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Well-versed Reda discovers passion for poetry after competition success

18 October, 2019 — By Anna Cooban

Reda Ziani at a poetry workshop

A TEENAGER has picked up a poetry award that launched the careers of some of the UK’s biggest talents.

Reda Ziani, a student at Beacon High in Hilldrop Road, formerly Holloway School, has been commended at the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards at a ceremony at the Southbank Centre.

The global competition has launched the literary careers of previous winners such as British poet Sarah Howe, recipient of the TS Eliot Prize.

Reda, 15, wrote his poem in a July workshop hosted by The Poetry Society at Arsenal’s Community Hub with poet Anthony Anaxagorou.

His entry was among 11,000 poems submitted internationally from 76 countries.

Judges Jackie Kay and Raymond Antrobus selected just 15 winners and commended 85 poets.

“I never used to write poetry. I only started to get into it when I visited Arsenal Stadium,” said Reda. “I realised that it is all about expressing emotions.”

Describing the moment he found out he had won the award, Reda said: “It was at lunchtime. My English teacher asked to speak with me. I was really worried that I was in trouble. When I found out I was so excited.”

The annual poetry competition is one of the largest in the world for writers aged 11-17.

Organised by The Poetry Society and funded by the Foyle Foundation, the competition celebrates its 21st anniversary this year.

The Poetry Society had been running a number of workshops with local schools Beacon High, Highgate Hill and St Aloysius, aimed at encouraging more boys to take up writing.

The director of the Poetry Society, Judith Palmer, said that the proportion of boys entering the competition had been declining over the past few years, from 37 per cent of entries in 2013 to 25 per cent in 2019. “We had always received slightly fewer male than female entrants, but this had dwindled down to 18 per cent last year,” said Ms Palmer.

“Our surveys have also shown that poetry writing has a very positive impact on young people’s mental health.

“It gives them a creative outlet, a way to process their thoughts.”

Reda’s success has sparked a new passion he hopes to continue.

“I really want to keep writing poetry,” he said. “The judges gave me a bag with lots of poetry books and now I read them whenever I can.”


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