Christopher Tower Poetry Prize

Forest Y13 Student commended in prestigious poetry competition

Christ Church College, Oxford’s Tower Poetry Competition was founded twenty years ago to stimulate an enjoyment and critical appreciation of poetry, particularly among young people in education, and to challenge people to write their own poetry. Since 2000 14,000 poems have been submitted to the annual competitions, attracting entrants from nearly 2500 schools.  This year Forest Y13 student Charlotte O’Keeffe’s poem ‘The Origin’ received a commendation, placing her work in the top 10% of hundreds of entries from prestigious schools up and down the country.

The Tower Poetry Competition offers the UK’s most valuable prize for young poets at £3000, and is open to students between 16-18 years of age who are educated in the UK.  Each year the theme is chosen with the intention of giving entrants free rein to interpret it as widely as they like and the competition is judged anonymously by two judges (who are different each year) and Peter McDonald, the current Christopher Tower Student.  This year’s judges are Kwame Dawes and  Elise Paschen.  Dawes, is the author of twenty-two books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. Dawes is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  Paschen’s poems have been published in The New Yorker and Poetry Magazine, among other magazines, and in numerous anthologies and she is the Former Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America.

The judges response to Charlotte read “Many congratulations on your achievement, and we hope that you keep on writing.”  Read The Origin below:

The Origin

When you were a child, were you told that women should be silent?

That we should sit with locked lips and stone-faced smiles

And thus, become the marble statues men craft with their eyes

We are an idea, a rib and a comforting lie.


But I wonder, do you know the story of the first key?

How Pandora and Eve carved it from the bark of the tree

The tree that Eve had boldly climbed to taste the blood-red fruit

And she became first to feel the burn of humanity


From the branches she called to Pandora and fed her the fruit

Eve asked her sister how she liked the taste of truth?

Later Pandora went, key in hand, to the box buried in the sand

And unlocked the box that held the earth’s soul


With that same key the sisters unlocked their gilded cage

And man tumbled out, into a world shining and terrible

So, next time a sculptor tries to carve himself into your mind

You will meet his gaze and you will laugh


For if knowledge is power then women are titans

Because Eve and Pandora buried that key in their hearts

So now when women cry out, we bleed iron and truth

And when we speak it is a revelation.