Creative Writing is alive and well at Merton

We are delighted to announce the results of the 2024 Louis MacNeice Creative Writing Prize.  The poems and stories were all judged anonymously and, as ever, competition was fierce with a total of 16 poems and 13 short stories entered.

Our judge this year, Bevis Bowden, Visiting Research Fellow in the Creative Arts, had difficult decisions to make and in the end chose ‘Mouth’ by Imogen Graham as this year’s winning poem and ‘Annie Haden’ by Cara Treacy as the winning short story.  Eustacia Feng was awarded proxime for her story ‘The Spirit Guide’ as was Jordan Maly-Preuss for her poem ‘Down to sleep.’

Bevis Bowden commented, It has been my absolute pleasure to judge this year’s Louis MacNeice Writing Competition. It's so reassuring to know there is a healthy desire to be writing beyond the black board.

I have spent a professional career reading and interpreting written treatments and then visualising them using moving image. My final choices in judging this writing competition were based on works that took me somewhere distinctive in the now, gave me room to manoeuvre within the idea and most importantly works that I felt I could feel the breath of the author.

All the entries have been a pleasure to read and has made judging even more difficult. Thank you all for entering.’

Short story winner Cara Treacy reacted, ‘I am very surprised to have won the Louis MacNeice Prize for Creative Writing for my short story. I would like to offer a big thank you to Mr Bowden for having selected my story. I wrote my piece before a BOP in Hilary Term after I heard a friend talking about the competition, so it came as a real shock for my story to be awarded the prize. It is really lovely to have opportunities like this within college life and therefore I am very grateful to the organisers of this competition. I think that this competition is a fitting tribute to honour Louis MacNeice's legacy, through its unique ability to encourage Merton Students to engage with a creative outlet. I am especially delighted to win this award because Louis MacNeice had family from County Galway, where my own family is from.’


Cara Treacy

Eustacia Feng, who was placed as proxime, explained the inspiration behind her entry. ‘This story is inspired by a mythical practice of guiding corpses in the Xiangxi region of China. Perhaps because of my long absence from home, my writing has, in the last few years, been slanting back towards the places I’ve been familiar with. The idea of using an unreliable narrator comes from my interest in Japanese detective novels. After writing too much serious stuff, I thought I’d like to have some fun with simply telling a story. Thanks to the judging panel for recognising it.’


Eustacia Feng

Poem winner Imogen Graham was equally delighted to have won.  ‘This poem came about during my study of ecocriticism. We were learning about ways of interacting with nature in poetry, the situation of nature writing in different societies, times, genres. Through learning about this I became more and more eager to try my hand as the author, rather than the critic. The poem I wrote brings together my love of loud women, my identity as a queer person, and experience of growing up in and aware of the climate crisis, and to have the product of these influences be recognised by Bevis Bowden and the Louis MacNeice Prize is really exciting and rewarding. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have shared my poetry; it means a lot to have something that was originally an exercise for myself be recognised by the College.’ 


Imogen Graham

Merton Graduate student Jordan Maly-Preuss’s poem ‘Down to sleep’ was awarded proxime. ''Down to Sleep' is a straightforward account of my own common experiences – a departure from my usual inclination to tell other people's stories through my poems – and so to receive a prize for it feels a bit like receiving a prize for sleeping poorly as the parent of a toddler! That is no quotidian honour. I'm grateful to Bevis Bowden for the encouragement, and to Merton for nurturing its students' creative endeavours year upon year: I owe much of my ongoing ability to take myself seriously as a writer to the weekly workshop that was held here in Michaelmas 2020 by Will Eaves, a previous Research Fellow in the Creative Arts.'


Jordan Maly-Preuss