Poems by the Commended Foyle Young Poets of the Year
“I am really glad to be part of this celebration of poetry, to spread the message that poetry is something for everyone, whatever your background, and especially for young people.” – Linnet Drury, winner, Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2020
Poems by the Commended Foyle Young Poets of the Year The Poetry Society 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX, UK www.poetrysociety.org.uk Cover: James Brown, jamesbrown.info © The Poetry Society & authors, 2021 The title of this anthology, You Speak in Constellations, is from Elise Withey’s commended poem, ‘Gateways Club, 1967 (Lipstick and Jazz)’, 2020. This anthology and our entry forms are available in a range of accessible formats. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com
You Speak in Constellations Poems by the CommendedFoyle Young Poets of the Year 2020
Acknowledgements The Poetry Society is deeply grateful for the generous funding and commitment of the Foyle Foundation, and to Arts Council England for its ongoing support. We would like to thank: Arvon for hosting Foyle Young Poets’ residencies; Bloodaxe Books, Candlestick Press, Divine Chocolate, Forward Arts Foundation, Ignition Press, Nine Arches Press, Out-Spoken Press, and Poems on the Underground for providing winners’ prizes. Our thanks go to: judges Keith Jarrett and Maura Dooley for their dedication and their readiness to adapt to the circumstances of 2020; Matt Abbott and Theresa Lola, this year’s award Patrons, for championing the competition; and the fantastic team of poets who helped the judging process – Jacqui Adeniji-Williams, Joshua Seigal, Phoebe Stuckes, Phoebe Thomson, Rachel Long, and Rachel Piercey. We are grateful to Marcus Stanton Communications for raising awareness of the competition, and to our network of poets and educators across the UK for helping us to inspire so many young writers. Many thanks to artists James Brown for creating the anthology artwork, Imogen Foxell for her design bringing together the winning poems, and Chris Riddell for illustrating the top 15 poems. Finally, we applaud the enthusiasm of the young people and teachers who make the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award the success it is today. foyleyoungpoets.org
Contents Introduction Aashka Vardhman Ahana Banerji Ailsa Morgan Alyssa Theofanidis Amala Sangha Amélie Nixon Anisha Jaya Minocha Anne Kwok April Egan Arabella Green Artemis Fernihough Ayra Ahmad Blessing Verrall Celeste Herriotts Celia Mostachfi Charlotte Hughes chenrui Claudia Quin Connie Alvarez Divyasri Krishnan Elise Withey Eliza Sinclair Kidd Elsie Hayward Elyse Thomas Emily Man Emily Ng
7 The Land of Legs I hate poetry Glenrothes Why I Keep Shoes That Don’t Fit Me Trope I Meet Grief on a Saturday Finding You My Mother Steams Fish for Dinner eleven days left in apocalips end The Steep and Thorny Way Mutually Exclusive Quarantime second-generation Blood Teach a Boy to Fish Peeling Lord, I Sing Open a Book Humanity’s Blues Unmothered Gateways Club, 1967 (Lipstick and Jazz) Grow Up Katherine jamaica: in search of my body A Moveable Feast American Courthouse
10 11 12 13 14 18 19 21 22 23 24 26 28 29 30 32 34 35 36 37 38 39 42 43 45 47
Erin Hateley Eshan Fadi Euan Sinclair Eve Calvey Eve Wright Evie Collins Florence Bullion Francesca Morgan Freya Leech Georgina Cary Grace Phillips Hannah Eve Kilgore Helen Roth Hope Vaughan Iona Mandal Jaewon Chang Jamie See Jeanne Everett Meraioth Jennah Agha Jonathan Truong Kate O’Brien Kerensa Pickering Kitty Joyce Kitty Robinson Lilly Jane Nolan Lily Celeste Ashby Liv Goldreich Lucy Stone Lucy Waters Maddie Harris
invisibility Where I Come From Full Moon: A Fragment The Poor Man’s Haiku Bibliophile Bloodmoon Timekeeper If I was Neal Cassady What is lockdown? mind is running high Love is Touching Souls January I want the peace of The Washing Line Homecoming To Undress The Man Who Leapt Over the Turnstile Air Her Hands enola gay Before Shoes Toasting the Post Cornrows Ice skating (Irregular) Ode to My Memory Altneuland 44,220 and counting I always put too much honey on my toast my voice will become my own
48 49 51 52 53 54 56 57 59 60 61 62 64 66 67 70 71 72 73 75 76 77 79 80 82 83 84 86 87 88
Madison Averill Martha Iris Blue Martha Routledge
Sonnet for a queer girl 89 How to Write a Mountain 90 To the Graffiti Outside Ladbrokes 91 I Walk Past Every Day Martine Maugüé 台灣 (Taiwan) 92 Maureen Onwunali Mother Tongue Says to Nigerian Girl 94 Merrie LeMaître Nugent To You and Yours 96 Olajuwon-Alhaytham Abdullah Adedokun Shade the correct answers 97 Oreva Esalomi Beauty and Power 99 Patricia Ssonko Nalule African Spirit 102 Phaedra Wright The Bride 104 Phoebe Z. Barowitz The Ship 105 Priya Abularach confession 107 Priya Shrivastva 20/20 Vision 109 Ran Zhao thunderstorm at night and you tell 110 your sister not to be afraid Remi Seamon The Stork Keeps Flying 111 Sabrina Guo Kill List 113 Saima Begum Know Their Stories 115 Samiya Saif Ullah Land of the Rose 116 Sarah Fathima Mohammed Ruh 118 Serrina Zou Whitewash 120 Sinead Bruce The Audience 122 Sinéad O’Reilly Ode to the Milkman 123 Sung Cho Ode to Sh*t 124 Theodora Shillito The Story of Squiddly Diddly 126 Tom Griffin Drawing God 130 Vidula Selvan House 131 Zayaan Jamil Odd 132 Zoe Dorothy Leary Alice as a Mother 133 List of winners and commendations 134
About us About the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award Further opportunities for young people Schools and The Poetry Society Enter the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2021
135 136 138 140 141
Introduction “If we had thought for a moment that this long year of Covid, of international unrest, of the tragedies that led renewed attention to Black Lives Matter might make humour impossible, or attention to very personal experience tricky, then how wrong we were. Poems came in from all over the world: poems of astonishing skill, poems of great tenderness, angry poems, poems that made me laugh and sometimes those were even all the same poem. What more could a reader ask?” – Maura Dooley, Judge, Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2020 The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award has been finding, celebrating and supporting the very best young poets from around the world since 1998. Founded and run by The Poetry Society, the award has been supported by the Foyle Foundation since 2001 and is firmly established as the key competition for young poets aged between 11 and 17 years. This anthology features poems by the 85 commended poets in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2020 and celebrates the names of all the winners. The winning poems were chosen by poets Maura Dooley and Keith Jarrett. In a competitive year for the award, judge Keith Jarrett commented: “It’s been a privilege judging this year’s prize. At a time when so many of us have been physically separated from friends and family, I’ve felt connected to thousands of young voices from around the world. The poems have been passionate, political, tender, troubling, humorous and, in many cases, brave.” All of the poems in this anthology were written by writers aged 11-17 at the time of writing. They demonstrate an extraordinary linguistic and emotional sophistication of which any established poet would be proud.
Although rooted in the unsettling circumstances of 2020, this anthology has the capacity to transcend the year that birthed it: the combined wisdom offered here will stay with the reader long after they have put this volume down. The poets represented hail from across the four nations of the UK and the wider world – Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Nigeria, the Philippines, and the USA. The result is a richly varied collection that at once bursts with the unique flavours of myriad cultures and nonetheless reminds us of what we have in common across nations and borders. Between them, the poets evoke a full range of emotions, from affection to sorrow, through curiosity and joy. The events of 2020 play out across these pages: in a year when the Black Lives Matter movement swept the globe, reflections on race and cultural heritage dominate these poems, while more than one poet directly addresses the Covid-19 pandemic, and the feelings of loss, disorientation, resilience, and strength that have variously characterised our collective response. In many countries, people were encouraged to “stay at home” and there are poems in this collection that do just that, celebrating bonds between siblings, family, and friends, reaching for the contents of our homes and wardrobes as conduits for personal histories, or exploring the relationship between the human body and identity through the lens of race, gender, and sexuality. But there are also poems that venture further afield, commanding our gaze to the defining issues of the age: fractured politics, social injustice, the environmental crisis. Then, there are poems about poetry itself, which dissect the reading and writing process or delight in libraries and their tremendous potential for discovery. These poems remind us of the primacy of literature as an art form for young people today.
“You speak in constellations”, Elise Withey says, in the poem that gave this anthology its title. If there are two things that stand out in this collection when viewed as a whole, it is the delight of discovering so many new, important, and refreshing voices, and the sense that for all the diversity within these pages, there is also common ground, a constellating thread that unites these young stars. That thread is one of empathy: a shared talent for noticing, for articulating the million details of life, and for bringing these to our attention. Some of these poets demand action, some demand reflection – all ask us not to look away. When we look back at 2020 in years to come, we may reflect on the political turbulence and epidemiological turmoil which cast a shadow over the year. This anthology brings together some of the most courageous young voices today. It is striking that the emerging generation never shies away from troubling times, but creates poems which offer space for reflection, humour, passion, solidarity, and hope.
Aashka Vardhman The Land of Legs Every day, another one is born on the mighty Land of the Legs. There is an infinite group of citizens, a few Amelias and a few Gregs. They squeal in anguish as they are ripped off or epilated. They still always tend to come back, even when mutilated. When it is breezy and very sunny, they sway to the beat, When it is a normal day they sleep or gossip on their seat. If compressed under a tight stocking pair, They proudly stick out for a bit of fresh air. Some style themselves and stand up straight to look cool, As it is hard to spot each uninvited resident in the hair pool. In the very popular and vast town of the Land of the Legs, this is the ordinary life. Newcomers keep coming to visit, ignorant that they will soon be under the knife.
Ahana Banerji I hate poetry I hate poetry. I hate the way poetry drags me by the hair, screaming. I hate the way it oxidises my numbness. I hate how it dries out my lips, rips out my roots to display to the world as if they are special and not just dirt and grime and xylem and phloem. I hate the way poetry makes me feel as if my words are not stolen from the anecdotes of a taxi-driver with tobacco minced between his molars. I hate the way my grandmother looks at me when I tell her I write poetry. (She looks at me like I am a woman.) I hate how poetry makes me roll my eyes back and stand before my gods with greasy hair and tongue of television static. I hate the way it rapes my thoughts and sells my defilement for a grey-toothed grin and a sweaty handshake. They all want my poetry. They want to feel my words like a nicotine patch, clammy and close to the skin, but they don’t taste the blood of my poetry, how it has drained me with every analysis of anaphora and allegory. I hate how I have to gouge out syllables for deeper meaning as if the feeling of vowels stewing in your stomach wasn’t enough. I hate poetry.
Ailsa Morgan Glenrothes We drove into day Blanket-bright, squinting, double-glazed eyes On the newborn road, thick hedged with baby teeth Laying the path. The houses were empty, Felt like the cut, the stitch, the sigh – Sounded like a wine glass’s thumbed hollow Tracking, tracing, trailing the hours. Glenrothes lights, sodium stars, Lit up the width, the length, the depth, Of broken-up walls I’ve Left in a labyrinth, lost in a kitchen Where bodies had crammed for tatties and Spam. There – A room was room for us all, here – There is space, space, echo, another, Repeating, and breaking, and repeating. I want my own maze. I spun my silk thread Outer to inner, leaving a line, A hook to catch home on. The shadowed walls Cramped the air, birthed dark wrinkles In my palms – A map I can’t use. Give back the girl above us. Let me keep the bath, And a room for myself. All this is new bricks, New skin, will warm. I am waiting for the first breath.
Alyssa Theofanidis Why I Keep Shoes That Don’t Fit Me What one wears upon one’s feet changes from time to time. We grow and change and toss them out, buy a new, sparkling pair. But every time we get rid of our shoes, we lose a sense of what life was like in the past. We forget the blaring sirens and deafening honks of Madison Street, the array of stores hugging against the lobby wall of Bloomingdale’s, and buying soft pretzels from the disoriented vendor outside of Tiffany’s. If I ever need to relate to someone younger than me, I can remember those moments. Because your shoes aren’t your size, but they once were. And maybe they fit someone else.
Amala Sangha Trope Extra No. 18 hangs on eagerly for her prompt. Imminently her character will lavish praise onto the protagonist and urge her to pursue the romantic lead. This is a big deal. Most of her roles the last few months have been non-speaking and now she gets to play the best friend. Overhead studio lights swell To scintillation, the hum Of the equipment oozes ‘Big-Scale-Production’. The cast and crew shuffle into readiness. The air sticky with anticipation. The AD makes a few quick words about the impending scene. He smiles at her, feeling the apprehension she emanates, reminding her of her part as the amiable, reliable side-character. That’s right. I am sidekick, hype man, cheerleader. Begrudgingly outstretch arms And swallow the pill When you look like me. Onscreen and off. Right?
Yes, I’m written this way. Agreeable, Fun-loving shadow whose singular duty Is to worship the ground My white best friend walks. Subservient to their every line of dialogue. (Impromptu girls’ night? No Problem! I’ll cancel my meeting. Want that job promotion? That’s okay! I’ll devote all my time To preaching about why you deserve it.) Don’t bother getting upset, I’m told. Honestly, I don’t mind being An afterthought. At least I am some kind of thought. There was a time when we slipped the mind altogether. I accept the marginalisation for lack Of a better alternative. In pursuit of this career, In awe of the white characters I Grew up watching. Relentlessly projecting Myself onto them. Never to mind being the token POC spear-carrier. Actually, I’m making this too personal. None of it is about me, us. It’s all politics. It’s this surface-level perfunctory Effort to demonstrate diversity.
That’s why the only thing I really know About my character, Is their race. The thing only need be advertised And my interest was piqued, Appetite whetted, Desperate for some inclusivity, Apathetic to the stereotypes embedded. Let the pay gap roll off my back. I’ll take the cultural capital on my chin. I’m a bit unremarkable, but what I Lack in characterisation, I make up for In melanin. That poster on the tube looks cosmopolitan now. And if there’s enough of us then Critics might questionably call the series Something hackneyed like “urban”. You can call me what I am… Emasculated Asian (goes without saying). Sexually voracious Latina (goes without saying). Sassy and Black (goes without saying). I’m versatile, what do you need? Jezebel, mammy, magical and healing. If that sounds too positive a portrayal, I’m well versed in Playing terrorists, thugs and the uneducated.
This is great for ratings and now they Can tread less nervously around Precarious issues: race and gender because The gay best friend says it’s “okay queen!” I am the protagonist’s accessory. Nothing more than that. – Never more than that – Exhausted by the false dawns Give me more I don’t want my family Seeing me taking home awards Assuming the role of Ethnic Horatio to their Hamlet. And yet I know I play this role in real life, too. I’m the brown background player. If I try my absolute hardest maybe I could reach through the screen, Inhabit this exciting, Vibrant, technicolour life. Trade the colour of my skin For the chance of knowing My story is just as messy, Thrilling, beautiful, Worthy. If I try my absolute hardest. “CUT! That was all off-script. From the top!” 17
Amélie Nixon I Meet Grief on a Saturday we meet grief in the corridor. we meet grief between the lamp and the bed stand, between the alarm and the nightlight, on the phone when mum says sorry. please come home. we meet grief when we wake up in it, cocooned, when the duvet grows on us like moss, when the sun comes up only to be split in half, buttered onto toast. i meet grief on a saturday. they meet it friday night, i don’t meet grief but they do. they do.
Anisha Jaya Minocha Finding You I found you in the bakery aisle, among homemade British cheese twists which would mix with the whiff of fresh haldi, or turmeric. I found you in the car’s back seat, covered in dated newspapers – The warmth of your laugh crossed continents, written in the splash distributed with the shortened title: Former Journalist of ‘Indian Nation’, now, community postman. I found you in the boxes of bananas, left sticky with peel imported from India sold by worldwide wholesale. You said, those were the best. Those, you kept for the feet of the monkey God, Hanuman. Those, too, crossed seas, crossed continents, just to be.
I try to find you everyday, in the steam of the pressure cooker ebbing away.
