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Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing: Larne-based teacher wins top prize for poem 'To an Unborn Daughter'

A poem by a Larne-based teacher has won the top prize in a prestigious writing competition from the Community Arts Partnership (CAP).

Jen Herron won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2022, for her poem ‘To an Unborn Daughter’.

Jen Herron picked up the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2022 for her poem ‘To an Unborn Daughter’.

Now in its eighth year, the award was launched by CAP as part of the Poetry in Motion Community’s ‘Making Memories’ project in October 2015.

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A former journalist at the Larne Gazette, Jen later worked as a press officer for the Ulster Unionist Party before training as a teacher in 2005.

After completing her first year of teaching at Larne Grammar, she moved to Bahrain to teach at top international school, St Christopher’s. “After four years, I returned home and started working at Belfast Royal Academy, where I’ve been happily settled ever since,” she said. “I love teaching. Writing and education mean everything to me. It’s all I want to do – that and a bit of gardening with my dog!”

The accolade is not the first that Jen, currently a mentor with Fighting Words NI, has received for her written work. “I won my first poetry competition aged 13; it was a really big deal for me because the prize was a trip to London to attend an awards ceremony. It was the first time I’d been out of Northern Ireland and the first time I’d been on a plane. I think it was then I realised the power of hard work and using your brain to achieve things.”

Her writing has since been published in The Irish Times, The Honest Ulsterman, Poetry Jukebox, Lumpen Magazine and BBC Radio Ulster.

“Obviously, I’m very happy [to have won] but it comes with a certain amount of sadness,” Jen added. “It’s a poem that shouldn’t have to be written. It seems strange that I’ve won a competition with such tragic subject matter. But, I suppose, that’s the nature of poetry. It searches for meaning in chaos, often with no answer.

A Larne Times article on Jen after she won her first poetry competition aged 13.

Conor Shields, CEO of CAP and Award judge said: “We are delighted that Jen has won the eighth Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. It’s brilliant to see new poets with exceptional talent emerge through our programmes and all the more so that Jen also supports her pupils in developing their poetry skills too.

"We offer our sincerest congratulations to Jen and indeed to Stephen de Búrca for his runner’s up award and we hope that these accolades will act as a springboard for both of them in their writing careers."

‘To an Unborn Daughter’ is available to read on the CAP website here.

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