Hi everyone, you’re invited to a very special Zoom event on Monday 14 March 8pm featuring the winners of the Waltham Forest Poetry Competition, as chosen by TS Eliot winner Joelle Taylor. Readers include the winner Jane Burn. Each poet will read their winning poem.

FREE event on ZOOM.
BOOK AT https://poetryshowcase.eventbrite.co.uk

Our readers will be LOCAL PRIZE WINNERS Hannah Chutzpah (Commended in Local Prize), JP Seabright (3rd in Local Prize), Pierre Lassegues (2nd in Local Prize) and MAIN PRIZE WINNERS
Zelda Chappel, James McDermott, Sara Levy, Helen Bowie, Sarah Davies, Caroline Bracken, Laurie Bolger (all Commended), Dillon Jaxx (3rd), Amelia Loulli (2nd), Jane Burn (winner).

The competition received over one thousand entries from across the globe and the UK. All the poems were read and judged by Joelle Taylor, who gloriously went on to win the TS Eliot prize for C+nto & Othered Poems.

You can read all the winning poems on the competition webpage: https://pctothepowerof2.wordpress.com/2021/12/10/834/

It was wonderful to hear last week that our 2021 Competition judge, Joelle Taylor, has been announced as the winner of the £25,000 T S Eliot Prize for her look at butch lesbian counterculture in the 1990s, C+nto & Othered Poems, praised by judges “as a blazing book of rage and light, a grand opera of liberation from the shadows of indifference and oppression.

The Waltham Forest Poetry Competition 2021

International, National, and Local

On 8 December at Ye Olde Rose and Crown, Walthamstow, winning and commended poets were celebrated at this year’s award ceremony. Two years after our last competition, this year we received over one thousand entries from poets young and old from across the globe, the UK, and our very own borough of Waltham Forest. It was a joyous occasion attended by winners and commended, their family and friends as well as those who just like poetry.

All the poems were read and judged by Joelle Taylor, a poet, playwright and author. Joelle, whose latest collection of poems C+nto & Othered Poems has been shortlisted for this year’s TS Eliot prize, performed readings from that collection – blowing away the audience with her insight, beauty and sheer verve. The evening ended with an Open Mic session with poets from the floor entertaining us all with a range of poetry styles and subjects.

This year’s winners and commended poets

ADULT PRIZE

1ST (£400) HARE CANNOT STOP LOOKING AT A PHOTOGRAPH OF E.R. FIGHTMASTER IN A MEADOW – Jane Burn (Northumberland)

2ND (£200) A Woman Walks Into A Marriage – Amelia Loulli (Cumbria)

3RD (£100) refraction – Dillon Jaxx (Sussex)

COMMENDED:

Totems – Sarah Davies (Bedfordshire)

ART HISTORY TEACHES ME HOW TO TALK TO MEN – Esther Kim (USA)

Iceland – Mariah Whelan (Oxfordshire)

stuck – Sara Levy (London)

Holy Trinity – Helen Bowie (London)

Pens – Laurie Bolger (London)

Cloister – Caroline Bracken (Ireland)

Some Difficulties with Love – Zelda Chappel (West Yorkshire)

MONDAY OR TUESDAY – Nafia Tahar (London)

The Museum of Feisty Women – Penny Blackburn (North East)

GAYSTHETICS – James McDermott (Norfolk)

Shortlist: Rowland Bagnall, Anne Bailie, Chrissy Banks, Heidi Beck, Graham Buchan, Linda Burnett, Hermione Byron, Eleni Cay, Rachael Clyne, Holly Bars, Elena Croitoru, Warren Czapa, Kerry Darbishire, Kitty Donnelly, Rick Dove, C Gillett, Jonathan Greenhause, Rebecca Hainsworth, Joel Hirsch, Elisabetta La Cava, Robert Lowe, John Mackay, Konstandinos Mahoney, Eric Mathews, John Mills, Steve Pottinger, Estelle Price, Emma Purshouse, Ben Ray, Federica Santini, Helen Scadding, Belinda Singleton, and Kate Young.

ADULT LOCAL (FOR POETS WHO LIVE, WORK OR STUDY IN WALTHAM FOREST) sponsored by Stow Brothers

1ST (£50) Gorgon – Cat Turhan

2ND (£30) I lost my manhood in a field in Norfolk – Pierre Lassegues

3RD (£20) GutterStars – JP Seabright

COMMENDED:

Straight Allies Flag – Hannah Chutzpah

Protest Sonnet – Jack Andrew Lantern

Shortlist: Charlotte Geater, Christopher James, Lois Roberts, and Anne Shurlock.

YOUNG POET PRIZE

1ST (£50) vows in eulogies – Zaara Dancu (Edinburgh)

2ND (£30) Riverine Contemplations – Animikha Dutta Dhar (India)

3RD (£20) striped – Ashley Thornton (USA)

COMMENDED:

Astrology Before We Dream – Zaara Dancu (Edinburgh)

Naming Spiders – Freya Leech (Oxfordshire)

Luca – Benjamin Field (Kent)

Solitude – Sabi Guzman (USA)

Tell Me, Chris – Lia Park

Teen Girl #77 – Evie Alam (South Shields)

Spring – Muna Farah (London)

Night birds – Claudia White (Shropshire)

Cottage Grove – Mazzy Sleep (Canada)

Growing Pains – Kirsten Allen

YOUNG LOCAL (FOR POETS WHO LIVE, WORK OR STUDY IN WALTHAM FOREST) sponsored by Stow Brothers

1ST (£50) Glass Body – Luca Parry-Williams

2ND (£30) My Identity – Kerrisha Alexander-Thompson

3RD (£20) Proud to be me – Kerrisha Alexander-Thompson

COMMENDED:

The Life of an Evacuee – Frankie Goldhill

An Impression – Sofia Shann

Help Me – Kerrisha Alexander-Thompson

My Journey – Kerrisha Alexander-Thompson

National Prize

1st Prize: Jane Burn – “HARE CANNOT STOP LOOKING AT A PHOTOGRAPH OF E.R. FIGHTMASTER IN A MEADOW”

Jane Burn, photo credit Colin Potsig

Jane Burn is a Pushcart/Forward Prize nominated, multi award winning, working class, bi, neurodivergent poet and artist who lives for most of the year with her family in an off-grid cottage in Northumberland. Her poems are widely published, in magazines like The Rialto, Under the Radar, The Friday Poem and Poetry Wales to name a few, as well as many anthologies from publishers like Culture Matters, Seren and The Emma Press. She is in the second year of an MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University and her latest collection, Be Feared, is published by Nine Arches Press. She has also recently been awarded an Arts Council grant to pursue her neurodivergent hybrid writing practises and theories.

https://janeburnpoet.wordpress.com
Twitter @JaneBurn11

Inspiration behind the poem

For me, it always seems somehow easier to navigate heightened emotional states or extreme confessional works through the device of an other-narrator. In this poem, I acknowledge complex notions of bisexual desire and how associated feelings complicate existing relationships. The other-narrator in this case is a hare. The hare, to many poets, is a mythical creature – such myth-hinterlands of intense sensation seem, to me, to be the place for such a narrator to come to the fore. Hare anchors herself in the relative safety of a photograph and expresses her bisexuality there, in all its unashamed wildness. Yet real-life yearnings remain, as an exquisitely painful parallel. I also wanted this poem to act as positive acceptance and encouragement of the use of correct personal pronouns– in this case, both she and they.