Anne Kwok My Mother Steams Fish for Dinner For dinner, we slice open a pregnant salmon holding wet roe like tears. Her body lies numb, underbelly spilling the hot soup my mother had fed her. We eat her eggs with steamed rice, popping pockets like lovely bullets in our mouths. My mother tells me she wants to find someone who can preserve her just like this, all pockmarked sweetness in a single dish. She twists the soft throat of salmon and eats the head as mothers do. Here is the bone of the head, she tells me. Here are the eyes, the sweetest part of it all. Her lips hover above tear-dried orbs, the same way she kisses my eyelids at night before I sleep.
April Egan eleven days left in apocalips end o little town of bethlehem kisses from the nuclear bunker merry little lifeform my mutated ma cherie glow green ensnare me little oil puddle leaking gold. are you the sun? iron and rot b52 presents in your hair favourite friend open wounds unwrap delights you taste of salt a face scrunching wonderful surprise my lovely rotten thing my decay o delight you dressed in sticky ballerinas and hot soup and you turned your face to heaven’s light look for angels and go blind and brilliantine alas alas light is dead long live eternal christmas you are made from wool and baby hair matter wrap me up your skin departs o snow o snow the sleet the sleet my starless street your skin your skin ribbons of my religion I hope the angels hang their twelve heads in shame open their hundred million eyes in the wailing wailing bells ring for the living o sing o sing love is old and bent as you gross gem abide abide you’ve peeled away to shadow and there you take me over little din in my bed in your jumper poinsettia red o little town of bethlehem how still we’ll be home soon.
Arabella Green The Steep and Thorny Way Peel off my dress like a fruit or skein of hangnail and drop it to the earth. It has a golden sort of chill, that evening softly, fingers poking, dimpling my flesh. I think hairs raise. Angels press the sky onto a mirror it has every star and sphere every finger run along grooves in vinyl every blue every smooth-worn sea-stone. I slip down to the edge grass between toes, flowers in fingers flowers in hair. And I let the flood take what’s left. Water fills my lungs.
Artemis Fernihough Mutually Exclusive I am mutually exclusive. A basic example that is always used – Not a boy, then a girl There’s no in-between You can see how I got confused. At 8 I cut my hair Lopped it off from waist to jaw Upon seeing this, my mum only recalled Her past being mistook for a boy. At 9 I stopped wearing skirts Not because they weren’t to my favour – I loved the long fabric as it fell on my legs I just didn’t like that it made me a ‘her’ At 12 I started to bleed And I wept, because there is no place No space in the middle for me – Now a girl, now a woman, barely a teen. At 13 I tested the water That was always too shallow for me The binary is a small pair of shorts That never quite reached my knees. At 14 I changed my appearance Cut my hair, bought boys’ clothes, started to bind –
Not ’cause I hated my body Because I hated what it defined. It is now I struggle to break The spoon-fed rules of what to be I took it all in, the insults, abuse As I tried just to be me. And I am mutually exclusive – Stuck in the middle, not ‘a’ or ‘b’ I am what they call ‘they’ And that’s perfectly OK, I’ll continue to choose option ‘c’.
Ayra Ahmad Quarantime Rivers still flow although God has turned off the taps across a troubled ant farm, running the streets dry. Lunch comes and goes. In the heat a tumbleweed rolls out into the desert. No longer relative nor definite are these times – they are frozen, like the neglected bins on the pavement. Rusting swings creek involuntarily, the wind’s words must be heard, complied with, broadcasted to all; a thunder of claps. There is hope – It bellows over the cries of kids who just want to go outside. The branchless leaves are left to rot, the fearless now reluctant to bloom in such barren wastelands. Spring has come and gone and with it a year paused, reluctantly.
Few shadows run along under the pelting rain. They turn the gears in the mill. They ring the bells in the clamorous church. Birds chirp at the silence of their new world, in which rivers have frozen in summer.
Blessing Verrall second-generation womb-box you came out running muzzled and mute kicking up sand 100 miles from the nearest ocean your greyhound body livid electric leaping blue suspended sulphurous above Earth’s friction you strike a prayer against the homesick strand
Celeste Herriotts Blood You are blue on the inside and red on the outside. I know the many roads you travel every day. Your life is a sprint, a push, a current. Flowing through a black hole, its casing pulsating and fleshy. Among your clones, you have no control over your existence or where you go, but you flow through someone’s universe, necessary for life. You dance with the spinning of the earth, flinging our view of the stars to blue. I hear you.
Celia Mostachfi Teach a Boy to Fish Give a boy a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, Teach a boy to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime. Teach the boy to share and soon the world will know how to fish. Teach a boy to share and he’ll be fishing for the men; The men who know how it’s done. The boy asks to teach, but the jaws of capitalism clench and sink their fangs into the boy’s mind. Cut a boy from the trade, it won’t matter. A thousand others can do his job. A thousand fishers fed from the boy’s plate. They share the bait but only bring home one fish. The fishers are starving. Tell the world the fishers are starved but they can’t hear: Their ears are submerged, the gills of their souls filter out the toxins and focus on the crop. They focus on reeling in the fishers’ fish while the men reel in the profits. The boy decides to turn his eyes away from senseless corrupt demand and begins a new trade. A boy is taught to be a man if he wants to hold the cane. The boy invents a fishing boat; He’s made a fortune! An endless sea of scales to climb and defy, but the men intervene. The boy has learned from betrayal but he hasn’t heard of crime: What is his is theirs, declare the men. The boy simply lacks the skills to escape the web. The fine print written in invisible ink beneath the dotted line has the boy at a hold. Hook, blade and anchor sink the boy’s ambitions onto the ocean floor,
Crushed by the immense pressure the boy is reduced to a shell washed back onto the shore to be harvested and put on display. Teach a boy to fish Give the men his life.
Charlotte Hughes Peeling (after Sharon Olds’ ‘Rasputin Arla’) I always thought of peeling as a discovery of gentle decay. My mother peeled back wet, rotting oak leaves to plant her red roses imported from the Netherlands. Every sales quarter, my father discovered a new fence, a new signpost a shade too light, trying to hide its rot like tears at the prom. My parents imported my prom dress, too, expensive enough to cry over, spoke of it in terms of the Venetian pearl buttons, raw spider-silk, Parisian lace, as if it made up for the fact that my crush asked someone else. Poor darling. My silver heels split in two – as if snipped – when I passed my crush slow dancing there. Crush: anything but gentle. A constant cutting away at my heartbones. This one could never stop talking about his grandfather who fought somewhere halfway across the world, won trinkets and stars, was related to a royal family, dilutely. Months ago, over school lunch, this crush had asked me about my background, like I was in a job interview. When I stared straight back at him, he said, Where you live, what you believe, your parents, grandparents. I said,
Yes. As my tongue tried to wrap itself around the precise, diamond-plucked answer he wanted, I thought of my neighborhood, its lost Spanish villas and decade-old Colonials, the walkers, the spies, the underage parties reeking of hush money, my mother and father standing in our chrome kitchen, a perfect red rose and yearly report clutched to their breasts. I didn’t say that exactly, though. I imagined myself taking a pair of shears to the stucco and clapboard, peeling away the facades until something small, dry, hardened was left – rather, the fact that I was raised to believe in a staticky television, the particular astrology of charts and limitless growth, a handful of dried rose petals on a pillow as romance. My country, ’tis of thee I think when I weep.
chenrui Lord, I Sing I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exhausted. Both horse and driver, he has hurled into the sea. I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly distorted. Both laws and connivers, he has hurled into the sea. I will sing to the Lord, for he is wryly sordid. Both flaws and kaisers, he has heard in the sea. I will shrink from the Lord, for he is slightly morbid. All raw survivors, he has drowned. Amen.
Claudia Quin Open a Book Open a book, Open a door. Explore a great kingdom, Whilst sat on the floor. Journey to distant and magical lands, And go by the book that you hold in your hands. Gather your allies, Gather your friends, They join when it’s starting, And leave when it ends. Be thrilled, be frightened, Be happy, be sad. Be saved by the good, And betrayed by the bad. Join teams with your equal, They’ll teach you a lot, In time for the sequel, That thickens the plot.
Connie Alvarez Humanity’s Blues (after W. H. Auden’s ‘Refugee Blues’) Say humanity is the greatest force of all, Ruling over nature is our ultimate goal: Yet can we really do that, my friend, yet can we really do that? We shoot, we hunt, we cut down trees, To build our homes for our jangly keys: Animals don’t have locks and bolts, my friend, animals don’t have locks and bolts. Our fancy clothes and zooming cars, Our shopping trolleys filled with cakes and chocolate bars: But do we need or want, my friend, but do we need or want? It’s not just nature we seize and abuse, Even our scientific minds we seem to misuse: For who are our enemies now, my friend, who are our enemies now? Looking in the mirror my first thought returns, Humanity, the greatest force, ignites and burns: Do you really want this, my friend, do you really want this?
