Verse winner owes it all to this paper

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The Independent Online
For Wordsworth it was daffodils, for Philip Larkin, deprivation. But for Ruth Padel, winner of this year's National Poetry Competition, the source of artistic inspiration is the Independent on Sunday, writes Matthew Sweet.

Ms Padel collects pounds 4,000 on Thursday for her poem "Icicles Round a Tree in Dumfriesshire", which she wrote after seeing a photograph of a work by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy on our Books pages in October. Goldsworthy's striking creation, constructed from natural materials such as thorns, leaves, bark and ice, features in his book Wood (Viking, pounds 40) and inspired the poet to compose an epic 87-line love poem "about being surprised by your own creativity".

Progress on the poem was not without its difficulties. "I accidentally threw the newspaper away so I had to keep hanging around the bookshops that had the Andy Goldsworthy book," she said. Eventually, an aunt supplied her with the cutting, and work continued.

Ms Padel's subjects are eclectic. A poem soon to be published in the London Review of Books is, she explains, "about the fact that Romans didn't seem to have a word for clitoris. It's not in any Latin dictionaries".

Jo Shapcott, one of the competition judges, selected Ms Padel's poem for its "sure-footedness, its sense of music, authority, and passion", and sees its success adding to a strong current of interest in the work of young women poets. "The quality of poetry by women is bursting forth and insisting on being heard," she said. "For a long time the poetry world has been very uneven in its responses to women, and now some of the best work is coming from women and that fact is being acknowledged."

During the last year the profile of women poets has been raised by their success in similar literary competitions: seven out of nine poets shortlisted for the 1996 Forward Prize were women, and Kate Clanchy's book, Slattern, took the Forward Prize for best first collection.

Meanwhile, Ms Padel, whose first collection, Fusewire, was published last year by Chatto, is deciding how to spend her prize money. As the facilitators of her award-winning work, does the IoS get a cut? "Well," she hesitates, "I'll have to consult my bank manager."

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