Second prize: Amelia Loulli: “A Woman Walks into A Marriage”

A Woman Walks into A Marriage

The first time I made you laugh I was naked
when I was supposed to be dressed or dressed
when I was supposed to be naked I forget
the details I might have been kneeling beneath
a bucket of ice-cold water balanced on top
of a half-open door I think you laughed
for three weeks straight it was hard to breathe
dangerous really how funny I could be
didn’t I make you laugh once at an expensive funeral
something died and we laughed anyway it might have been
the red squirrel I found stiff and belly up in the shallows
of the lake its little hands crossed over themselves
on its stomach politely as though at dinner you laughed
so hard we felt sorry for the squirrel so sorry
we dug it a grave and almost got a whole prayer out
before the laughing gave way gave us both stomach aches
you had at least a hundred ways of telling me you’re so funny
and all of them were true I made you laugh so hard
you snapped a bone in your throat I made you
laugh so much you lost a worrying amount
of weight it was impossible to get anything in
your mouth the laughing was so much like fucking
it felt indecent to do it in public but we laughed
so much I worried it had killed you
so I sent you more jokes improvised comedy shows
even if you didn’t laugh you had to watch- a pregnant woman
gets into a car crash
and it was something to do
with how someone else names or raises her child
I imitated her face but I told it wrong
not all jokes get the response we hope remember the one
about how leaving your wife for me would be worth it?

Amelia Loulli is a poet and writer living in Cumbria. A pamphlet of her poetry is published by Nine Arches Press in Primers Volume Four. In 2021 she was awarded a Debut Poetry Northern Writers’ Award, judged by Andrew McMillan for her collection exploring women’s experiences of grief and shame. In 2020 she was awarded third prize in the Cafe Writer’s Poetry Competition and longlisted for the Women Poets’ Prize. Her work has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize four times and has appeared in The Rialto, Ink Sweat and Tears and Butcher’s Dog.

Inspiration behind the poem

It’s hard to say what the inspiration was behind this poem. I think all I can say is that I went through a bit of a shitty time, then afterwards this poem came out all of a sudden, pretty much fully formed – and the squirrel was real.

Third Prize: Dillon Jaxx “refraction (n)-from latin refringere, to break up”

refraction (n)-from latin refringere, to break up

It’s 1999 and gay marriage
is still growing in a petri dish
in the basement of the hospital
you will never leave.

The contaminated waste bin fills
with our dirty lives they wash
from their hands every time I correct
friend to partner.

You give me a ring under the sneering
glow of strip lights, morphine melting
the confetti before it can settle on the ground
opening up below us.

Our unused wedding cake dissected
for the funeral buffet. I don’t want to cut
it but apparently that would a shame and a waste
when it’s so pretty.

I watch them line their throats,
sugar coating the jugular. I’ve never dreamt
of big days and plump dresses or being carted off
by horses in white coats but

I know rainbows are an illusion
created by light that must break
before it can be reflected back.

Dillon Jaxx is a queer writer living in Sussex. Recently one of twelve writers selected to feature in an anthology responding to current events, as part of Hastings Litfest and shortlisted for the Nine Arches Primers programme. Disabled through chronic illness, they write about grief, loss, identity and life that happens while no one’s looking.

Twitter @dillon_jaxx

Facebook: dillonjaxxpoetry

Inspiration behind the poem

I wrote this poem inspired by personal events and thinking about queer history how much has changed in attitudes and rights for people within the LGBTQ+ community within a fairly short time. At the same time unfortunately, not very much/enough has changed at all.

Commended: Caroline Bracken “Cloister”

Cloister

For years I lived in The Asylum of Silence
            it felt safe
            like a Trappist monastery
            or Carmelite order
watched over by a statue
            of Our Lady of the Snows
            an alabaster Pieta

I walked the Corridors of Quiet
            wore my skirts long
            covered my head
            my shoes rubber-soled
kept to the right-hand wall
            my gaze lowered
            like I was told

I ate in the Kitchen of Governed Tongues
            dined on green leek soup
            unsliced batch loaf
            no spice or sweet
at an unvarnished red deal table
            no vase of May flowers
            ever graced it

Once a year at Christmas
            I whispered through a grille
            like Vivaldi’s Pieta girls
            heard but not seen
my words did not travel far
            dissipated in the air
            then disappeared

Then I joined the Chorus of the Damned
            took their holy vows
            shed my habit
            opened my mouth

Sang

Caroline Bracken’s poems have been published in Abridged, The North, Gutter Magazine, The Honest Ulsterman, the Irish Times, Poetry Jukebox, Best New British & Irish Poets 2019-2021 and elsewhere. She was a finalist in the Manchester Writing Poetry Prize 2020 and is working towards a first collection.

Twitter: @Carriebracken

Commended: Esther Kim “ART HISTORY TEACHES ME HOW TO TALK TO MEN”

ART HISTORY TEACHES ME HOW TO TALK TO MEN

so we meet again / i / your aphrodite / botticelli-style / straight
outta sea foam / humming / hurtling into your jeweled toes /
the camera pans / and now i’m the lone woman / leaning

over the counter / clad in edward hopper’s strawberry-red /
don’t / you dare / when you edge into me / like snow
into a gutter / america into the 1800’s / because white men say

war breeds worship / you wait / for me to bow / and color
nails / and dry clean / don’t worry / when the sky
hunches / over my half-naked body / but you can’t / instead

i’ll soften / your pulse / with a steak knife / and stare
at your head in the sink / detached / spoiled / don’t care
to wash / the bible off my hands / you call me / a sinner /

but remember / this is the nightmare / i warned for you

Esther Kim is a Korean-American writer from Potomac, Maryland. Her work has been recognised by The Atlantic, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and The Poetry Society. In autumn, she will attend Harvard University.

Twitter: @kimeyoonjin

Commended: Helen Bowie “Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity

Helen Bowie (they/she) is a writer, performer and charity worker. Their work is featured or upcoming in The Book of Bad Betties, The Re:Creation Anthology and Under the Radar magazine, among others. Their debut Pamphlet, WORD/PLAY was released by Beir Bua Press in July 2021, and their pamphlet Exposition Ladies will be published by Fly On The Wall in autumn 2022. Helen edits Tattiezine, a chip paper art and lit zine about potatoes. Helen sometimes remembers to update her website, helensulisbowie.com

Twitter: @helensulis 

Commended: James McDermott “GAYSTHETICS”

GAYSTHETICS

James McDermott’s collection ‘Manatomy’, published by Burning Eye, was longlisted for Polari’s First Book Prize 2021. Their pamphlet ‘Erased’ is published by Polari Press. James’s poems have been widely published in magazines including Poetry Wales, The Gay & Lesbian Review, Cardiff Review, York Literary Review and 14 Poems. James was shortlisted for Outspoken’s Poetry Prize 2020 in the Performance category and Commended in Verve’s Poetry Competition 2021, The York Prize 2021 and The Winchester Poetry Prize 2020. As a playwright, James’s plays published by Samuel French include ‘Rubber Ring’ (Pleasance Islington/UK Tour) and ‘Time & Tide’ (Park Theatre; Offie nominated for Best New Play 2020; longlisted for the Bruntwood, Papatango and Verity Bargate Playwriting Prizes). James is also a writer on EastEnders. They teach playwriting in theatres & schools across the East of England and are a visiting lecturer in scriptwriting at Norwich University of The Arts.

Website: jamesmcdermottwriter.weebly.com

Twitter: jamesliammcd

Instagram: jamesmcdermott1993

Commended: Laurie Bolger “Pens – after Terrance Hayes

Laurie Bolger is a London based writer and the founder of  The Creative Writing Breakfast Club which featured in Time Out’s ‘One Good Thing’. Laurie is currently working on her second book, Call Me Lady, a collection of poems celebrating autonomy, love and her working class Irish heritage.

Twitter @lauriebolger

Instagram @lauriebolger_

www.lauriebolger.com

Commended: Mariah Whelan “Iceland”

Iceland

Don’t speak to me about the Mediterranean.
Give me instead an island of moss lawns
coated in verglas: each frond, every filament
hoared in ice. I’m not interested in bikinis
or margaritas. Let me lay my soft body
down on black sand beaches; rake my fingers,
clotted with scree and broken shells,
through the salt crusts and snow. I want
to run my tongue across the rippling water—
cover myself in metamorphic mud, trace a gorge
in white clay to let the steaming lagoon pour in.
Afterwards, don’t send me for a siesta. Leave me
to stand open-mouthed in the shower
with streams of sulfur running down my chin.
I’m going to stay in the car park long after the coach
has gone. I’ll fill my mouth with hot silica and stones,
swallow their sharp edges, dribbling hot chemicals
over hotter ground until, inside out like a salted slug,
I would show this unstable island my volcano heart.

