Cherwell School pupil wins £350 prize for her poetry

An Oxford schoolgirl has won a long-running arts prize for work inspired by her life in Norway and the United States.

Linnea Hopfenbeck, a sixth-former at The Cherwell School in North Oxford, has been announced as the winner of the Dan Hemingway Memorial Award for her poetry anthology, Home.

Marston resident Miss Hopfenbeck, who turns 18 at the end of this month, claimed the £350 prize for her collection of 20 poems.

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The award was set up in honor of former Cherwell School pupil Dan Hemingway, who died after being hit by a car while cycling along the A40 at Cassington on Christmas Day, 1991.

He was aged 19 and a student at the University of St Andrews at the time of his death.

A gifted musician and aspiring writer, the award was created by his parents, John and Sue, to inspire Cherwell School students to pursue a career in the arts.

The prize was founded in 1992, as was the Dan Hemingway Prize for short story writing at the University of St Andrews.

Award winner Miss Hopfenbeck is currently in Year 13 and is planning to study film and creative writing in the United States when she leaves Cherwell.

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She said: “Winning the prize feels like a huge privilege. When I saw everyone else’s submission, well, they were all so wonderful.

“I’d never shown anyone my poetry outside my family before, and it was strange to think that other people could relate to what I had written. It still hasn’t really sunk in, but I think I’ve gained some of the confidence I need to pursue a career in writing.

“Having moved around quite a bit when I was younger, also being shy and anxious, I’ve often felt nostalgic about childhood.

“I drew on my memories of growing up in Norway, America and England, as well as the feeling of growing in and out of spaces that I often felt I didn’t quite ‘fit’ in (although feeling out of place somewhere never seemed to stop me from romanticizing it when I left).

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“The poems are a mix of the joy, comfort, anxiety and sadness I have felt growing up in those places.”

Award judge Sue Hemingway, who is the founder and owner of the Hemingway Art gallery in Cassington, said: “Linnea’s work was the best poetry we have ever had.

“The work was sensitive and atmospheric, as well as being complicated writing that could be read on many levels.

“It is the sort of work that you could easily find on the shelves at Blackwell’s – so mature but also so accessible.”

At the start of her poem Thinking back and thinking forward, Linnea writes:

Nostalgia does strange things

Giving a golden hue

To an otherwise cold country

Warming the breeze.

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