Laurie Magnus Poetry Prize winner

The Laurie Magnus Poetry Prize was established in memory of Laurie Magnus by his widow. Laurie Magnus was a GDST Council member from 1907, and Chairman from 1929 until his death in 1933. He also wrote The Jubilee Book of the Girls’ Day School Trust (1923). We are delighted that, not only was it judged by an alumna of Sydenham High but, Tiffany, year 8, was selected as the winner for the Year 7, 8 & 9 category – earning a £100 Amazon voucher. Her fantastic poem can be read below.

All the categories of poems were judged by Sydenham High School alumna, Claudia Daventry.  After Sydenham High School Claudia took a year to study French at the Sorbonne in Paris before starting her degree in Modern Languages at Oxford. Since Oxford, she’s lived in France, Spain and the Netherlands, has added Dutch to her languages. She has travelled extensively during her time working as an advertising copywriter, and since. After giving up professional writing to focus on her three daughters and her creative writing, she took up spoken word poetry. It was during her time on the Amsterdam spoken word circuit that her work won prizes in the Arvon and Bridport competitions, so she moved to St Andrews in Scotland, where she did an MLitt with poets Douglas Dunn and Don Paterson.

Since the MLitt, she has read in the UK, the Netherlands and Canada, her poetry and essays have been widely published in reviews, anthologies, poetry magazines and on the radio, and she has won several prestigious prizes, including a Philip Larkin prize, the inaugural Ruskin prize and first place in the Bridport Prize. She has collaborated with composer Rory Boyle on commissions for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and, last year, a series of English Folk Songs for the music festival JAM on the Marsh, performed by the BBC Singers and performed on Radio 3. Between her converted stables in Scotland, her three daughters and two dogs life’s busy but she has for now paused work on her PhD to keep working towards a full poetry collection: her solo chapbook The Oligarch Loses his Patience won a Templar prize and was published in 2016.

GDST Laurie Magnus Poetry Prize judge’s report:

It’s always difficult to judge poems against one another, because each one speaks to you for a different reason. I found myself wishing there were ten or twenty categories so that each could be a winner in its own class and age group – there was so much inventive, playful, musical work here, so much imagination, such a cultural richness, and each one was so different. It’s especially true of young peoples’ work you feel loath to encourage one more than another because you can see the seeds of so much promise in every poem.

In the end the judge has to take into account technical and stylistic elements like use of rhyme (or not), choice of form, rhythm, freshness of imagery – while also making a decision based on elements that appeal to her (or him) personally. I enjoyed all of these poems for different reasons, and it was difficult to come to a final decision.

Years 7, 8 and 9

Winner:  Tiffany Igharoro  Y8 Sydenham High School,  ONE PUSH, ONE JOLT

There were some adventurous poems here, with experimental forms. Tiffany’s poem is a tour de force: a gripping story about racism: roots, fear, slavery and lynchings, told in the voice of a gun. She sustains the tension using repetition and assonance: this is a poem for page and for performance.


100 years of powder and blood
100 years of being bound;
My trigger was curved, my barrel was thin.
One push, one jolt-
a tiny metal bullet shot out
like a lightning bolt.

He stood there shaking a shamble of fear;
He stood there shaking like a frightened deer.
You pressed me hard again and again
So I jammed and I locked
And you hit me
you cursed
and you damned your own God
I resisted I pushed I wouldn’t let go

You- you were enraged
My master
My captor
Threw me into a closed metal cage
Call it a gun box
I do not care
dark and cold

I felt a new hand pick me up
a black hand
I was saved by a slave
One push; One jolt
A tiny metal bullet shot out
Like a lightning bolt

2 years later we’re on the run
A fugitive and his gun.
Blistered thumb held out in darkness
An automobile slows to a stop
It’s the time! He’s the one
His pathway to freedom and liberation begun
One push; One jolt
A tiny metal bullet shot out
Like a lightning bolt.

In a tunnel underground salty tears clung to his eyes
sons clung to cages; they starved without food.
Some tried to smuggle it, but they were nude
Of human rights
Survival? a fight: Just skin and bones
Then the skin was gone
Just a mass of bones,
Of pain,
Of hurt,
And of thousands of slaves kicked to the dirt.
His daughters were lynched, they’re necks deformed
Yet he was still here, as the one who’d performed.
One push; One jolt
A tiny metal bullet shot out
Like a lightning bolt.

200 years later when all men are ‘free’
I have a new owner who doesn’t respect me;
Doesn’t know where I’ve been.
Lights a cigarette
The tunnel was cold and wet
Puts on his boots
I’m connected to black roots
Buckles up his coat
All crowded on that big boat
Gets in his car
Homeland was so far
-away –away
He drives; it’s late
Black boy, white girl on a date
Window rolls down
A smile turns to a frown
My trigger is curved my barrel is thin
One push; one jolt
A tiny metal bullet shoots out
Like a lightning bolt.

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