Mariah Whelan is a poet, teacher and interdisciplinary researcher from Oxfordshire. Her novel-in-sonnets The Love I Do to You won the A. M. Heath Prize and was an Oxford Poetry Library ‘Book of the Month’. Her poems have been shortlisted for The Bridport Prize and Commended/Highly Commended in The Poetry Book Society Student Poetry Prize, The Poetry Society and Artlyst Art to Poetry Prize and the Spelt Magazine Poetry Prize. A pamphlet of poems The Rafters Were Still Burning is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press in 2022.

Mariah is the Jacqueline Bardsley Poet-in-Residence at Homerton College, Cambridge and a Visiting Fellow in Creative Practice at University College London. She is one of the Artistic Directors of Truth Tellers, a creative-critical collective that seeks to use interdisciplinary methodologies to explore the representation of trauma in popular discourse. She is one of the co-founders and co-editors of the Arts Council-funded poetry magazine bath magg.

http://mariahwhelan.com

Socials: @MWhelanWriter

Commended: Nafia Tahar “MONDAY OR TUESDAY”

MONDAY OR TUESDAY

Traces of it all over the empire scar
Tissue or concrete cracks slip of the heel right

Here right here you can see it can’t you see right
through the sliver the flicker inside of my cheek cherry pit bloody

Teeth spit it out raw like a lick of paint in sunlight. My darling.
My anti ghost. My baby blue lipless sky. You never leave it’s a house

With no lights on.
All the lights on again. Can you see me now?

Heart gushing rot like a week old wall-crack. In the ribcage you have
A plaything. An organ with no keys. Locks
Made of clementine peel I could kill god for you. Have his head

On a platter at your doorstep. Bird in my mouth. Dead
Dead Dead. Is the corpse in your yard just me? Me at fifteen?
Only thing you owned? Something so yours you could remortgage it. Eat it

Like a thing in your palm. Swallow it whole with the seeds the peel
The hand at the throat. Feel me there. Feel it like

A carving. Me for you. Permanency an unkillable curse. Don’t you
Wish you knew me now. I’m nicer I’m a trier I do things with my own mouth. Open

Like a honey jar. Murder with a grin murder with a call I’m yours to end yours to bury yours
To send to god. It’s the Apple with the bite the boat

With the flood. The reckoning with all these limbs in the dirt.
Where’s Napoleon when you need an ego? Where’s the train crash when I crave your breathing? Liver Wrapped in cloth I’ll

Hand it to you on a note like a favour. What are you going to do for me?
Join me in the yard shovel to cheek grass in the marrow

We could be very beautiful like this.
We could be very endless like this. Dig us up in a hundred

Wrists in bits. Shards in pretty, all those things they say about want.
Maybe you’ll find it eventually. God’s head six feet under.

Wonder if he loved you too.

Nafia Tahar is an eighteen-year-old Indonesian writer and poet from south-west London. Her work was first published in an anthology when she was fifteen, and since then she has been featured in various local Jakarta-based online media collectives, where she finished her A-levels. She is currently an undergraduate student at the University Of Westminster, working on her degree in English Literature.

Commended: Penny Blackburn “The Museum of Feisty Women”

The Museum of Feisty Women

was hidden from public view.
The curators met secretly in shadowed rooms,
sent cryptic messages in semaphore
or Sumerian text – cuneiform bird-marks
baffled outside eyes.

They placed a single necessary object
in every museum or gallery of the world.
A clay beaker or broken bead, a quernstone
passed from usefulness,
a hollow bone, a blunted knife.

They buried everything else
in deep pits, drew over them
the creeping seas, weighted them with mountains,
iced them under Poles.

Settled over with silted time,
our antiquities lie safe.
One by one we are called to examine them,
judge what needs to be reclaimed.

Penny Blackburn lives in the North East of England. She has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including pieces online in Atrium, Riggwelter and Ink, Sweat & Tears and in print with Poetry Society News, Fragmented Voices and Fly on the Wall. Her pamphlet “A Taste for Bread” was published by Wild Pressed Books in March 2021 and is available in print from https://pennyblackburn.bigcartel.com and in ebook from A Taste for Bread. She is the co-host of Cullerpoets poetry stanza and host of Under the Arches spoken word event in Tynemouth.

She is on Twitter and Facebook as @penbee8.

Commended: Sara Levy “stuck”

stuck

A Welsh-born poet, copy editor and recent Poetry MA graduate from Newcastle University with poems shortlisted and commended in the Ware, York Mix and Oxford Brookes competitions, and published in The Moth, Poetry News, The Alchemy Spoon and several anthologies.  Her debut pamphlet launches in spring 2022 with Clayhanger Press.

Twitter: @thatsaralevy

Commended: Sarah Davies “Totems”

Totems

Sarah Davies is originally from Merseyside via Scotland, living in exile in Bedford. She works in education. She has written, on and off since childhood, and has had work published, in amongst others, the Rialto, Magma, Interpreter’s House, Iota, Obsessed with Pipework, the Blue Nib and Ink Sweat and Tears. She is currently in the painful editing stages of a pamphlet.

Commended: Zelda Chappel “Some Difficulties with Love” after Warsan Shire

Zelda Chappel’s first full collection of poetry, The Girl in the Dog-tooth Coat, was published in 2015 by Bare Fiction Press. Her work has been published in a number of journals, magazines and anthologies both online and in print, including Butchers Dog, Lighthouse Journal and Under the Radar; as well as being placed and commended in a number of competitions. She is formerly the editor and co-curator of the arts journal and live event series, Elbow Room.

Twitter: @ZeldaChappel

Facebook: zelda.chappel

Local Adult Competition

Ist Prize: Cat Turhan “Gorgon”

Gorgon

I have stood on the balconies of Italian hotels and thought about
murder. I have waited in line at a petrol station supermarket and
imagined the beheadings of every balding man in the queue. On
the underground in rush hour, a cough from a body but a finger
width apart. I see his blood sprayed like log-flume water over the
tracks. I have thought about death at the wedding disco during
the slow dance. I imagine the handsy uncle throttled by a pork
pie he half chewed. The clean brutality of a guillotine for men
who couldn’t wait, who didn’t hear me say no. The driver who
called me a stupid bitch swinging from the indoor car park. Oh
and what of the policeman who followed me home? They say the
body was never found. That the gravel on my drive has his eyes.

Biography: Cat Turhan is a proud Walthamstow resident. Her work has been published in various magazines including The Rialto, Anthropocene, Ink Sweat and Tears, Perhappened and The Lighthouse Literary Journal. In 2019 she was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition.

Twitter – @cattyfantastic ; Facebook – Cat Elif ; Instagram – @cattyfantastic.

Inspiration behind the poem:

During Lockdown, I was lucky enough to be part of a small artists’ collective with friends who contributed plays, stories, poems, screenplays and visual art on a weekly basis inspired by a theme. Gorgon was written as both a response to a Magic The Gathering playing card, but also as a way of expressing my anger towards the policeman who murdered Sarah Everard.

In myth, the Gorgon is a symbol of Athena – the goddess of War – and images of their heads were used to ward off evil. In times when we feel powerless, having the ability to turn people to stone felt like a desirable quality.

It is a tribute to women everywhere who have felt vengeful for women who have experienced violence.

2nd Prize: Pierre Lassegues “I lost my manhood in a field in Norfolk”

I lost my manhood in a field in Norfolk 

I lost my manhood in a field in Norfolk 
It’s small and black
Made of good quality leather
If found please return 

I lost my manhood in a field in Norfolk
I went looking for it twice
The first time, phenomenal beasts
Black, massive 
That could kill you with one hoof
Bellowed at me with an angry eye
So I turned around 

The second time the field was empty
But after five minutes on my right
On a small hill 
There they were!
Grazing peacefully 
Still I saw it

The muffled tumble of the herd
The sound 
The stench 
The humid warmth 
The chase
The fall
Finally – the pain 
That most didn’t live to tell
And those who do have no words
So I turned around

At night I lay awake in bed and my wife asked me ´what’s the matter?’
I said ´Nothing – and everything !´

I lost my manhood in a field in Norfolk
I ordered a pre-owned one 
From a man named Gary
And when I opened it
It was just a camera case.

