UWTSD Creative Writing student commended in the prestigious Welsh Poetry Competition


Helen Cook, a MA Creative Writing student at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) has been placed 6th overall in a prestigious international poetry competition which received 1500 entries.

UWTSD Lampeter / YDDS Llambed

Picture: UWTSD's Lampeter Campus

The Welsh Poetry Competition was established back in 2007 and aims to inspire people to capture life in the present day and to give a voice to a new generation of poets and writers.

The competition is open to writers from all over the world and attracts a large number of entries.  This year’s competition was judged by Award-winning Welsh poet and crime writer, Sally Spedding. An anthology of winning and commended poems is published every five years.

It was Helen’s tutor at UWTSD, Jeni Williams, who encouraged her to write the commended poem, ‘Cell’.

“I wrote this poem as part of an MA Creative Writing module Writing a Sense of Place,” says Helen. 

“My tutor, Jeni Williams, encouraged us to think about enclosed spaces and how they could impact on emotions, thoughts and so on. I knew immediately that I wanted to write about a favourite piece of music of mine, Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, which includes a piece about a 19 years old Polish woman who had carved the words of a prayer into the walls of her cell in a Nazi prison.

Having studied for her undergraduate degree at UWTSD, Helen wanted to continue with her studies at the University’s Lampeter campus and attributes the standard of her writing to the support of the staff and her fellow students.

“Studying the MA has been instrumental in raising the standard of my writing through both challenges and the wonderful, detailed and generous support I receive from my tutor and fellow learners,” adds Helen.  “I studied for my BA at Lampeter, which I completed in 2018, and am very happy to be back in an inspiring atmosphere again.”

Jeni Williams, Senior Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at UWTSD is delighted with her achievement and is very proud of her success.

“Helen Cook is a brilliant Lampeter student,” says Jeni.  “In 2018 she achieved a First Class Honours degree in Creative Writing and in 2019 her poem, 'From Vivienne to her Tom' was placed 15th out of 500 in the 12th annual International Welsh Poetry competition. This year, having started her MA Creative Writing, she was placed 6th out of 1500 for her wonderful poem 'Cell'. We are immensely lucky to have a writer of such calibre on our course.”

Here’s Helen Cook’s commended poem:


She scrapes in her testament:

No, Mother, do not weep.

The wall is solid.

She finds a way to

make a mark


proof that she exists.


Breathing in breathing out

her heart a funeral bell

tolling her hours

she chants into the stone

Most chaste Queen of Heaven.


Her voice, a cell within a cell


a single living thing


of eighteen summers

now wintering

here air is stale

here light is barred

here torment exceeds the cold.


She scratches her will into slabs

that listen but are mute:

Support me always.

Support me always.


She seals with her name –

the one essence not defiled.


Inspired by Gorecki’s Symphony no 3 Sorrowful Songs, 2nd movement

Further Information

For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies, Principal Communications and PR Officer on 07449 998476 / sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk