Homerton undergraduate wins prestigious poetry competition

SecondJadeCuttle-year Homertonian Jade Cuttle has won the prestigious Proms Poetry Competition 2014, hearing her winning poem performed live on Radio 3 to a packed hall at the Royal College of Music.

Since 1895 the Proms have been a staple in the UK’s cultural calendar – an annual eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts performed in the Royal Albert Hall in London. Described as the “the world's largest and most democratic musical festival”, it prides itself on nourishing the nation’s artistic appetite and championing new talent.

Each year the Proms invite aspiring poets to write a short poem inspired by any piece of music in that year's season, with the competition being judged by well-known critics - this year award-winning poets Daljit Nagra and Ian McMillan.  Hearing about the competition on the Poetry Society's Young Poets Network, Jade – now entering her second year studying French & Russian at Homerton – was eager to apply, writing her winning poem The Art of Splinters having seen a striking visual performance of Bach’s St John Passion.

As Jade explains,

“I was fascinated by the violence of the violin bows stabbing into the air in swords and swoops, like an explosion of splinters, and the conflict between chaos and constraint…I tried to translate this contrast by choosing the word 'art' in the title [and through] the imaginative chaos in the metaphors. I wanted them to leap and liberate themselves from their lines and from the constrained structure of internal and end rhyme, or at least to suggest such liberation is possible.”

When she heard she had won the competition, she was appropriately 1300 metres up in the Polish mountains:

“My mum phoned to say that BBC Radio 3 wanted to interview and broadcast my poem…In my delight I must have resembled a mountain goat with leaps and bounds down the mountainside. This thrill was tainted only slightly by the terror of becoming slightly lost in the forest at the bottom of the mountain!”

Whilst daunted to be answering deep and searching questions in front of a live audience, Jade found hearing and analysing her poem on stage “the most wonderful and enjoyable experience.” She was especially moved by the judges' praise and comments, and also by audience members who approached her to personally offer their congratulations and thanks.

You can read Jade’s winning poem below, or listen to her performing it for CU-TV by clicking here and the Proms coverage here.  She has also recorded a podcast for Varsity, which can be listened to here.   

The Art of Splinters

Bach, St John Passion at Royal Albert Hall

The stage is a show of splinters, shadows split and splay at the violin's bow,

stabbing in swords and swoops, the heart begins to bleed at its blow.

Simon Peter struck the High Priest's servant with a sword, cutting off his right ear.

The ear crawls into its shell, sheltered from the spit and spray of the storm,
thundering in tenor and tone, the heart is tossed by these tides then torn.

Spat upon, scourged and streaked with blood, His back resembles heavenly skies.

The sunlight snags on a branch, sky is stripped to the spine and ripped in rage,

beating in blades and blasts, the heart bursts the banks of its cage.

From the thorns that pierce Him bloom sweet fruit and heavenly flowers.

The flower rips out its roots, spitting its seeds leaves flit and flail in fright,
flinging in fists and furls, the heart bursts into bloom at its bite.

He bowed his head and died,
pinned at the palm by the sharp kiss of splinters.