Pierre is 47 and from Bordeaux, France. He moved to Paris in 1999 and then to London in 2012. He releases music and performs live under the name Cross-Channel Music – music is his life’s great passion. He lives with his wife and two children in Walthamstow and teaches English at the French Lycee in South Kensington.

Inspiration behind the poem

I went to Norfolk with my family last summer and I lent my camera to my five-year-old daughter during a walk. When she gave it back to me, half of the camera case was missing. I went looking for it later that day but the field had cows in it and I got scared, so I gave up. I was feeling pretty ashamed about it when I went to bed that night, that I hadn’t mustered the courage to look for it properly, so I wrote this poem as a way to get that out of my system.

Website https://cross-channelmusic.bandcamp.com

Facebook: @crosschannelmusic

Third prize: JP Seabright “GutterStars”

JP Seabright is a queer writer (she/they) living in London, with poetry, short stories and experimental work published online and in print. Their debut poetry pamphlet, an experimental conceptual work, Fragments from Before the Fall: An Anthology in Post-Anthropocene Poetry is published by Beir Bua Press. A debut prose chapbook NO HOLDS BARRED is due out with Lupercalia Press in February 2022, and sometime soon in the new year GenderFux, a collaborative poetry pamphlet, part of the Nine Series, will be published by Nine Pens Press. More of their work can be found at https://jpseabright.com and via Twitter @errormessage.

Inspiration for the poem

I wrote some autobiographical prose pieces earlier in the year, some of which are due to be published in a forthcoming chapbook. These stories and the long-form poem that connects them, trace my personal journey of coming out, queer culture (in the 90s/early 2000s) through to modern genderqueer London life. Around the same time, I was working on a collaborative project with two other poets, which will also be published early next year, called GenderFux. As the title suggests, these poems look at gender, identity and sexuality from a queer and transmasculine perspective. GutterStars was written after both those works were accepted for publication, but the themes are similar. I wanted to celebrate the wide diversity of queer culture, as well as the specific clubs, pubs and safe spaces that have been important to me in my coming out and queer life.    

Commended: Hannah Chutzpah “Straight Allies Flag”

Straight Allies Flag

Your allyship wants to clarify its role to everyone
Does not want to be mistaken among our ranks
“I’m straight, but I think it doesn’t matter who you love or what you are”
Your allyship has not listened enough to know
That indifference does not sound like solidarity

Your allyship expects to be told how good it is
And how fierce it looks today, girlfriend
Your allyship thinks my girlfriend is just a friend
Your allyship needs to stop using the word ‘girlfriend’ like that

Your allyship expects congratulations for turning up at Pride
Consumes the most consumable parts of our culture
And fucks up our pronouns
‘Compliments’ us with a surprised
“Oh, really? But I’d never have known!”

Your allyship assumes heteronormativity
In the spaces we hold open for our ‘other’
Your allyship slams doors it cannot even perceive
But it’s fine because some of your allyship’s best friends are gay

Your allyship can now toddle about on its own
But is not yet ready to stand shoulder to shoulder
Your allyship wants a cookie for knowing that you don’t hit people
Wants to rest in its low expectations pushchair
While we push
And bawls, wounded, if someone explains
Why that thing it said wasn’t very nice
Or what it could do better next time

Your allyship wants to take part
But is still shitting its pants and crying
When it’s someone else’s turn

Your allyship needs to grow up.

Hannah Chutzpah has been described as ‘fine’ by three therapists and as ‘of good character’ by a high court judge. She studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia, and has been performing poetry since 2009, at venues ranging from Occupy Protests to the Royal Albert Hall. Hannah has taken one-woman poetry shows to the Edinburgh Fringe and is the current host of Incite, a free monthly LGBT+ spoken word night run by London LGBTQ+ charity Forum+. Hannah’s third collection, Permeable, was published by Burning Eye Books in 2017. Hannah lives in Waltham Forest and has got through the pandemic by crafting increasingly weird things, cycling, and befriending local corvids.

www.hannahchutzpah.com

@Hannah_Chutzpah

http://www.facebook.com/HannahChutzpah

Commended: Jack Andrew Lantern “Protest Sonnet”

Protest Sonnet


“I know that man is capable of great deeds. But if he isn’t capable of great emotion, well, he leaves me cold.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

Before you start, there’s no moral here,
those are piled in town halls with the dead
in inflatable morgues, on makeshift biers,
in those precious, buckling ICU beds.
So should we speak truth? And truth to power?
Have some decorum: this isn’t the place,
consider your place: this isn’t the hour.
Better to speak when you have no trace,
no life, nothing to make your blood boil;
so at least wait until the bodies are cold,
at least wait until the bodies are soil.
Then we’ll have the facts, the actual death toll,
we’ll blow the dust off this great reckoning
when death has lost its weight and meaning

Jack Andrew Lantern (b. 1986) flits between the Norfolk coast and London where he works as a writer for the Greenwich Maritime Museum. In 2019, he had his first book published, Kingdom of Mud with Sky Burial press. His work has appeared in Vice Magazine; The Cormorant and Ink, Sweat and Tears and he was nominated for Canterbury Festival’s Poet of the Year in 2017. He’s currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths.

Insta: @jackandrewlantern Twitter: @jackaalantern

Young Winners

First Prize: Zaara Dancu “vows in eulogies””

vows in eulogies                                                     

This time the story doesn’t end, it doesn’t begin
and there is no middle. There’s a ‘somewhere’ and
a ‘somehow’, and someone is talking in my ear, or 
texting my phone or teaching me good words.

This time I lose my chance, I drop it, I miss them, they
miss me, and there’s a past and a present. Now there’s 
a ‘her’ and never an ‘us’, but rather a ‘you’,
who goes once a week to spend time in a bedroom
with better walls than mine.

And sometimes there’s been a ‘maybe’ which sits on
the side of my desk next to a lukewarm cup of tea.
Every mundane thing reminds me of her, somehow 
everything becomes extraordinary and alive. 
It’s the way she speaks, I thought, but that’s a lie.

One time, it was a conversation with thrown metaphors,
and sudden truth and late-night drunkenness. I could
count on my fingers how quickly I lost him, hours, 
minutes. Then, writing us away, realising a truth
twenty weeks old with a heart four years weakened.

That’s all there is to saying nothing in the end.
You lose it all, chance radio silence, you win a 
round of chess, talk in her ear, text his phone, and
lie about where you are. The police come to get you,
I say, ‘I’m sorry’ and the night comes again for us. 

This time the night chases us- time is a race- and at
the finish line we say our hellos again. We miss out on the thrill 
and the danger because life gets in the way. We get in the way. 
Love gets in the middle, and in our way.

Zaara Dancu is a sixteen-year-old from Edinburgh, Scotland. She was born in India, to an Indian father and a Romanian mother, and has travelled and lived around the world. When she’s not writing poetry, Zaara plays cricket for her club junior and senior teams, regional Scotland teams, and the Scotland National junior team. She found a love for musicals and plays in school, and undertakes musical theatre challenges, such as LAMDA. She’s currently taking her A-Levels (a year early) in English Literature, Theatre Studies, Politics and Classic Civilisations. Zaara became interested in poetry in the summer of 2020 during lockdown, starting first as an outlet for her emotions, before turning into a way of expressing herself more clearly. Some of her favourite poets include Ocean Vuong, Richard Siken, Mary Oliver and Anne Sexton, which she takes inspiration from for her own writing style.

Inspiration behind ‘vows in eulogies’

‘vows in eulogies’ is inspired from teenage melancholy of love and the struggles of friendship. Written around the time of an upsetting exchange of confessions, the poem delves into themes of loss of potential relationships, frustration to speak out, insecurity about communication and trust, and the struggles of holding onto people you desperately cannot bear to lose. The poem stems from the conflicts around adolescence and the relationships you form during this period of immense change. It is based on true snippets of life that meld into the five or six years you are a teenager. At its heart, ‘vows in eulogies’ discusses how our humanity makes us who we are.

