from the BBC to the British Council to California State University. Smith’s work has also been commissioned by the BBC in multiple programmes such as From Fact to Fiction, Poetry Please and Woman’s Hour. Above all of this, Smith is also a qualified secondary school teacher who has worked in various educational settings, such as mentoring students at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and The Royal Opera House. She has also trained aspiring slam poets for the most notable poetry slam competition in the world, Brave New Voices, which was filmed for the award-winning documentary, We Are Poets.

Submissions for The New Northern Writers Awards 2020 open from 20th November. Student submissions are eligible.

Image by Topher McGrillis courtesy of New Writing North

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