19 October 2019 - 2 November 2019


Poet of the Year 2017 Announced


On Monday 2 October the Friends of Canterbury Festival held the Awards Evening for the 2017 Poet of the Year Competition. The event attracted a pleasingly large audience to the Gulbenkian Theatre at the University of Kent.

This year a total of 311 entries were received, from many countries, not only from the United Kingdom, again emphasising the high international reputation of the contest. However, even in the face of this world-wide competition, poets from East Kent secured places on the longlist, shortlist and among the prize-winners. This shows the vigour and talent of the local poetry scene.

The judges were: poet and academic Nancy Gaffield, representing the School of English and the Centre for Creative Writing, the sponsors of the competition; Derek Sellen, an award-winning poet representing SaveAs Writers; Jen Syrkiewicz, joint Poet of the Year 2016. The high quality of the entries presented them with difficult choices and indeed there were poems outside the longlist which were unlucky not to be selected.

The entries were all anonymous when judged during the summer, resulting in a longlist of 35 poems which are all published in the Poet of the Year anthology. The 15 shortlisted poets were invited to read their commended poems during the evening after a brief comment on each by the judges.

In addition, four shortlisted poets who had travelled a long distance to be here had the opportunity to entertain the audience with more of their work. These included poets from Donegal, Huddersfield, Cambridge and London. Finally four students from the MA course in poetry at the Centre for Creative Writing gave a reading from their work produced during the course.

The climax of the evening was the announcement of the winners. Jack Faricy from Huddersfield received the People’s Choice prize, decided by a vote by the audience. James Finnegan from Donegal was awarded the prize for Best Read Poem.

In the main competition, Jane Lovell from Canterbury received 3rd prize for her poignant poem ‘Losing Katie’ with its intriguing metaphors from the natural world. 2nd prize went to Gary Studley of Deal for his inventive and powerful poem ‘Scuttle’ with its references to social and domestic change over the decades. Poet of the Year 2017 was Steve Xerri for his poem ‘The Disappearance of the Great Bear’. It is a work which links environmental concerns with the language of naming.

The Poet of the Year Competition will be open for entries again in spring 2018. Meanwhile copies of the anthology for 2017, a stimulating companion for an autumn evening or an ideal Christmas or birthday present, are available from the Festival Office for £5 each.



Congratulations to the poets who entered this year's Poet of the Year Competition.

The winners have been announced:


Poet of the Year - Steve Xerri for Disappearance of the Great Bear

Second Prize - Gary Studley for Scuttle

Third Prize - Jane Lovell for Losing Katie

Best Read  - James Finnegan for crossing a street in Mosul Nov 2016

People’s Choice - Jack Faricy for Spoor



Disappearance of the Great Bear

by Steve Xerri


He is the last : beneath his feet

the islands of ice have thinned

and gone – there’s nothing for it

but to swim remembered ley-lines

towards the vanished hunting ground

where spokes of chill moonlight

stir the empty water.


There is no following ship, no

camera crew, no tracking satellite

trained on the event as the whole

of the history encoded in him

spills out in this one moment.


Overhead, the stars

are slipping the leash,

their age-old patterns

dissolving in the glimmer

of random shoals, free

of mapping, free of name.



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