Second Prize: Animikha Dutta Dhar “Riverine Contemplations”

Why are we still here?
‘Neath these purple flowering trees
That flow like Mobius strips of life and death.
I’m not me without my mask.
What’s a day without the dusk?
What’s a clock if it’s not melting?
What’s the use of a stone if it’s not pelting?
And if it hits that train
Rolling through the valley like that wool your grandmother made shawls out of,
Judgement and delusion baked into one.
Were you the rainbow or were you just the rain?
Or you might have been both, like Helen in my dreams.
Your medieval soul and rustic vision,
The hues from that mystical Nujabes EP we bought.
A blob of a flickering nineteen-sixties countryside Japanese morning.
The sun’s coming down now, it seems so pained today.
All of my hymns composed for your wedding with the river
Died when you did.
And the river’s been lurking around,
Both of us know why.
A few years ago, we were still learning about this world of a billion dampened dreams.
Along the river, the milkman would listen to the bell on his solitary cycle,
Staring aimlessly at the river, with a worn out blue glint in his eyes.
He wished that he had been involved with water and not milk
And even though you tried to steal that bicycle and put it on fire, you couldn’t for your accord
With the river.
I’ve been sleeping all the time lately
And all of them are just a thousand floating fences.
Clandestine poker games with death and the river for some shots of amusement,
Is this what you wanted?
The curtains are dilapidated, this house deserves a new owner.

Animikha is a fourteen-year-old from Kolkata, India. She spends her time wandering through Malay and paleolithic horses in Jibanananda Das and stares at the Buendias with Marquez. She was influenced by her middle school English teacher to start writing and took inspiration from Bob Dylan. She has found herself drawn to poets like Garcia Lorca, Leonard Cohen as well as the more prosaic Allen Ginsberg and the Language poets. Apart from poetry, she enjoys mathematics and music and could play the guitar for hours on end, space and time around her ceasing to exist.

Inspiration

Riverine, for me, was a place to put in all of my contemplations about time. I felt that time had its own sphere where it was melting, almost like Dalí. Throughout the poem, I’ve tried to implant this mystical, almost fluid light through which I observed a lot of things around me. Ultimately, I believe I’ve tried to capture the liquidity of time through my writing.

Third Prize: Ashley Thornton “striped”

striped

Trying to fit into the cavern,
I could never become a part of the
orchestra of sheep. A tiger
doesn’t need to talk to
a ram before it eats it,
and it’s preferred that it doesn’t.
I used to be a fleece covered
doormat, a happy ending,
a sad song. Now the doors are all
wrong, and I’ve outgrown
my home.

Ashley Thornton is a seventeen year old writer who currently lives in California. She attends Orange County School of the Arts for Creative Writing and has been published in the student based literary journal Inkblot as well as on Reedsy Prompts, The Good Life Literary Review, poets.org, Write The World, and She Persists. She additionally had one of her poems workshopped by poet Philip Kaye. She has won awards from her elementary, middle, and high school for her writing as well as regionally and nationally from Scholastic. Due to her national silver medal from Scholastic, she got to hear a thank you speech from the president of the United States. She lives at home with her cats Birdie and Epcot, and is usually on her computer either writing or doing something else. She’ll write anything, but poetry, novels, and screenwriting are her main passion.

The inspiration behind the poem

I found this inspiration from the figure of a tiger. Tigers are one of my favorite animals, and I was worried initially about whether my poem would do the majesty of the tiger justice. So, worried about putting too much pressure on myself to write one fabulous poem, I instead wrote five ones with an even-handed effort and found my results. I thought to myself about how lonely it must be being the king of the jungle, and I went off from that idea. I wish anyone else reading this great results in their own writing! I believe in you!

Commended: Benjamin Field “Luca”

Luca                    

Looking from the boat, Luca saw
a huge, bright light coming
up from the sea.

His face turned red
and a look of concentration came over his face,
like a wave.

Unexpectedly, dad hoisted up
a very long ladder.
He said to go up.

Suddenly, Luca floated
to the moon.

The anchor pulled Luca
down
down to a ground that was full of sparkling and glittering stars.

Luca felt ecstatic,
and scared,
at the same time.

It was his new world,
but he didn’t know how to get down.                                                                                                                 

8 year old Benjamin loves the ukulele, singing and writing stories. He has a very dry sense of humour and he makes his parents laugh with the funny things he says. He also has very big ears, which are excellent for listening to adult conversation with! Benjamin lives with his mum and dad, his little sister and his Cockapoo, Bertie, in Kent. His favourite food is pudding, especially apple crumble, and one thing he just cannot eat is cooked carrots. They make him sick! Benjamin is happiest when he is outside. He loves climbing and walking and has climbed 3 of Wainwright’s fells, including the Old Man and Helvellyn! This is the first writing competition he has ever won, and he is very happy about it!

Inspiration:

As part of his topic about space at school, Benjamin watched the Disney Short ‘La Luna’. He worked on the creative writing over a number of weeks at school, and his mum and dad were so impressed with his writing when they read it, that they encouraged him to turn it into a poem and enter it into a competition.

Commended: Claudia White “Night birds”

The eagles shriek and the buzzards cry
The nightingales sing and spread their lies
The owls screech lullabies into the night
But curl up, my dear, and I’ll hold you tight

The egrets Rickrack and the nightjars twitter
The ravens chortle and cackle and snicker
The night-heron gurgles it’ jarring tune
But stay close, my dear, safe in our cocoon

The bats’ shrill screech and the nighthawks yell
The song thrush spills his secrets for all to tell
The night terrors squeal as they jump from their ledge
But don’t worry, my dear, I’ll make you a pledge

The cockerels will crow and the jays will chatter
The ducks and the moorhens will quack in their natter
The blackbirds will whistle their morning tunes
And tomorrow, my dear, will always come soon

Biography

Claudia White is a 16-year-old from Shropshire. She loves writing poetry, listening to music, musical theatre and singing (only in the shower though!). She really enjoys playing sport as well! Films, tv shows and LOTS of books helped her get through lockdown!

Inspiration

I get a lot of inspiration when I write from my friends and family. This poem ‘Night Birds’ was inspired from a time when I used to be scared of the dark. I always used to make up little rhymes to try and help me get to sleep (didn’t really work though!) Then I used that and wrote what I would say to younger me.

Commended: Evie Alam “Teen girl #77”

Teen girl #77

Teen girl #77 is quiet,
With her head in her hands
And her heart in her throat.
It stoppers her words
Like a cork in choked champagne.
When she speaks, she vomits glass,
Spews shards of crystal crooked teeth
Everywhere.
She slices the shell of her skin
And poppies bloom from her fingertips
Like it’s November.
She could fingerpaint her own murder
And call herself criminal.

Teen girl #77 is tired,
With dark half-crescent moons
Cradling her eyes,
Mashed potato mascara
Clinging in clumps to her lashes.
She is frosting a cake that has
Already gone stale,
Her sweet strawberry-stained smile
Spilling syrupy sentiment
Like a pot bubbled over.

Teen girl #77 is desperate,
Savouring your praise,
Letting her tongue coil around it
Like it’s a relenting toffee,
Watches it dissolve like sherbet into air
As though it’s chilled breath
On a bitter January morning.
She is an origami Icarus,
Fashioned from doctor’s prescriptions
And get-well-soon cards.

But

Teen girl #77 is tough,
Impatiently standing in line.
She refuses to flee
And make whoever’s behind
Just another Teen girl #77.

Evie Alam is a14-year-old from the North East of England. She’s been writing poetry for a short while, after discovering that it’s a vehicle for topics that are usually shied away from and can be manoeuvred to discuss them in such a powerful manner. She says: “For many people poetry can be such a strong form of self-expression and conveys messages that we would otherwise be oblivious to. It’s such a privilege to be Commended in this competition and I aspire to continue writing poetry that has an impact in the future.”

