James Green, Year 12, has been awarded the Thomas Campion English Prize by Peterhouse College, Cambridge University.

The commendation puts James among the top 10 entrants worldwide.

Stylish and original say Cambridge judges

Judges felt that James’ essay stood out for its clarity of argument, stylish prose, level of research and originality of thought.

His work enabled him to explore the relationship between maths and poetry. He said “I was drawn to the idea of comparing two rather disparate discourses in the same essay and the opportunity to unpack the concept of ‘poetic patterning’ in detail. The question elicits quite a panoramic view on poetry, which I felt afforded a good deal of room to explore a range of texts within the 4000-word limit.

“In my essay, I have tried to take the approach of considering poetic patterning in three distinct areas: the rhythmic, the phonetic, and the syntactical. Having considered some examples of each, I argue that poetry and mathematics cannot be seen as synonymous due to several fundamental distinctions, not least of which the role of human experience.”

Sense of freedom beyond the curriculum

Studying A Level English Literature, Spanish and Latin at Berkhamsed Sixth Form, James also independently studies A Level Maths. The Peterhouse competition series are opportunities for talented students to explore their academic interests beyond the curriculum.

“Passionate about the study of literature, I was attracted to the Thomas Campion essay competition by the range of engaging questions and the opportunity to craft an argument about texts of my own choosing. There’s a unique sense of freedom here, I suppose, which is not to be found within English syllabuses at GCSE and A Level; such competitions offer invaluable experience in putting together a more individual response than one might in the exam hall. I’m absolutely thrilled to be a winner of the competition, though didn’t expect to be in this position at all!”

James is looking forward to travelling to Cambridge for the Prize-Winners Luncheon later this month. He will have the opportunity to meet like-minded students and receive his cash prize in person.

Aiming high with integrity

Named as Berkhamsted’s Head Boy for 2019/20 James’ display of the school values ‘aiming high with integrity’ is exemplified by his success in the competition.

English teacher Alistair Harrison said “I am delighted for James – this is indicative of his honourable commitment to literature. These competitions present something rather beautiful to the critical and curious mind – the freedom they offer to explore ideas and texts allows a student like James to truly challenge himself. What greater reward can there be for a teacher than to see his student flourish in the most academic of arenas? James has a very exciting future.”

Read James’ essay

‘In that poetry is always patterned language, we may say that poetry is language tending towards mathematics.’ Discuss some examples of poetic patterning in the light of this judgement.

View James’ prize winning essay