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Winners of the ‘Byron Now’ competition announced

Cambridge students have risen to the challenge of creating verse or prose inspired or provoked by Trinity alumnus Lord Byron in work described by the judges as ‘brilliant’, ‘clever’ and ‘ingenious.’

The three winners will read their new work at the Byron Festival Poetry Readings on Saturday 20 April 2024, 4pm-5.30pm in the Antechapel. This event is free and open to all. The ‘ghost’ of Byron, created by Trinity Engineers, will be present, if light levels allow.

Benedick McDougall, a PhD student in Classics at Corpus Christi College, composed Epitaph in the same verse form – ottava rima (a rhyming stanza) – as Byron’s Don Juan.

Georgina McNamara, studying for an MPhil in English at Pembroke College, wrote a comic riff on the moment in Byron’s drama, Manfred, when the title character summons the ghost of his dead beloved, Astarte (a guilty relationship believed to be based on Byron’s with his half-sister Augusta).

Kendry Nydam, of Darwin College, studying for an MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, wrote She Walks in Beauty (Reprise) a poem based on a double acrostic, where real poems of Byron’s form the first and last words of each line, and the poet has responded to them with her words in between.

Professor Adrian Poole said the entries were brilliant, clever and ingenious – and Byron would have smiled on hearing them.

In the winners’ words:


Kendra Nydam

Lord Byron’s She Walks in Beauty was one of the first poems that ‘made sense’ to me and is largely responsible for awakening my interest in writing poetry of my own. Writing for this competition sent me on a journey of rediscovery as I returned to one of the pieces that first inspired me and found it just as brimming with promise. I am honored to be chosen as one of the finalists and hope that Byron’s life and literature continue to inspire other aspiring and established poets for years to come.

Benedick McDougall

It’s an honour to be chosen and a privilege to take part in the bicentenary celebrations at Trinity, which provide a splendid opportunity to remember Byron’s notorious life. Any occasion to revisit Don Juan is very welcome, as is the chance to celebrate his humanitarian contribution to Greece’s struggle for independence.

Georgina McNamara

Byron is one of the first poets I remember reading and whole-heartedly enjoying, so to win a competition in which my submission was guided by his work has been very special for me! I love that this competition gave me the opportunity to return to Manfred, a closet drama I first read three years ago, and spotlight a voice that I always thought was unfairly silenced, as many female voices often are in eighteenth century literature. To feel that my submission went some way in rectifying this (even in a small way) is incredibly important for me, and makes being one of the winners a particularly joyful experience.

Come and listen to the winners reading their poems among established poets at The Byron Festival Poetry Reading, Saturday 20 April, 4pm-5:15pm, in Trinity’s Chapel.

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