Inspiration behind the poem
My inspiration for this poem is difficult to summarise, but it’s mostly intended to encapsulate common feelings of being a teenager in any day and age. I hoped that honing in on such humanly raw characteristics and flaws of a seemingly average teenager girl would allow the reader to empathise. Also, I thought contrasting the traditional structure of a poem with a typically imperfect human would demonstrate the light and shade that fluctuates throughout our lives, particularly our teenagerhood. I also attempted to explore emotions that are perceived as ugly and something you hide in society, which I think more and more people are doing as poetry progresses, to expose that it’s a shared experience.

Commended: Freya Leech “Naming Spiders”

Naming Spiders

Spiders sit in corners, watching.
Noticed only the paranoid, the curious
and the intrepid.
They are alien but ever present,
names given but unspoken.

Common House Spider
Scuttling across the floor to curl into the bookshelf

Angular Orbweaver
Webs between the ragwort, glinting in autumn sunshine

Cellar Spider
A parliament of spiders behind the bathroom door

Fork-Palped Harvestman
Hanging menacingly triangular above the dining table

Oblong Running Spider
Oddly geometric, ghostlike between the leaves

Common Spitting Spider
Leopard-spotted against the blank wall

Silver-Sided Sector Spider
A drop of mercury on the window pane, patterned like a conker

Spider names
on the sidelines of speech
and the edge of knowledge.

Freya Leech lives in Oxford. She got into writing at a reasonably young age as her parents are both poets and writers and have always supported her. She is a keen martial-artist and has been doing karate from age 4.

Nature has always inspired her, and she is lucky to live in area that it full of green-space (the river is a three minute walk from her house!). One of the places that she loves to walk in is Wytham Woods which is a beautiful wild place.

She feels that she is a relatively new poet, and is very excited to see where the poetry world will take her!

Inspiration behind the poem

I have always liked spiders, even if a lot of people hate them (I am the one that is recruited to remove spiders from rooms at school before people enter!). Recently, I discovered a new identifier app which opened a whole new world of names, each stranger than the last. I found that this terrain of words was barely used, especially with disliked creatures such as spiders. I wanted to write a poem that would celebrate these names and the arachnids* gifted with them.

*Technically the fork-palped harvestman is not a spider, but I wanted to include it as it is very characterful. Also, its name was what started the idea.

Commended: Kirsten Allen “Growing Pains

      

Growing Pains

I have a pebble for an eye,
So still, it lies,
Unless you throw it,
Then it skims,
The other one goes wild.
A shell for speech,
A stolen tongue,
The ghost of it,
Blabbers on.
One ear for hearing,
The other one hears skin.
I ask for repetition,
They repeat:

You came out full-sized and
just kept getting smaller
A little less than half
Of you is a person.                                                                                      

Commended: Lia Park “Tell me, Chris”

Tell me, Chris

Commended: Mazzy Sleep “Cottage Grove”

Cottage Grove

1. My mother was a gravestone,
Dormant and cold.
She grieved, sitting by my father,
His lips parted under
The slow barrier of light. She
Tried to feel his forgiveness
By dying before dying.

2. My sister tended
The lonely house and garden
While Mother was gone,
Hoping for her return.
The more she hoped,
The deeper the wound became

3. My mother and father, two
Quiet stones, wrapping blades of grass
Their minds aligned,
Finally at peace with their unison,
There, in the dark.
My sister and I did not mourn
Our loss of Mother then;
We were already done.

4. When my sister had a child,
She told him stories of
Love, knights, and castles. The
Small clueless boy was
Fed tales of dying heroes,
So when his mother
Passed into the fabled stone
Next to her mother and father,
It seemed noble and right.

5. I never believed what they believed.
I refused to follow them in
Their concussion of rocks, of buried earth.
I took in my sister’s child.
He had her hands, her eyes, her nose.
He was so tiny and bleak,
Like a drop of rain.
I raised him to the sun to let him dry,
And taught him the ways of life.

Mazzy Sleep is a 9-year-old from Toronto, Canada, who began writing during the pandemic. She has written over 1,000 dark fantasy/horror poems, short stories, and songs, as well as two feature screenplays. Mazzy’s poetry has appeared in Hawaii Pacific Review and Lunch Ticket’s Amuse-Bouche series and will be published in four issues of the Queen’s Quarterly, Canada’s oldest scholarly journal. In her spare time, she watches weird cinema, horror films, and Japanese anime. mazzysleep.com

Inspiration behind the poem

It was raining. I was sitting by my window, the raindrops gliding across the cool glass in clear tresses of water. I had my book open before me, the pages smelling of almonds and a great forest with its ruffled green canopies of leaves. Abruptly, outside my window a glare of black passed by. A funeral procession, and the long, glossy casket. For a moment that felt like its own new forever. One of the people, a man in a narrow suit, looked at me. And I looked back. For some reason—I just knew through his eyes who the person in the coffin was.

It was the mother in Cottage Grove.

Commended: Muna Farah “Spring”

Spring

I wish I was a flower
dainty and delicate
swaying about in the April air
rooted deep inside the Earth
no thoughts, no troubles
no troubles, no thoughts
just bliss.
And when the time came
I’d be trodden on by a schoolboy,
taking a shortcut through Julie’s geraniums.

Biography:

Muna Farah is a 17-year-old from London. Her first memorable experience with poetry was winning a competition in primary school, and the prize was tickets for a David Walliams book signing event. She recently started writing again in lockdown as a way to channel her emotions and thoughts creatively. When she isn’t busy with schoolwork, she enjoys reading fiction, rewatching her favourite Disney movies and running a debate club with her friends.

Inspiration behind poem:

‘Spring’ was the result of a random thought that would pop into my head every now and again, about how simple life would be if I was a plant, so one day I decided to jot down the idea and eventually turned it into a poem.

Commended: Sabi Guzman “Solitude”

At first solitude was like
that abandoned golf course behind my apartment complex
Where I wasn’t supposed to wander and too overgrown
To sneak a trip
Beautiful in it’s own right but peculiar like my mother’s passing
But soon
I was filled with it and in it
Like I was supposed to be filled with awe
About this thing that people ran off got married to avoid
Or fill their homes with mediocre
Men and women
Just to repress it’s company                                                                 

Biography

Ysabel Guzman, better known as Sabi, lives in Winter Springs, Florida and is proudly one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She enjoys history, art and visiting her favourite website http://www.jw.org

Inspiration behind the poem

As a poet whenever I am writing I take from my surroundings and my feelings. I find that in poetry it is impossible to lie. Outside my home is an abandoned golf course that is overgrown and inside my home is a great deal of solitude. To me solitude is different from loneliness. I believe that often we confuse the two and in our decisions and actions try to escape it in some way. We crave it but only for a quick visit as it were. The passing of my mother isn’t one of a traditional passing in death but one like a breeze. She came and went. It was beautiful but peculiar why she didn’t stay given she was an important figure in my life. Stars are supposed to inspire awe not solitude. But I was filled with this intangible beauty. Solitude.

Commended: Zaara Dancu ” Astrology Before We Dream”

Astrology Before We Dream

Inspiration behind ‘Astrology Before We Dream’

‘Astrology Before We Dream’ is based on conversations shared between the speaker and their friend who enjoys astrology and tarot readings. The speaker has a love for discussions about the universe and its wide expanse, but when it comes to fate and astrology, they become more sceptical. Topics in this poem like humans’ connection to the stars, and their love for it, is something so old, so natural, it becomes conversations before sleeping. Beauty is found even in the things you may not believe in. Even ideas you think are make-believe or myth, the speck of truth and/or beauty in all of it can be looked at as tenderly as when you look at the evening sky, and so bewitching that it can be your last thoughts and words before slipping into sleep.

Young Local Prize

First Prize: Luca Parry-Williams “Glass Body”

Glass body

Stuck in an imaginary box, 
Her hands search for the answer 
Instead she finds an empty space 
Where you were meant to be. 
 
Don’t call her fragile, she’ll shatter inside 
Don’t call her bossy, when you would call him persistent. 
Don’t say she’s overreacting, when her fears are different to yours.  
Don’t say it’s not all men, when you are one of them. 
 