Divyasri Krishnan Unmothered O whistling whispering slithering striking singing swifting winging thrush rushing clattering rustling shaking into shape like a pack of cards flickering fleeting willowwhipping light encircling light emerging birth-rebirthing the bone of song rewinding sharping radio griddle-spitting filleting meat of shadow sluicing the bloodletting collecting reforming remaking unwinding soul-thru shivering eyeless-window-thru gusting agonizing light-swallowing soundswallowing gasp of lightning of knowing unknowing the strange hurt of loving & searching searching searching searching –
Elise Withey Gateways Club, 1967 (Lipstick and Jazz) You speak in constellations, lips leave trails of stardust on my skin like city lights. Kiss me in minor key, baby, spin me sweet songs in the dark. Tonight we dance under neon sunshine and glitter-ball stars. Headlights, spilled bright over wet pavement; golden squares stamped into skyscrapers; these are your stars, they say, and your song is the hum of traffic the dry crinkle of newspapers. Legs pressed like a proper lady, that’s it, and don’t forget to blush for the fellas. But close your eyes and there are constellations seared into your eyelids, swung quavers echoing in your ears. Wait a little and we’ll shatter those concrete skies, drench ourselves in neon sunshine, and then you’ll undo me in compound time to the bass of your heart.
The Gateways Club was a prominent lesbian nightclub in the ’60s.
Eliza Sinclair Kidd Grow Up An exploration of the body as it experiences life’s greatest challenges: Birth, Temptation, Relationships and Mortality.
Ode to the Placenta Sanguineous Saint, fleshy and fragile Yet formidable. Womb restrained, tasked to nourish The unborn. Heavy, seeding device. Eutherian mammal and its Flowering defiance. Living afterlife that drains body and bosom’s Trickling brook. Dense organ, secular God Sustaining breath. Discordance, as the pipes congest with Pressurised hums. Release! Chords disentangle as a Partition is born. Creature unleashed, free from the flesh But familiar with its warmth.
A Sonnet for My Liver I am a wooden cask drifting at sea. Barrel brim with unwavering unrest Seeks a solution. The unwelcome guest Inside ferments a young, ageing body. My liver is disturbed by choppy waves That break against the half-moon’s walls of bile. A thrusting, falling tide carries a child. Drunken, drowned. Desperate not to behave Like the insignificant infant who Relies on mother’s milk. In salty tears Polluted with pubescence I fish through Thick reefs for goldfish. But I’m filled with fear As a shark squirms and ocean turns to glue. It’s tangled in my net. Judged by its peers.
My Freckles Wove a Terza Rima I set my skin ablaze for him. I basked in needle rays of sun. The light in me burnt servile. Dim. Man’s a thief. Like father, like son. Covet wounds on a punctured face. Take it all and leave me with none. Intricacies of me displaced By the mighty malignant speck. A blooming black where fingers traced. Damned dot to dot keeps me in check. Skin dirty, tainted by his touch. The paint by numbers on my neck.
Vein’s Haiku Vain reflection stares At cobalt worms trapped in skin Nibbling a near corpse.
Elsie Hayward Katherine Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. First she was part of a chant I took in as a child, and then a name, just a sequence of sounds I liked to keep. The first I saw was her whole life abbreviated to one sharp word, its weight lightened by the rhyme. Then she was a doomed line running through a book and I tried to spare myself by blocking out the sound of her heartbeat hammering through the paper. I failed. I could not put her away. Perhaps it is pointless – pulling apart the fibres of the thread does not lessen the cold shock of when it is cut off. She took up residence. She wrote large-lettered questions in me. Was she like me, centuries back but somewhere in line with my feet? Was she like the girls I know, with the same laughing lightness beneath the dust? 42
Elyse Thomas jamaica: in search of my body my husband hums in my ear each night.
i small up myself against him, our bones clink together like glass. i lost my maiden name a few summers ago. it crept through me as i slept. i tore myself a new name in newspaper, tattooed words to my palms, sculpted letters into moons, & watched them escape into sky, revolve around each other – in orbit. does he remember when my body, dropped itself like a single, welled tear into the river? my limbs braiding themselves into the current.
pricked by water. hushed, sleep now.
how the river
& i asked to drown. i safety pin his kisses to my skirt & anchor myself to him. my body sinks further into his arms, his hands no longer life rafts. & i hope i can remember how to whisper back lightning.
Emily Man A Moveable Feast On bad days People look at me askance when I say supper or tea instead of dinner. Sometimes they poke fun at me, in a relatively gentle way with relatively gentle voices. But I’m a relatively volatile person and it takes many more than a few minutes to calm myself and the agitated voices in my mind and the hollow singing in my blood and the anger burning in white-hot starbursts behind the back of my eyes. On good days Mango in colourful plastic bowls is left by underground windowsills for me to collect. So moist and so soft it is almost like orange mist, in danger of floating away. Like a flower unfurling petals in my chest, fragrant and sweet, it springs up inside me and bursts joyfully through my warm skin. On normal days I bring in rice and soup in a leaking Thermos flask and heat it in the microwave. I was giving myself food poisoning when I heated it at home and left it throughout the day in my bag. The friends, they don’t believe me, thinking that it is only water and rice. When I tell them about the ground-up chicken breast, “so fine it’s like a dust,” I am heartily ignored. Even though I was the one who scooped it out with a metallic-tasting ladle and watched the miniature snowstorm swirl in my spoon.
Everyday I see this raw salmon fillet in the supermarket, vacuum-packed, pinkish-red flesh with thin, white striations. And I am like the thoughtful bear, subsumed by this consuming, primal hunger, wanting to tear off the skin. I want to rip open the packet with my bare hands, right there, right then, on the dirty supermarket floor. And engulf it with my mouth, shove it as far down my throat as it will go. And everyone in the store will look at me as if I’ve taken my clothes off and am standing there screaming, in the blazing artificial light.
Emily Ng American Courthouse JUSTICE v. Scott v. Sandford v. Wonder Bread v. EQUITY v. Poverty v. Teddy Roosevelt v. Roe v. Wade v. Medicare v. Aunt Jemima v. LIBERTY v. Walmart v. Sales Tax v. Loving v. Virginia v. EQUALITY v. Immigrant v. Frank Sinatra v. World Series v. FREEDOM v. Brown v. Board of Education v. Maya Angelou v. Eviction v. Campbell’s v. DELUSION v. Hollywood v. Heroin v. Neil Armstrong v. Deportation v. BLIND v. Plessy v. Ferguson v. Marilyn Monroe v. Red v. White v. Blue v. Guns v. Barbecue v. Korematsu v. United States v. Ragtime v. Billie Holiday v. HYPOCRISY –
Erin Hateley invisibility And my father doesn’t even know my name. He likes to think he does, under the disguise of a joke or the cloak of playful spite; he pretends and he pretends and he pretends, but he doesn’t know my name. He calls me “in a minute”. He calls me “how was school” with no further questions. He calls me “where’s mum”. He calls me “do the washing up”. He calls me “sorry I wasn’t listening”. He calls me “don’t be so stupid”. He calls me “I wasn’t talking to you”. But that’s when he calls me anything at all.
Eshan Fadi Where I Come From God’s own country. Where’s that? Wherever there are paddy fields, Wherever there are tea plantations, Wherever nature thrives. What about, the most beautiful place in India? Where coconuts are everywhere, And people all around. Half of the time it rains While the other half it shines. Lying between Blue tranquil Indian Ocean and Green escarpment Western Ghats, Kerala is my birth place, Yes, Kerala is my birth place. Cardamom, the sweet spice, Pepper, the ancient currency, Coffee, the energy booster, Cashew, the crunchy moon. Tingling spices on her tongue, Proud about its treasures, Elephants, tigers and Nilgiri langurs Roam across the Thekkady, Great hornbills, yellow and black, Fly high among the trees.
