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Roger McGough Poetry Celebration

by on 12 September 2021

Honest Raw Reflections

Roger McGough Poetry Celebration

Arts Richmond at the Exchange Theatre, Twickenham, 4th September

Review by Simone De Almeida

(See also a review by Denis Valentine.)

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to attend the awards ceremony of the highly anticipated Roger McGough poetry competition.  Though a little further spaced out than we once might have liked to be – our smiles now covered with masks – the afternoon was no less special, and there was a certain sense of community as we took our seats.  Perhaps inspired by this year’s theme of ‘identity’ no doubt, my mind was instantly drawn to one thought: so many people, from so many different places – such different walks of life – all here to celebrate the one thing that unites us all, and has united us through these unparalleled, and at many points quite frightening, times: our love of poetry.

The concept of identity being so fundamental to our very sense of self, one would think that we would consider it far more frequently than we do, but having grown up in an age in which we consume far more from our screens than we do the world around us, I am almost ashamed to admit that I spend far more time contemplating the character of others than I do myself … ah, the burden of the introvert!  I can only imagine the level of self-reflection and introspection it must have taken in order to capture such honest, raw reflections on who they are, and where they’ve come from.

One of the poems that earned third place, Riding Tandem by Tony Trafford, was a personal favourite of mine; telling the beautiful, tragic story of a first romance – a harsh reminder of both the beauty and pain which coexist in our world, leaving both fond memories and heartbreak in their wake.

Perfectly encapsulated by our much-loved poet and judge Roger McGough, all of the poems were so beautifully written, and each held a different part of their poet’s identity – and indeed of the poets themselves – that it must have been next to impossible to judge.  But, all that being said, the winning poem, (Self) Portrait 1503 by Stuart Fortey, was exceptionally witty and enthralling, giving  a much-loved painting that I’m sure we’re all almost innately acquainted with a deeply touching backstory that truly moved me – and much of the audience too I’m sure.

All in all, despite the multitude of challenges faced this year, this year’s competition was a wonderful celebration of both the things that set us apart, and the ones that bring us closer together.

Simone De Almeida, September 2021

Photography by Francis Dupli

Simone De Almeida is one of our younger reviewers.  Now aged thirteen, she was awarded the distinction of Senior Laureate in Arts Richmond’s Young Writers Festival in 2020 for her poem, Requiem.

The Young Writers’ Festival 2021/22 Competition was launched on 1st September and is open to entries until 3rd December.

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  1. Roger McGough Poetry Celebration | Mark Aspen

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