Her body is riddled with prints from an unwelcome hand. 
Her ears are filled with comments, from people making judgement. 
Her mirror is cracked and smashed only by her fist  
Her mind is filled with thoughts that he was taught to have. 
 
Slim waist CHECK 
Blonde hair CHECK 
Pretty face CHECK  
A happy heart BLANK  
She’s running out of the makeup  
she uses to cover her bruises 
She’s running out of excuses 

That she uses for concerned friends 
She’s tired of saying “I’m fine” 
When you make her feel terrified 
 
Did your parents teach you wrong?  
Where did your manners go? 
When others where being taught to never touch a woman, 
Their fights encouraged you to do so. 
 
A glass body, oh so fragile 
A glass personality, oh so perfect 
A glass mind, oh what an easy target. 
A glass heart, oh so easy to break. 

Biography

I am Luca and I am 12 years old. I enjoy drawing, taking care of my plants, reading and playing animal crossing. A few months ago my school volunteered me into a poetry workshop. Originally I wasn’t really interested; poetry was never really something I had thought that I would enjoy. But as soon as I sat down and started writing, it felt like I had just found something that I never even realised like I was missing. It became my new sort of outlet for the next few months, until school got more overwhelming and I stopped writing. Until I found out that a poem I had entered into competition in Walthamstow had come first place. I nearly cried because I never thought that something like my poem would win something like this. Now poetry and writing is something that I do much more during my daily life and (if I think they’re good enough) I read them to my friends.  

Second and Third Prizes: Kerrisha Alexander -Thompson “My Identity” and “Proud to be Me”

My Identity

What do you see when you look at me?
Do you see my true identity?
Or do you see me as just a product of a single-parent family?
I wonder when you look at me if you can see my true identity?
Do you see my skin colour as a threat to you?
Well, that isn’t me,
That isn’t my identity.
Raised by two parents, in two separate houses.
Raised by family and friends, whose love never ends.
I am a product of them all – my wider family.
Don’t see my skin colour as a threat,
Strip back my skin and all you’ll see is flesh.
The flesh of love, fairness and equality.
So when you see me cartwheeling on my gymnastics mat,
Just understand that is part of my identity, I was made for that.
So as I’m pushing forwards, never looking back
Your assumptions about my identity will never hold me back.
Just remember when you next look at me,
This is me, this is me
I am in charge of my identity.

Proud to be me

Proud to be me, yes me
Miss Kerrisha May Alexander-Thompson

Proud to be me
Because I’m much more than the human eye can see
Much more than my emotions show
Much more than what you think you know

Proud to be a part of this multi-cultural society
Proud to be able to speak my mind in all its entirety

Proud to be part of a generation that speaks
Proud to be part of a world that seeks
Seeks forgiveness for the wrongs of its past
Seeks forgiveness that will forever last

Proud to be part of moments that become history
Proud to see the 3 fastest women in the world race to victory
Proud to see Amanda Gorman reciting such powerful poetry

So here I am today – proud
Proud to be in this space
Conversing with you all about the remarkable human race
As my generation seeks to take up space
Space for our words,
Space for our thoughts,
Space for the change
That is needed in this day and age

So yes this is me, it is who I will always be
I’m proud to be me
Yes, I ’m proud to be me

Kerrisha Alexander-Thompson is 12 years old and in Year 8 at Walthamstow Academy. She has always liked English especially writing, however her mum reminds her of the funny story of her ‘reluctance’ to write in Reception class. Apparently, the teacher asked her to write a letter to Santa and she responded by asking if she could send an email instead as that would be quicker! Her teachers in primary school would often tell her mum and dad at parents’ evening that they enjoyed her writing but just wish she would write more… She loves the creativity of words but she doesn’t enjoy writing longer pieces as much as she does writing shorter pieces. Poetry and short stories are her favourite!

My inspiration

My inspiration behind my poems about identity have been based on my own experiences of living in the UK. During the pandemic the unfortunate death of George Floyd sparked the BLM movement and that movement highlighted the obvious and hidden racism within society towards Black people. It made me feel that it was not just in our history, people were speaking about things that were happening now.  My family members spoke about issues that have affected them and for once it was being discussed and people outside of our race were understanding. I wrote my poems because although I heard about and saw negative things, I also saw that as a society we were making a change. Although I want to address the racism, I also wanted to speak up about how great it is for people to just be them – more than just the colour of their skin. I also hoped that my poems would show that despite everything I think it is great to be me, a young black girl growing up London.

Commended: Frankie Goldhill “The Life of an Evacuee”

The Life of an Evacuee

As soon as bangs were heard
Everything had blurred
I got told I had to pack my bag with things I really needed
As my parents pleaded
I didn’t know what was happening
Was it something bad or even really threatening?

I was getting on the train to live with someone I didn’t know
I wanted to stay, but something was telling me “NO!”
I could only bring one teddy, but I wanted to take them all
I wanted to see my family or even the pictures on my wall
As the moon went down, along with all the light
I started to weep in fear, was everything alright?

As the sun rose up in the morning sky
I began to wimp and cry
I missed my home and all my things
Like my toys, my bed and my puppets on strings
As I ate my breakfast it never tasted like the one back home
Then start to wonder if I was all alone

At lunch me and the other children talked about our family
Thinking and chatting about whether we were living happily
While the others were eating their food
I spat it out as soon as I chewed
Then I needed the toilet, so I asked and then found out
It was outside in a wooden hut right next to a growing sprout

I wanted to go home to my people
And my furry animal
I wanted to see my parents
And my best friend Clarence
So every night I stared at the rain
And wondered if I’d ever see them again

Frankie Goldhill

Frankie is ten years old and attends Longshaw Primary Academy in Chingford. Frankie loves school and learning. As such, she is an avid reader and is equally as keen at writing. Her creativity, imagination and writing skill shines through all her compositions, regardless of text type or genre. As a skilled writer, Frankie is proficient in entertaining, intriguing, shocking and evoking many emotions in her audience. 

Frankie writes for pleasure and entered this competition of her own volition. The theme for her poem was inspired by her current history topic at school and also with thoughts of Armistice Day. Her family, friends and the whole school community are all very proud of what she has achieved – a very well-deserved Commendation. 

(Written by Mr Alex Bedwell, Longshaw Primary Academy)

Inspiration behind the poem

The inspiration behind my poem is my teacher, Miss Stanley at Longshaw Primary Academy in Chingford. In school we were learning about World War 2 and what it was like being an evacuee during the war, so for homework my class was set to write a poem. I had from Friday to Wednesday to complete it but left it until Tuesday. So after school, I sat on the sofa writing until I finished it. The next day, I bought it to school and left it in my draw until I could read it in the front of my classmates and Miss Stanley. Once it was time, I stood up, walked to the front of the class and read my poem aloud to everyone. After I had finished, my teacher said how well I’d done and how the poem was super good. I was very enthusiastic.

Commended: Sofia Shann “An Impression”

                                                                           

Big strokes of dark
Like thick paint dragged across a canvas

Rippling as we jerk up
And down
My head knocks lightly against the headrest.

Soon streetlights cut through the
darkness, polluting it;
A long line
Blurred and wobbly
Stays on my eyelids after we turn off the motorway.

Then from somewhere faraway
A sweeping light scoops up the car in its path and momentarily caresses
the face
Of my brother and then sister:
Both are asleep.

I wonder if they can see all the different lights in their dreams?
Or perhaps they have descended so far from consciousness
That everything is black, impenetrable
Unlike the darkness of the night.

Biography

Sofia Shann is an actor, artist and writer from London. Their desire to write stems from a lifelong love of reading and a fascination with human nature and the ability to capture moments. Sofia is currently studying English Literature, Art and French in their second year of A-Levels and is also heavily involved in the school’s drama department, both performing on stage and working backstage at any possible opportunity. In the future, they hope to use writing as a means of exploring the experience of being part of queer community and to connect with people from all walks of life.

