A RIPON Grammar School student has won praise from a distinguished professor for a ‘brilliant’ poem she wrote in lockdown, which he says offers a hopeful message for all time.
In her prize-winning work, An Epidemic of Emotions, Rebecca Edwards describes how she felt as a GCSE student, when exams were cancelled and the country went into lockdown.
Dr Paul Hullah, professor of poetry at Tokyo’s Meiji Gakuin University, described Rebecca’s work as magical and masterful, containing spectacularly original images which are both shocking and real.
“Let’s write ourself out of these scary and strangest of times,” he said.
Her poem was selected from a particularly strong field of student entries as the winner of this year’s RGS Hullah Poetry Trophy competition, which has been running since 2014.
RGS parent Dorothy Wood won the community section award with her moving entry, My Journey’s a Day, about ageing.
“It made me cry. When poems do that, you know they’ve struck a chord. All the chords struck here are plangent, poignant, and greatly inspirational,” said Dr Hullah.
With the theme of this year’s competition being A Time of Gifts, Rebecca, 16, from Ripon, explained how her poem captured how she felt in lockdown: “I felt quite pointless after our exams were cancelled. After years of work and preparation we were being sent home empty handed.”
While the daily routine of being cooped up at home was dull and repetitive, she says she was heartened by acts of kindness, such as the clapping for carers and small gifts and messages from friends and family: “My friends and my community went above and beyond. I will be eternally grateful for the love and support of my friends and family at that time.”
Studying English literature, design technology, physics and maths at A-level, she hopes to become a graphic designer but has enjoyed creative writing since primary school: “I have always enjoyed playing with words and building mini-stories.”
Past pupil Mrs Wood, from Burton Leonard, whose three older children all attended RGS, where daughter Catherine is in Year 11, says she fondly remembers her old English teacher Mrs Carrick as inspirational.
The former accountant, who now runs a gymnastics club, says witnessing the sad decline of a relative suffering from the dehumanising and painful condition of Alzheimer’s informed her poem.
“I was particularly inspired by the precious, fleeting moments when we glimpse the strong and capable person the sufferer once was, and still is somewhere deep within.”
Student Oliver Callaghan was runner up with his poem A Time of Gifts while Aimee Childs and Caitlin McKeag poems were highly commended.
Former RGS student and acclaimed poet and author Dr Hullah praised the high standard of all entries and said everyone deserved an award: “There were so many excellent poems this year, congratulations to all who entered.”
Oliver, 14, from Masham, said he wrote about his mixed feelings in quarantine in his poem, which Dr Hullah said showed a deft and skilful grasp of rhetoric beyond his years.
Aimee, 15, from Ripon, who enjoys creative writing, explained her poem, 1928, which Dr Hullah praised for its poignant irony and subtle subversive rhyming, was inspired by a news article about women winning the right to vote.
Caitlin, 14, from near Grewelthorpe, who wants to work in the film industry, says her poem, which Dr Hullah described as showing great promise, was inspired by the dystopian novels she reads.
In the community section, Alicia Hayden, Liam Connolly and Roslyn Swaney were all highly commended, with Fumiko Hanaoka named runner up.