Vishu comes by Gold spreads through the land Flowers bloom One week it’s here Next, it’s gone Onam rushes round the state, Welcoming the return of King Mahabali Great feasts erupt out of nowhere Sadhyas of 24 dishes ready for you to eat Massive pookalums sit on your doorstep Kathakali and Singari Melam So different, yet music to your souls Draped with kasavu mundu and set sarees Kerala is my birth place Kerala is my birth place
Euan Sinclair Full Moon: A Fragment “Do you think that… I have slept too long in the moonlight?” – Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea A cotton-coloured moon Hangs low and luminous in the sky Tonight – like an eggshell – soon To be broken – Or a ripened watermelon Suspended from a branch of stars – Round and smooth And glittering with dew – And waiting – To be lopped in two –
Eve Calvey The Poor Man’s Haiku You are what you eat. Capitalism will fall As we eat the rich.
Eve Wright Bibliophile / i think the boy that got buried / underneath the library foundations turned into a tree / because his mouth has grown roots that / shoot through his teeth / and weave through every nerve / like neat satin ribbon blood swishing in the gumline of every chapter bookmarked / i hear his voice in every line of every story / fingerprints smudged on every page / his face hidden in every little dust storm nook / his smirk shrivels in every antagonist plot / his smile shines in every happy ending / if he could see the fantasy he created / would he live in it? / the cold shiver of every cracked spine / the grief in every novel unread / every character forlorn and unloved / if only he could reach into his dream and love them / still / i think he is a ghost that has just found his hiding place / between the / cracks / of the shelves / living each adventure through the eye glossed words of another / just as he did when he was alive /
Evie Collins Bloodmoon Your windows, all bloodied with sunrise. It scabs up over the papier-mâché pyramid in the corner of a room flushed pink, and all the Sylvanian girls turn their backs. Charlatans. Anyway, your head, it’s nothing. Think from your ovaries – you are a human sacrifice. Beneath duvet is dead, crusted seam where you’re all over your pyjamas. No more stitches in a pillowcase, no room for idle sleep when every inch of you is manger. Up the stairs, into the loft conversion, away. Girlhood runs, wriggles from its plastic ball like your old hamster scuttles off into clotted yonder, and your mum shuffles in her bed, claps. She
offers for you to have the day off school, and you don’t. You slip into that classroom early, you explain to this teacher, you stand with your back to the window during swimming, and the kids on the other side look at the breadth of your shoulders to whisper auguries over your goosebumps. You, the shivering, silent teen forum, and Ibis’ wings folded between your legs.
Florence Bullion Timekeeper I love it when you sit in a driving car late at night and watch the English countryside swish by in the mellow evening light and you feel a shift deep within as the antique, delicate timekeeper splutters and strains and you can feel the seasons changing as the fragile hands creak inching their way so familiar and yet so unexpectedly enchanting across the pale face of the clock of life and you think to yourself how it was only a few seconds ago that everything felt so different but those few seconds are already so distant and you watch them fade into the cool evening air.
Francesca Morgan If I was Neal Cassady Then I, Neal Cassady, would enter every party, cock first. My 6-inch pendulum swinging Through women jungle trees. My fingers sickled and cupping Their trunks in crude handfuls. For only I, Neal Cassady, could enter every woman, cock first. Two crescent moons arching Repelled and encircled in a fleshy hag stone. A hole in the centre of our nakedness dilating For some sunlit love to seep through. Until I, Neal Cassady, could speak with thrusts and no words. Or if words at all just hot words rising To the cedar beam canopy. Words, clumsily mixed with smoke choking The throats of other jungle cats. For the finale, I, Neal Cassady, would burn myself from the tail up. Thrashing flames from my coccyx and melting My shoe leather which drips On the Road.
Hairy intellectuals frantic and smelly and typing As I dig my charcoal feet in the tarmac. And I, Neal Cassady, would roar to them from blistered soles That I was not walking the earth. I was digging it. I was making my mark out of passion and sperm Despite flames scorching holes in my jeans losing Nickels as they fall to the ground in simmering drips. No. I, Neal Cassady, would buck and burn my way into history, As King of coach seats and sweat. steaming In a bus-like rainbow of rancid psychedelics. Still wedged into tarmac, the balls of my feet fizzing Like they’re pulled damp through straighteners. If I was, Neal Cassady, I would be a canon. Turned in on itself and spinning dancing writhing hooting smoking driving fucking writing loving firing killing firing hating Firing at the road. The hot tarmacked road. For my feet made no indentations.
Freya Leech What is lockdown? A wall called 2m A world called www. A wish called “When this is over” A warming called rainbows in the window A warning called “Keep safe”.
Georgina Cary mind is running high Beat. Breathe. Beat. Breathe. Blood pounding. Head crashing. Hiss of an inhale. Gasp of an exhale. Ground slams against feet. Again. Again. Beat. Breathe. Beat. Breathe. Music burning. Mind empty (focused). Push further. Always pushing further. Beat. Breathe. Beat. Breathe. To stop means to fail. To keep going means pain. Pain means progress. Beat. Breathe. Beat. Breathe. Later, the limbs will ache. Later, the chest will burn. Later, the muscles will strain. But later still, and the wound will heal.
Grace Phillips Love is Touching Souls (after Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’) Your melodies are cotton and folk-spun With a direct line through my veins. Snow melts under your midnight sun. Beside my Granny when she was young, You raised the youth from Yasgur’s plains; Your melodies are cotton and folk-spun. You captured love before it was done And felt its lasting pains. Snow melts under your midnight sun. Through your words, my heart’s undone – Laid bare and free from chains Your melodies are cotton and folk-spun. Breaking through stone with a single punch. Though the cloud upon you rains Snow melts under your midnight sun. Warm and vague as the flannel’s wrung, You sing me through the flames. Your melodies are cotton and folk-spun – Snow melts under your midnight sun.
Hannah Eve Kilgore January The weekdays are taking a bite out of an ice lolly and the sky – no, everything – is the colour of the water I dip my brush in when I paint and the water is old, stagnant like the puddles we hiked across last October because I haven’t put a brush to paper in months I catch my coat on the thorns as I walk to school and it almost rips January is almost breaking but no that is too exciting for the Monday of months There is everything and nothing to cry about It is the bitter taste of last night’s garlic and I have been trying to scrub it off my tongue for twelve months. January is a sinking feeling, my stomach, my despair, my damage, my destitute battle grounds silent and trapped under a layer of frost that pierces the sole of my favourite boots and I have laced them up four times on the way here I swear but they are always undone by the time I see you I never look put together, only interesting and I know that you like that No one falls in love with girls who double knot their laces before it’s too late. January is the socks that are too thin for the uphill walk My feet are blistered but so are everyone’s, at some point, so who cares really No one will kiss the wounds on my feet better because that is disgusting It is disgusting the way that I feel about the people that made almost every day feel like January because sometimes they portioned out a July
Today is too bright but not bright enough It is that kind of white light that makes you wonder if the sun let a sad man borrow her golden joy and he did not give it back I wonder if I will ever live out months that do not feel like this January is a communal society full of isolated people and none of us have any sympathy for each other only for ourselves.
Helen Roth I want the peace of (after Raymond Antrobus’s ‘I want the’) a sailboat skimming through a dark Berkshire lake, of the faint pop tunes in the front seat, of a mother slowly running her sharp, red fingernails through her sleeping daughter’s silky brown hair, of the beaming green “Welcome to California” sign marking the entrance into the Golden State. At the core of Melrose Avenue, at the edge of the Massachusetts Turnpike, I want my peace to glow, like a child in the backseat, grinning as they tick the box after seeing a Hawaiian license plate. Make it approach slowly, like the ripening of peaches in Georgia, make me wait, but let me catch a glimpse of its sweetness. Make it approach quickly, like the sweet Florida sun in the electric summer, halt the waiting, but let me catch a glimpse of its light. Call it greed, call it desire, call me selfish. Call it change, call it generosity,
call me selfless. Just set peace free, let it cross the country for me.
Hope Vaughan The Washing Line (after Simon Armitage’s ‘Cataract Operation’) From pillar to post, a pantomime of damp, forgotten washing on the washing line. So, in the breeze... One flamingo leg of a ripped pair of jeans, A single sock calling for its brother, A pair of knickers with its pink dots fading, like water drying up in the heat, The sad teddy bear lying on the floor, Looking up at its ear still pegged up, As lonely as the last drop of ink in a pen or the last penny in a lady’s purse, A blanket kissing the damp grass like a bride on her wedding day.