Inspiration for the poem

Whenever we drive anywhere long distance as a family, I sit in the ‘very back’ of the car, surrounded by all the luggage and with my knees tucked almost up to my chest. When my siblings and I were little we would draw straws to determine who had to sit there but now it’s known as my seat. I find that, especially at night, curling up in the back with my headphones on and watching the people inside of the car and the places outside of the car grow gradually more sleepy is very comforting and it’s that feeling that I wanted to capture with this poem.

Commended: Kerrisha Alexandra-Thompson “Help Me” and “My Journey”

Help Me                                                 

I am trapped, help me, help me
Caged by thick emerald green vines
I am done for, doomed with nowhere to flee
The heart of the forest is trying to choke thee

Nowhere to run
Nowhere to hide
I don’t belong here can’t you see?
Is there anywhere for a person like me?
A place for lonely people, rejected by society,

Tips of trees poke and pinch me
Trying to get a laugh
But I’m too downcast to care
You should know that, don’t be daft!

I am taking my last breaths and I only have one more thing to say,
Don’t assume you belong
Look where this has lead me
Talking to myself and being immersed with pity
An outcast forced to escape
To have a chance to once again awake

Me belonging is now a thing of the past
My little life is over, I knew my happiness wouldn’t last
The string holding my life together has been cut
My emotions are unravelling like a ball of yarn, creating a mess
My existence had been a mere test
The door to all my hopes and dreams has now been shut

I don’t belong anymore,
Help me, help me
I am doomed can’t you see?

Isn’t anybody worried about me?

My Journey

6th August 2009
6:32 am was the time, I started this journey of mine

There was a lot in my childhood but what stands out clearly to me,
Were the smiles and laughter with my friends and family,
Times of joy which seemed to never end
Genuine smiles, none were pretend

Important memories forever carved in my brain,
Some caused me happiness, some caused me pain.

Fast forward my journey to the end of year six
From which I learnt, grew and made friends from the age of six

Till this day, the memories remain
Of me and my friend parting our separate ways

A little later into the future, at the beginning of year seven,
I made many new friends even though I was only eleven

That brings us up to the present day
With me living my life my own way

Asked to wrote two poems overnight
Hope you liked this one that I wrote in a night!

                                                                                         

The Waste Land: Five Limericks [by Wendy Cope]

The Waste Land: Five Limericks

I

In April one seldom feels cheerful;
Dry stones, sun and dust make me fearful;
Clairvoyantes distress me,
Commuters depress me–
Met Stetson and gave him an earful.

II

She sat on a mighty fine chair,
Sparks flew as she tidied her hair;
She asks many questions,
I make few suggestions–
Bad as Albert and Lil–what a pair!

III

The Thames runs, bones rattle, rats creep;
Tiresias fancies a peep–
A typist is laid,
A record is played–
Wei la la. After this it gets deep.

IV

A Phoenician named Phlebas forgot
About birds and his business–the lot,
Which is no surprise,
Since he’d met his demise
And been left in the ocean to rot.

V

No water. Dry rocks and dry throats,
Then thunder, a shower of quotes
From the Sanskrit and Dante.
Da. Damyata. Shantih.
I hope you’ll make sense of the notes.

I like Wendy Cope’s poems – fun, clever and this one rhymes. I also have a thing about “The Waste Land”, which I find overlong, over intellectual, clever in an annoying way. It may be a great 20th century work of art but frankly it leaves me cold. Wendy Cope’s parody put humour back into dry Eliot

Wendy Cope - Literature

Waltham Forest Poetry Competition 2021

Tweet about us at #WFPoetryComp

The 2021 poetry competition is now OPEN! £1000 worth of prizes! Visit here to enter.

Poems can be on any subject/theme/topic/idea. As in the past the competition is open to everyone (UK and international) and there are Adult and Young Poet prizes, plus separate prizes for people who live, work or study in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

We’ll hold an an award ceremony in November 2021 where all winners and commended poets will be invited to read their winning poem/s. If we are still subject to Covid restrictions that prevent us from holding the ceremony on a face-to-face basis, we will hold it on Zoom.

Judge: Joelle Taylor. A former UK slam champion, Joelle founded the national youth slam championships SLAMbassadors in 2001 for The Poetry Society and was its Artistic Director and National Coach until 2018. Joelle is an award-winning poet, playwright, author and editor. Her latest collection is C+nto: & Othered Poemsjoelletaylor.co.uk

Joelle Taylor

Closing Date: Monday 11 October (midnight UK time)

ADULT COMPETITION (18 or over)

Entry fee: 1st poem £3, subsequent poems in the same submission £1 – up to 6 poems in total, 40 lines maximum per poem (not including title). Poets who live, work or study in Waltham Forest will automatically be included in the Local prize for no additional fee.

Main prize: 1st £400, 2nd £200, 3rd £100.
Local prize: 1st £50, 2nd £30, and 3rd £20.

YOUNG POET COMPETITION (under 18)

No entry fee. Send up to 6 poems in total, 40 lines maximum per poem (not including title). Poets who live or study in Waltham Forest will automatically be included in the Local prize.
Main Prize: 1st £50, 2nd £30, 3rd £20.
Local prize: 1st £50, 2nd £30, and 3rd £20.

Got a favourite poem by someone else? Email barry.coidan@gmail.com with a reason for your choice and we’ll publish a selection here…

Head and shoulders, black and white profile picture of Betjeman

A Subaltern’s Love Song

Miss J.Hunter Dunn, Miss J.Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament – you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father’s euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o’clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.

By roads “not adopted”, by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o’clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl’s hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I’m engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

This is, for me, such an understated erotic poem as well as evoking so well middle class yearnings.

“What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament – you against me! ” and

“On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.”

Gosh, how I wish I knew Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

I asked a poetry friend for her favourite poem. She chose One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

“It’s written with such craft and such apparent ease, and takes us from the most trivial to the most fundamental of human losses. The inexorability of the verse form (a villanelle) matches the inexorability of loss and death, until it forces her to write the final word, ‘disaster’. There are two arts very clearly at play in this poem – the art of losing, and the art of poetry, at its height here.”

Poems in Poets Corner

GrahamYesterday at @OneHoeStreet  Forest Poets held their second Poetry Competition prize giving. The competition theme was “Where I’m From”. And it was a success. Paul and Barry arrived early to set things up: they had the help of two lovely WF employees. After setting out the chairs for 10 people – they didn’t think it would be that popular- they went over to Tesco’s and bought wine for 30!

The competition’s judge @GrahamClifford arrived early. They were expecting a much older man – sort of Walter de la Mare, but no: Graham is a young looking head of a secondary school in Walthamstow. It’s a new job and his hair still has the colour he was born with. King Street Junior immediately sprang to mind.

Slowly, but surely people came, and chairs had to be put out and still they came. This was going to be a success!

The wine (red and white), along with crisps were set out, at a good distance from the main event – next to the loos. The collection box, £2 a glass – a bargain since the glasses kindly provided by the London Borough of Waltham Forest were huge – no doubt designed for Council meetings. But before anyone could uncork the Malbec and Aussie Red the programme started.

There were around 50 people in the audience as Paul introduced Graham. He writes a lot of poetry and he read from a wide selection. (Note: he has at least three published books of poems – if you’re an unpublished poet that hurts.) Graham was the warm up act.

Barry then introduced @kitch_official. Barry and Paul first came across Kitch in January at an opening event of the Borough of Culture. They were blown away by his rap poetry so they had to have him at the event.  He did not disappoint; despite an bad sound system his virtuosity shone thro’. kitch

And then onto the prize giving. Barry and Paul alternated introducing the prize winners and commended poets and Graham handed out the certificates. The poets read their entries. It was quite a range from bus rides thro’ Waltham Forest, houses poets grew up in, to bats.

There were local young poets, local poets and main prize winners along with commended poems. After all that prize giving and poetry reading it was time for a break and the wine went…so Barry scampered across to the local Tesco’s to buy more!

Paul had produced a lovely book of the winning and other poems which were given out at the break after the prize winners had been announced.

After the break poets featured in the book came up and read their work and after that there was an open mic. By that time most of the wine had gone.

The evening ended as people renewed acquaintances or struck up new friendships and Paul and Barry went across to the Bell to sober up.chuckle-brothers