Nicola Nuttall: The Charles Causley Young People’s Poetry Competition

Every year, at the Causley Trust we run our Young People’s Poetry Competition. Charles Causley is renowned for his children’s poetry, and you can explore his poems via the Poetry Archive. A former primary teacher, encouraging young people to write and explore their creativity was incredibly important to Charles and our competition continues his efforts to inspire young writers.

The Trust is based in Launceston, Cornwall (Charles Causley’s hometown) and seeks to raise the profile of Causley and his work, whilst also providing opportunities for people to engage with creative writing and the arts. 2023 marks 20 years since Charles Causley’s passing in 2003 and this has inspired the theme for this year’s competition – ‘memory.’ All poems submitted must reflect this theme and must be an original composition that has not previously been published in any format or location.

The Causley Festival of Arts Literature in Launceston

Charles Causley wrote poetry all his adult life. It was during his time in the navy during World War II that he became interested in words, patterns, and shapes – jotting down lines and words in between his naval duties. He wrote poetry for both adults and children and sometimes it is difficult to know which audience he was writing for, as his poems transcend age and appeal. His poems cover many different themes and styles – some funny and musical, others descriptive and place-based, with a real emphasis on people and his experiences in Cornwall, in the navy and on his travels. He was really interested in ghosts and folk tales, traditions, landscapes, and behaviours.

The Causley Festival of Arts Literature in Launceston

Charles was a prominent poet in the 20th century hailing Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, John Betjeman, Jack Clemo and Philip Larkin as his friends and colleagues. His name was put forward to be the Poet Laureate, but he declined, and his good friend Ted Hughes took the title himself. Many current poets cite Charles as a major influence in their writing including Andrew Motion and Simon Armitage (both Poet Laureates). His influence (and poetic skill) really cannot be underestimated. His style is often described as ‘simple’ but I would call it accessible. If you ever try to write like Charles, you soon realise that his poetry is anything but simple to create!

It is hard to choose favourite poems from Charles’s enormous portfolio. You really can find a poem to suit every mood and need within his poetry – but if I had to choose then the first would be ‘Eden Rock’ which describes the moment Charles sees his parents, and their little dog Jack, waiting for him the moment he has passed away. He describes a picnic, a perfect day and his youthful parents beckoning him to join them – ‘I had not thought it would be like this’ he says. The poem is beautiful, poignant, and reassuring.

The second would be ‘Timothy Winters’ – a poem about a young boy, growing up in poverty in Launceston. The description of Timothy ‘ears like bombs and teeth like splinters’ is inspired and Charles creates a vivid picture using rhyme, humour, and pathos. By the end of the poem, we really feel we have met Timothy (a character, incidentally, based upon one of Charles’s pupils at the National School in Launceston).

The Charles Causley Young People’s Poetry Competition

Poems entered into our competition must be written in English but can be presented in any form or style. All poems submitted must reflect the theme of ‘memory’ and must be an original composition that has not previously been published in any format or location.

Entries must be no longer than 40 lines (excluding the title, subheadings, dedications or references). There is no entry fee but no more than one entry per young person is permitted. The competition is open to all young people aged between 5 and 18. Our deadline for entries is the 31st of March 2023.

We hope that you will be interested in our competition

Nicola Nuttall is the Director of the Charles Causley Trust in Launceston, Cornwall and a huge Charles Causley fan. Nicola has worked in the heritage and cultural sectors for 35 years and her specialisms include advocacy, knowledge exchange, strategic partnership and business and professional development. She writes poetry in her spare time.