Iona Mandal Homecoming Draped in sun-dried cotton sari Ma spreads turmeric paste on my acne scars. The heat and sultriness making it crack in flaxen grains, on the cold tiled floor. Twiddling a cotton ball soaked in hibiscus red aalta between index finger and thumb she adorns in curlicues the soles of my feet in neat master strokes. Thereafter, a crash course on Bengali customs “Remember the pranam, do touch her feet.” And we get ready for grandma’s home. The hinges to the garden gate screech to welcome us in homecoming. It has been three years since oiled last. Ma ushers me to grandma’s room. I expect a family heirloom of some sorts, to unfold. Sweetmeats or spicy, mango pickle in oil left lined in glass jars on the terrace to dry in the midday sun. Or perhaps, an old trunk, photographs, and books opening floodgates of stories untold. It is dark here. A monastic silence pervades. My pupils adjust to the gloom. The street peddler’s chant seems distant here and rickshaw honks certainly not as loud.
Grandma looks up; smiles vaguely, conceivably, in recognition. Tries in futile attempts to edge the stainless-steel glass of lemon juice. As if, to wash the barriers that bind us. She is paralysed and bed-ridden, thirteen years now. I sip the juice. Hold her cellophane hand in mine. Nails charred; fingers wrinkled from centenarian grime. Old memories line her parched skin, carrying tales from the crevices. Queen Victoria, Dhaka, riots, the partition – “Do steamboats ply on the Buriganga river?” she suddenly asks. I listen, the sourness from lemon ferments in my mouth. I am not sure what to say, so much has elapsed. Feeble voice now raised in command she looks to the metal grille window. “Kill those soldiers! They looted us!” I gently shove the red ants aside. She calms. I watch her eyes roll, like in a trance. At times I feel grandma records everything. Family stock-keeping, her responsibility. Spools of uncoiled tapes binding her tighter to bed, her stale recording studio. 68
And now, we replace chocolates with chewable vitamin orbs, Staffordshire pottery for a feather light bedpan. More donations than gifts for a happy house maid and masseur. Our suitcases grow lighter with every year that slips by bags unzip to the stench of expiry yet, bringing much more to all that we leave back home.
Jaewon Chang To Undress To recall an event she cannot describe precisely, one that still continues, began in a dimly lit room beyond the Manila traffic on the top floor of Sulo Hotel: she wears a nylon camisole, scattered with petals from mother’s flowershop. A man sits by the door, waiting for twilight to blemish against the skies. Soon, a glass is brought towards her lips – open he says. Then, nothing. Years later, a senator will question her clothing, words built upon false hopes. To define one gender over another. To mask memories left unspoken. To undress the sleek road she travelled.
Jamie See The Man Who Leapt Over the Turnstile You were ascending from the platform to the concourse. You caught my sight on the escalator next to mine. You locked eyes with me for a few seconds. (perhaps it was awkward to be noticed by a stranger or perhaps you were not used to being noticed) You stared at the floor and started walking hastily. You were a few paces ahead of me. You were approaching the turnstile. (left leg first, right leg second, over the bar) You crossed it like an Olympic hurdler, with such stealth, It almost seemed as if this was a daily occurrence. (i tapped my card on the sensor and passed through) You locked eyes with me once again after you vaulted. You were invisible to the passengers and the officers. You hurried to your exit and it was then we parted. I turned to stare at you once more. You looked back at me one last time. (maybe you intended to hold me hostage, or maybe in your eyes was a warning and a longing that i would never have to leap over the turnstile at any point in my life) You nodded at me slightly, Emotionless, you turned away. (how many shadows are unnoticed by the system when they are hidden among the crowds of ‘talents’? how many pleas of help are left unanswered when they are buried in the voices of ‘those who are worthy’?)
Jeanne Everett Meraioth Air There was air between your eyebrows As they furrowed, never touching Two stray souls, matching hairs Floating by. I felt that way sometimes, Coughing rings of you in my dreams. You smelled of breath And wore the breadth Between one eyelash And the next.
Jennah Agha Her Hands She cooks with those hands She reads books with those hands She prays with those hands and She stays day and night holding you with those hands She makes herself sick with those hands becoming a stick with those hands, still She sweeps with those hands and She weeps in those hands She massages her father’s feet with those hands and She soothes the hot spots that you beat with those hands
She sews the holes on your sleeve with those hands and She traces the scars that you leave with those hands Yet she still goes on Crawling on those hands
Jonathan Truong enola gay i’ll tell ya, givin’ birth just took the christian right outta me, didn’t know a woman could play god, that a little boy could cause such a pain in the world. no sir there ain’t no graves for the dead, just epitaphs, syllables and their semantics, the taste of lead never leavin’ our tongues, our decaying teeth. so i’m tellin’ ya to put down yer bibles, all ya believers, ya communists, ya pacifists – and lemme show you velocity quicker than sound; lemme show you a mushroom cloud, a kimono as shroud, president truman proud; lemme show you how i created the universe, with one big bang, how genesis begins with fission and ends in boom!; lemme show you the shock wave heard ’round the world, how it’s still reverberatin’ – do ya feel it? they didn’t: just one big flash, a flattening, a cremation, carnage, calcified desert; vaporized up up up into the sky, or burned beneath asphalt. yessir i am the cause, i am the epicenter: i take skin from bone, lips from breast, fly from rotting flesh. ’cause no one told me little boy is followed by a fat man, and a man can do so much wrong in this world. no one told me postpartum was: an august girl’s hairless corpse, a father singing a song in japanese that ends in white flag and hirohito’s surrender.
Kate O’Brien Before Before the dew on the grass Before the car drove past Before lights turned on Before you went out and saw the sun Before you brushed your teeth Before you had something to eat Before you woke and got out of bed I placed a kiss upon your head.
Kerensa Pickering Shoes There is a saying Before you judge someone walk a mile in their shoes Whose shoes does the world need to walk in before there comes the realisation That our society is not right? The high heels of the young women told that they brought their suffering on themselves because of the length of their skirts The women who are not believed or whose cases are dropped Because salvaging the reputation of a guilty man is more important than taking a rapist off the streets The women that are labelled bimbos if they are confident and prudes if they dress modestly These women that fought for their rights only to receive a cut a quarter too short For these women, we should walk The trainers of the young black men that cannot go for a run without fear of being lynched The women told that in order to survive they must reject their culture Because their hair is too ethnic for the workplace The people of mixed race that are targeted for being too much of one thing or not enough of the other These people who face hatred and abuse everyday purely because of the colour of their skin For these people, we should walk
The brogues of the men who fought for their country now abandoned by communities The generation that are isolated in their own homes and living off rations for a second time Because their pension will not stretch to the necessities The people that lie helpless on the floor for days after a fall Or struggle with heavy shopping when no one seems to notice For these people, we should walk The bare feet of the children whose parents can barely afford to put food on the table When one man has enough to end world poverty and have millions to spare Because his warehouse workers are treated like robots The children who slave away in sweatshops to make products because they are demanded by westerners with their eyes and ears shut For these children we should walk For these women, we will walk For these men, we will walk For these children, we will walk But how many miles will the world have to walk before there comes the realisation that none of the shoes of these people will change unless something is done?
Kitty Joyce Toasting the Post When the Sunday post arrives, my mother puts it in the oven – slow-roasted, 20 minutes at 100°C. It rids it of the postman’s touch, you see. She sits over piles of new-starched bills, hands blushing, and wonders why our electricity charge is so high. The night before my birthday, I oiled our greasy baking trays and slid stacks of birthday cards into the fullness of the sun. Well-wishes curled to cinders, impassive, as I watched through the glass.
Kitty Robinson Cornrows Her mother used to jab at her scalp. Tugging through the unruly locks and forcing frizz to give in to her heavy hands. She wielded hair pins like Fante warriors wield machetes, grazing the landscape of her daughter’s skull with dull humming pain and memories. Those heavy hands strung red ribbons and boat-like seashells through an ocean of hair, condemning the curls to submission at a touch, manipulating their actions and enslaving them in the prisons of time. Each time, her mother would tell her a story, her story. Of the boats and plantations and rows upon rows of corn and cotton and despairing Africans. And the salted tears which rolled with blood-red malice across America And the Caribbean Which offered its shuddering condolences with Patois twang. And the punishing sun which bled the Earth until it was wracked with sorrowful sobs for those it had left behind. She would hum a tune in Twi and whisper, whisper so softly.
