‘Never Alone’: poem wins first prize

Oundle School pupil Alanna Gilmartin has won first prize for her poem in a competition run by The German Academic Exchange Service

A poem by 15-year-old Oundle School pupil Alanna Gilmartin has won first prize in the English Secondary School section of a poetry competition run by The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Fifty pupils studying German at Oundle took part in the Dinggedicht Poetry Competition, run by the DAAD to coincide with an exhibition at The British Museum, ‘Germany – Memories of a Nation’.

The exhibition focuses on iconic objects reflecting German history. Each of these objects tells a story, and pupils were asked to bring the story of the object to life in a poetic form known as Dinggedicht, a ‘thing poem’ – a poem based on an object.

From the Renaissance to reunification and beyond, the show uses objects to investigate the complexities of addressing German history, navigating Germany’s many political changes from the Holy Roman Empire to the 20th century.

The competitors were required to write a poem about one of the objects in the exhibition and could approach the task from any angle. Alanna wrote a poem entitled ‘Never Alone’ based on Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, Der Mittag (1921-22).

In December, Alanna was invited to read her poem at the prize giving ceremony at The British Museum, followed by talks by Emeritus Professor Martin Swales from University College London and Berlin novelist Annett Gröschner.Alanna said: “I chose the painting, ‘Der Mittag’, because it was beautifully painted and very interesting. Although there is no obvious focus, I felt that the trees stood taller than everything around and looked powerful and dominating. 

“When I went to the British Museum for the awards ceremony I was given a very warm welcome and had the chance to meet the members of the jury. I was truly honoured to take part in the event, and overjoyed that it was held at such an amazing place. It was an unforgettable occasion.” 

Head of German at Oundle School, Emily Wagstaffe, said: “Having learnt about the competition at the launch of the Cambridge German Network, I was keen to encourage all pupils studying German here at Oundle to participate. I was overwhelmed with the enthusiasm our pupils showed. 

“Alanna clearly spent time researching Friedrich’s painting and produced a wonderful reflection of his work in her Dinggedicht. As Head of German I am thrilled with her success and congratulate her and all entrants for their hard work and efforts. Well done to all involved, with particular thanks to the DAAD for creating the competition and the British Museum for their wonderful exhibition.” 


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