Teen Aberdeen siblings make list of top 100 Young Poets of the Year

A pair of teenage siblings have been named in a list of the world's 100 most promising young poets, beating thousands of other entrants to the accolade.
17-year-old Magnus Dixon and sister 14-year-old Ailsa Dixo17-year-old Magnus Dixon and sister 14-year-old Ailsa Dixo
17-year-old Magnus Dixon and sister 14-year-old Ailsa Dixo

Magnus and Ailsa Dixon, from Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire, were both named on the long list of the annual Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, which was announced yesterday.

Organised by the Poetry Society and now in its 19th year, the award is one of the largest literary competitions in the world and attracted more than 6,000 entrants submitting 11,000 poems.

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It is the fifth time that Magnus, 17, has been given a place in the top 100, but this year he was joined by his 14-year-old sister Ailsa for the first time after encouraging her to enter.

The teenager says he took up writing “by fluke”, writing his first serious poetry at the age of 12 as part of a school project. It immediately won him a place on the Foyle shortlist that year.

That entry was about Peterhead harbour and this year his subject was Crovie, a small fishing village on the Moray Firth where he and his family have spent numerous holidays.

He said all of his poems had a strong sense of geography and the land. “It’s part of the Scottish experience, we’ve got such a rich breadth of place,” he said.

“We’ve got a caravan in Loch Earn in the Highlands, sometimes we go on holiday to Crovie and I work in Peterhead in an industrial harbour. It’s all so different. That love of place suffuses everything I do.”

Both Magnus and his sister credited their parents, who studied English at university, with instilling a love of reading, writing and music in them both from a young age.

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“Ever since we were tiny they would always read to us,” said Ailsa. “When we would go away in the summer, long days, mum would read out books to us in the evenings.

“Once I came downstairs and said ‘I wrote a story’ which was terrible – most of the words were misspelled – but she said ‘That’s great’.”

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The 14-year-old, whose poem “Cello Child” is about her love of the instrument and music, said she was inspired by the same things as her brother but chose to write about them differently.

“We’re both very interested in Scotland as a place, but Magnus is very geographical, landscapes and the way things work. For me, it’s more about the culture.

“I love singing Scottish traditional ballads – I know that’s a bit weird for someone my age,” she added. “I also read far, far too much than can possibly be healthy.”

Writers from 89 different countries including Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Syria and Zimbabwe entered this year’s competition, which is open to 11 to 17-year-olds writing in English.

The poet Kayo Chingonyi, who was one of the judges, said memorable lines from the many poems he had read still popped into his head every so often.

“I was particularly struck by the number of poems that reflected on the complexities of living at this particular moment in time rather than taking their cue from poems and contexts of the past,” he added.

His fellow judge and poet Sinéad Morrissey said she had been impressed by the “maturity” of the young writers.