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Competition winners announced as Stanley Spencer poetry anthology is launched

The winners of a prestigious international poetry competition to celebrate the life and work of artist Stanley Spencer were announced on Friday at the launch of an anthology containing their work.

The book, launched at the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham High Street, was the result of a project to create an enduring legacy of the 50th anniversary of the Cookham Festival.

The organisers' call for poems had seen more than 210 entries from across the world which were whittled down by a panel of judges to 78 for inclusion in the book.

Friday's event, part of this year's Cookham Festival, saw the announcement of the competition's three winners, who then went on to read their work to a packed gallery.

The first prize of £2,500, the Don and Jill Cawthorne Prize sponsored by the family of two long-standing festival supporters, was won by poet and creative writing teacher Rosie Jackson from Frome with 'The Heaven that Runs Through Everything'.

She said: "I have been writing poems about Spencer for many years and when I heard about the competition I thought 'what a great opportunity to write more poems inspired by Spencer's work'."

She said of her poem: "It has a very wide scope and reflects a lot of Spencer's paintings and celebrates his vision of the world as sacred and joyful."

A runner-up prize of £500, supported by the Advertiser, was won by Richard Robbins, the director of a creative writing programme from Minnesota in America, for Christ Carrying the Cross.

He said: "I have been interested in Spencer's work for a long time. The pictures speak to me and I speak back to them and that's where the poetry comes from."

A second £500 prize sponsored by The Stationers' Company was won by Ross Cogan with Zacharias and Elizabeth, 1914.

The prizes were presented Lord George Young of Cookham who remembered Stanley Spencer as a familiar figure in the village when he was a teenager.

He said: "The poems in the anthology and Spencer's paintings are two art forms that reinforce and compliment each other."

The anthology, priced £9.99, is available from the gallery in Cookham High Street.

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