Poetic justice as gifted Croydon teens win prestigious writing prize – South London News

Two 16-year-olds from Croydon have been awarded prizes for their poetry. 

Sienna Mehta and Zahra Rafiq are among 15 winners of international prize The Foyle Young Poets of the Year.

They beat more than 6,000 young poets aged 11-17 entering more than 13,500 poems and received their award at the National Theatre on the South Bank on Friday. 

The prize is a place on a week-long residential writing course, their winning poems published in the largest circulated online anthology of poetry in March 2023, and mentoring and support with their future writing.

Zahra, whose winning entry was entitled The Oyster, is studying for her A-levels at Brampton Manor Academy Sixth Form in east London, taking chemistry, biology, physics and maths.

She particularly enjoys incorporating science and art in her work and finds inspiration for writing in nature. 

Having won her first poetry competition at primary school, she developed a passion for writing. 

Sienna Mehta 2Sienna Mehta

Zahra, a table tennis team captain, has also been awarded the good citizenship award from the Mayor of Croydon for her charitable efforts, including raising money for Great Ormond Street children’s hospital. 

The winning entry for Sienna, of Trinity School in Shirley Road, was entitled Unrequited. She said that what she loves most about poetry is its fluidity and blurring the rules of prose. 

Sienna said: “I think creative recognition is always so meaningful, because sometimes writing poetry can feel very insular – often you wish you could know if what you’re doing is objectively any good.  

“Being in the Top 15 feels incredible, not only because it always seemed unattainable, but also because it has given me an invaluable confidence in my writing, and its potential to make an impact.”

Zahra said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be one of this year’s top 15 winners. I’ve been writing since the age of eight and it’s amazing to be recognised in this prestigious international competition.”

Pictured top: Zahra Rafiq (Pictures: Hayley Madden Photography)


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