Updated: Mar 28
We’re now in the last days of accepting entries for The Magdalena Young Poets’ Prize – we close at 11.59pm tomorrow, on 1st February – and we are in awe of the talent we’ve seen since opening the competition back in November. We’ve received a lot, and we mean A LOT, more entries than we ever thought we would; we’re overwhelmed at the incredible response we’ve had. Receiving entries from young people from up and down the country – all of whom have so many brave, brilliant, beautiful things to say – has been a real light in this very odd, mostly dark time, and given us so much hope for the future. A huge thank you to everyone who has trusted us with their words, and to the young poets who will join them in trusting us their words over these next few days. Please don’t any of you ever stop writing!
We want to take this the opportunity to tell you a little bit more about the amazing human being who inspired our competition: Magdalena. To most people who knew her, she went by Maggie. She was Anna-May’s daughter, and she loved reading, making art, rapping and writing her own songs…she loved creating. Of course, that love of creating included writing poetry, too. That’s why we’re here.
She loved plants and trained as a gardener at college, then created a beautiful pond and garden for her mum. She really loved animals. She took inspiration both from the natural world and from urban graffiti to make her art, seeing the beauty and potential in both. She was funny, she was smart, she was clever, but sometimes even those whose lives seem to be going swimmingly are actually struggling to stay afloat. Maggie suffered from mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, as well as social phobia and agoraphobia. These things, as many of us know, can be overwhelming, and this was the case for Maggie. She took her own life aged 21.
Years later, Maggie is still loved so much, for the incredible person, writer and artist she was. Anna-May knows that Maggie kept writing and drawing right up until the end of her life. Olivia was watching the mini The Vicar of Dibley series over Christmas (having been persuaded by her mum) and in it, Geraldine says something so wonderful and so true: ‘I believe in eternal life on Earth, because those who die are eternally here, alive in our memories, and in who we are, because of how they changed us.’ Olivia never knew Maggie, but she knows of her through Anna-May, and would never have started this competition if it hadn’t been for Maggie. In terms of our young poets, we want this competition to change the course of their writing careers…in the future, we want the best poets on the scene to say, ‘I won The Magdalena Young Poets’ Prize, and that was one of the first major milestones in my career.’ We also want to promote young people’s mental health and how important it is to raise awareness of mental illness and suicide in young people. As we’ve said before, we want to show people how healing the arts – in particular, poetry – can be. In doing this, we will keep Maggie’s memory and legacy alive. She should – and will – be remembered.
Thank you for reading, and if you’ve been affected by any of the issues we’ve addressed here, please see our ‘Handy Helplines’ post. Never forget: there are people who care.
Lots of love,
Olivia and Anna-May
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