But earnestly enough to dislodge a seed of Rebellion. The seed would writhe and twist but she would push it deep into the cornrows like buried treasure. Ready to be uncovered when the time was right.
Lilly Jane Nolan Ice skating I am very bothered when I think of the bad things I have done in my life. Especially the time in Cardiff, Skating along the water-dripping ice. Only just learning how to skate, after letting go of the side I started to wobble, minutes before face-palming the nose-breaking floor. An opportunity to stop from falling… So I took it, grabbing the long hair of my friend, taking her with me, tumbling down, the sounds of her screams and cries, trying to get up, our legs becoming jelly. We started slipping and sliding, Scared of the sharp blade that could slice off our fingers. Staring into my soul with your red-rubbed eyes, years later, what if I were to tell you that I’d pulled you harder than I needed to?
Lily Celeste Ashby (Irregular) Ode to My Memory Not a pyrrhic marionette, Inebriated and listless, Not the Ferris wheel taunts of some Dismissive rolling eye. Not the vacuum that floods your chest, The collar that clasps an anchor. Not a wilted dandelion, Lashes strewn apart – Not bitter, The soot that swarms your mouth as flies; Remembered in the furrowed brows Of strangers’ grievances. Not the shade of another’s bough – Brightened only by their dances. Not the shovel, not the earth that Dirties your eyes to a grave That mourns an innominate debt. But an echo of your bearing, The papered crinkles at your cheeks, Your haphazard jigsaw teeth. The tenacious burrows of an earworm Who whistles a dulcet adieu To erupt from the pipes of an organ And sing the skylark’s terms. A song. A tint. A citrus lingering, A grin. A sky. An oceanic touch. A truth. The silence of forgetfulness. Yet in this sunshine – not remembered much.
Liv Goldreich Altneuland Beyond the screen of sticky-blue plumbago, the street cats mewl as they lick their gashes. Siesta-eyed widows on balconies order children to silence, leave their washing to parch in the khamsin. You walk the pavements as shadows lengthen, taxi drivers glass-eyed in blistered cars, teen soldiers laughing and smoking in clusters by the side of the road, back from hitchhiking on motorways. They did not notice Herzl’s silhouette sitting on the water tower flicker, gulls perched in the hollow of a folded arm, or crane their necks to see the caterpillar track chains and old tank bodies embroidered into brindle vineyard hills. And eucalyptus groves search for water in sands of empty playgrounds. The traffic island’s arid grass has begun to crumble. A greasy falafel stand blares Mizrahi music, awning tongue-folded. Grape juice dribbling down a toddler’s chin and splashing, the wheel of a pram spins mauve into the tarmac’s veins. You strip jacaranda leaves, fistfuls of lantana flowers, sorbet-hued, for confetti, and watch the absence of a breeze, sparrows hovering and hopping across a congregation of plastic chairs, hairline-fractured.
A muezzin calls evening prayer in the cadence of church bells and the redolent rain comes, slithering along the dust, the banks, the rocks, slavers into clogged gutters, until the Sea of Galilee’s stomach swells and Herzl too begins to rust.
Lucy Stone 44,220 and counting A single clear glove, nitrile flutters along the empty high street and the silent concrete. contamination, death-evasion, fear-creation. the crowd of death screams louder, than you could ever bear before. blood,
on their hands.
the glove, clear, pure, nitrile, flutters on.
Lucy Waters I always put too much honey on my toast By that I mean that I plunge metal into jar until it touches the bottom and the grey is storm cloud through watered window, amber with the way it would freeze if my breath wasn’t there to blow it, up to the handle in something that’s climbing higher, sword in stone. Move quickly, don’t let it slide off, watch a string of spun sugar embroider the chopping board, and do it two, three times until my knife is no longer touching bread and the pool is gold as fire in a glass. Then eat. It becomes a game, can I catch the spots to lick along bite marks before fly-catching tree sap makes me a pinky promise. It starts slow, elegant, painted girl at picnic eating cucumber sandwiches then something on the other side starts trying to intertwine our fingers and it is quick, rushed, undignified, eating in a circle like I am the crowd at the colosseum. Eventually the time comes when the honey realises it is larger than life and sliced bread’s superior; the brown dam breaks and amber liquid starts to collapse on my hand, the world’s messiest waterfall that lacks the ability to clean up after itself, so the whole thing is shoved in my mouth. It always feels like I should have managed to eat more in that time but the bread is gone so I wash my hands because I am always left sticky.
Maddie Harris my voice will become my own i’ve never had a voice, i’ve mimicked words and sounds, like a parrot on loop, my mother’s noise, my father’s noise, became my beating heart. i’ve never had a voice, so i began to learn to sign, because words stick like tar, caught, among the memories, and i shut down, my mother never taught me, how to speak without words, my father never taught me to feel without fear, so i found my own voice.
Madison Averill Sonnet for a queer girl This bleeding heart is hungry for love. One day, you’ll brush your lips soft against my skin as i whisper gospel in your ear. not the holy kind, for nothing about this is holy, (though everything about this is divine), but this good news: i have honey-soaked tea cooling in the fridge, i have peaches and languidness and time. we have our summer, darling, we can rewrite the gospel to be this: lavender and sea salt and cherry-stained lips and us. Always us
Martha Iris Blue How to Write a Mountain a hat is needed – a thinking hat, favourites work best; pac-a-mac – keep everything dry, especially wit; make note, keep well-fed, you need food for thought; water is always necessary – as is ink; take a mirror for signalling and reflecting; pack your best-kept map for finding best lines; you may need spare socks, in case of tributaries; stow your poet’s first-aid kit – dictionary, spare pencil, sharpener, paper; a stamped, blank postcard is perfect for sending your masterwork on for scrutiny; a compass helps to find the way forward or backwards – to retrieve memories or dreams; if bagging a Munro, bring a net to battle against midges or for catching the local language; tapadh leibh, write hard, stony words to match the surroundings, not soft, chocolate words that melt and run – no running – take your time. Tapadh leibh
Tapadh leibh = Thank You in Scottish Gaelic
Martha Routledge To the Graffiti Outside Ladbrokes I Walk Past Every Day Do you think if I – if I carved my name into my collarbone, “I WAS HERE” in the stone at the threshold of my betting-shop mouth, Do you think then – then the gambles that lie trapped between my teeth and my lips, would spring free at last? Do you think that – that it would be worth it? that I would make my fortune?
Martine Maugüé 台灣 (Taiwan) There’s a sense of magic in a place I can only half remember. Where the faces and names are delicate leaves of my youth, falling in late September And the neon signs with the squiggly lines glow dimly somewhere in my memory But the falling leaves are hard to see and evade my grasp in an act of treachery. The magic of the minute yet colossal differences, the bathrooms, the ads, and the subway. My young eyes like a camera, spinning and capturing the scene of my beloved Taipei. From my grandmother and my family came the knowledge of a culture I had amassed When I could enchant in a language that rolled off my tongue like a spell I cast. The brutal heat of London these days tugs at a memory in the back of my mind, Of waiting by the food stall for seconds stretched to hours, pleasant and unkind. I dream of a return where every piece falls into place When I’ll feel the heat and humidity wrap me in a soft embrace. There’s a tugging, restless longing in my heart For a place I now understand as much as abstract art, But I know its smells like the lines of my hand And the sounds of the motorcycles revving were my favourite band.
There’s a chasm in my core when I return to the place I only half remember Because the night markets are weary and bored and feel like a misnomer. The dumplings taste all the same and the plane ride was too expensive, And the disillusioned neon signs reveal the grime that feels incomprehensive. There’s a suppressed sense that I wish I had never returned, So it would remain the same golden red forever, Only half remembered.
Maureen Onwunali Mother Tongue Says to Nigerian Girl Mother tongue says to Nigerian girl “This is what it means to chew on the scraps of your own culture for so long You no longer have a taste for home” Nigerian girl swallows the lump in her throat – made up of the words too foreign to pronounce “Mother tongue, do not forget; This mouth was once the refugee camp that housed you” Mother tongue says “Child, do not speak with your mouth full – you are juggling too many accents I once played hopscotch on the roof of your mouth and watched your infant teeth grow up like a childhood friend You have allowed them to gentrify my neighbourhood” Nigerian girl or girl once from Nigeria or whatever fits your quota or whatever fits my agenda *Girl with Nigerian tongue says Nothing Mother tongue or my mother’s tongue Feeling more muzzled than maternal Says nothing – in a language that I would understand But shows me the bruises it’s endured from the times I’ve bitten my tongue when they’ve mispronounced my name: “Each time you allow them to butcher this surname, a massacre takes place in their mouth
How their jagged tongue rips apart a lineage and spits it back at us” Nigerian girl with an injured name doesn’t really know what else to say – in a language Mother tongue will understand But Mother tongue has heard this accent before Knows how a European mouth can resemble a mob How a tongue can puncture pronunciation like a pitchfork “This is our country! Speak English” Mother tongue knows this is not directed at the girl What they are asking, is for her to be orphaned from her motherland They’re asking For the English language to discover something that was already found So it can Christopher Columbus settle in her mouth Isn’t that how it works over here? Nigerian girl Too Eurocentric for her culture Too culture for Europe Will learn Aha m bu·… Maureen
Merrie LeMaître Nugent To You and Yours (after Niall Campbell’s ‘Grez, Near Dusk’) Just a postcard to say it was impossibly soft weather today, and I didn’t cry, instead I pulled out a year’s worth of heart ache through my right hand and wrote it all down and shut the book with a snap, and I’m getting better already I feel it. Tomorrow draws in like a blanket, tell your mother I miss her, tell yourself that I miss you, more than welsh cake, salted butter and Jamaican tonic wine.
Olajuwon-Alhaytham Abdullah Adedokun Shade the correct answers Shade the correct answers There is something always missing from anthologies of burnt black men. (a) Truth (b) Colour (c) Their voice I once told a burnt black man to run into his dreams and he buried his hopes in bleaching creams. Here, girls say colour is why the sun casts its rays on their cornrows, why they watch their future drown with slave ships. Here, boys say colour is why they mistake a black man’s wallet for a gun, his neck for stools, his hopes become a butterfly he dares himself to catch.
Someday, someone with a burning skin will run into you and pray you quench the fire in his throat. He’ll ask for water, for hope, for compasses that lead anywhere but slave ships. Someday, you’ll carve coffins, like you’ve done every day.
Oreva Esalomi Beauty and Power I thought that I was Beautiful, Until they told me I was too Different To look like one of Them. And I am Powerless. I thought my family was Beautiful, Until I was covered in imperceptible Bruises That marked their Regret. And I am powerless. I thought the sea was Beautiful, Until it was drowned in our Problems For someone else to Sort through. And I am Powerless. I thought that they were Beautiful, 99
Until I saw that humans are Just A ubiquitous mass of people That will never accept Me. And I am Powerless. I thought the world was beautiful Until I saw that it was Suffocated In our whimsical Ambitions And I am Powerless I thought my skin was Beautiful Until I watched Life Choked out of a man Just because he looked vaguely like Me. And I am Powerless I thought that Beauty Was in the eye of the beholder. But it is in the hands of those with Power 100
And I am powerless So, I will be silent And pretend that I am Fine. Because I am powerless And I will never be Beautiful
Patricia Ssonko Nalule African Spirit Mwana wange omulungi enyo, oli wanjuwulo ku buli muntu yenna. Kino kiwulire mubusomyo ne muggwe muli munda. (My dear child, you are special. Feel it in your bones, in your very soul.) It is a steady beating drum, A rhythmic dance, sacred, yet lost in depths of time. It is a vivid green shrouded by hues of deep red and earthly browns, alive and thriving, like the richness of the earth and life that inhabit it. It is a tropical storm that washes away a history of pain and anguish, a promise to future generations that their time is coming. It is bark cloth, woven from the trees by the children she gives life. It is losing a part of yourself, every moment you’re detached from your ancestral home. It is a majestic beast, living ordinarily, unaware of its regality. Naawe bw’otyo bwoli! Eyo y’ensi mwoova! Ekiseera kituuse omanye ensibuko yo era oyolese ebyafaayo byo! Beera musanyufu nejoova naffe tuja kuba basanyufu gyoli! (This is who you are. This is where you come from. Know your roots. Wear your story. Be proud of us as we are proud of you.)
My heritage is not a shameful reminder that I am from the outside. It is not a reason for your country to shun me. It is not a shop for you to loot and steal: her riches, her minerals, her beauty She is not your possession, she belongs to her children, Humanity, we are all her children.
Phaedra Wright The Bride Crisp glass, Cold to touch. Fake smile, Hair brushed. Dark room. Shivers creep. Strange eyes, Tears seep. Can’t breathe: Stay calm. Act fine, Grace and charm. Mask slips, Unveil the bride. Look alive, Dead inside.
Phoebe Z. Barowitz The Ship A ship bending at the seams and trapped as it fills with air and the sound of metal silverware and I caught it way off the shore and stuffed it in my too big pockets and later that night I took out the pin bones and I ate it for dinner cooked in lemon I laid on the velvet and the boat rocked me to sleep my hair becoming tangled as I turned the blankets becoming crumpled
and wrinkled as I kicked them off the bed and I breathed it the soft smell of then and now the boat was so big then and now seemed to stretch the length salty and like nutmeg it crawled on me and wrapped around my skin I saw my own reflection on the water so present and rippled I wanted to grab it and take it it was mine but it was also the water’s
Priya Abularach confession there are times when missing you is a matter of procedure. now is not one of those times. there are times when missing you feels like swallowing teeth. tonight there is a prayer stuck in my throat but I don’t know who it’s for now that I’ve lost faith in you. I am trying to remember the religion I used to find in the crooks of your body, I am trying to remember the hymns I used to sing, singing over & over what I can recall. I hum remnants on buses and in the car. this is the way of love and music: it plays godlike and then is done. possibility is predicted trial & error and I predict that this would’ve been an error equivalent to being predictable at poker, or attempting to photograph ghosts when only the mind’s eye can do that. my reality is similarly approximate and 65% if. out of curiosity & curiosity alone do you think the dictionary is ever jealous of metaphors, knowing that sooner or later its own words will collapse? my mistakes are even bigger than the dictionary’s. from this I conclude that I will never know how to love you and that it must be time to try again: a smug blond lawyer will do, entry level at eighty grand, who pouts about overtime, plays the lottery ironically, keeps Evian in his locker at the gym and still can’t pronounce my name. or a crop-haired woman in Waitrose, clothes boyish & neat, hips not bad still, who attended a six-day stonewalling course and
walks faster-but-not-too-fast past the homeless man by Hammersmith Station, feigning ignorance, illiteracy, or both. in reality, I have to admit that this all sounds like a frightful fucking headache, so I’ll stop pretending that it’s any use trying to forget your shoulder blades, meeting across your back like the wings of a small butterfly, or the fact that my mind is still printed with brown paper parcels and your face. I think I am inventing in ultimate infinity a category of sadness, the type that is whispered inside the white spaces that stretch out between hour & hour & raindrop & raindrop. but let me be unseen. since the night is nobody’s problem, my nocturnal occupation is lying awake dreaming up novel ways to distract myself from the need to distract myself. usually I end up pleading with air shaped like you, saying things like I can’t describe the air on my skin, can you, can you please, I know it was important, and why have I lost so much joy in my desperation to keep it, and how do I save myself from retrospection, or worse, introspection. I have to tell you that there are times when I remember everything, even your ears.
Priya Shrivastva 20/20 Vision I fear, if I muster up my courage and ever so gently rest your reading-glasses upon my two overused ears and curious nose, that from then on, I’ll see only dotted i’s and crossed t’s. On an A4 page of 4000 characters, I’ll look only for them.
Ran Zhao thunderstorm at night and you tell your sister not to be afraid come here. do you know how thunder is made? lightning rends the atmosphere apart / leaves the air pitted / leaves it negative fractal / sawtooth void in the brightness of the sky. do you hear how the air rushes in, filling the wound of itself? listen, this shuddering of the ground is only an act of healing / only an act of rejoining together. ten thousand feet above us, the sky is mending itself again and again. isn’t that beautiful?
Remi Seamon The Stork Keeps Flying Let me tell you the difference between a child and a bomb: shut up. I’m working on it. My mother warms the purple of her son’s toes with her tongue. He tastes of metal. – What January makes of language. The black and white stork of my country delivers bloodlines to our doors. Of course, there was the time in the garden, digging up roots and rawing our fingers for a taste of them. Of course, there was hunger. (I want to cover my country’s toes with my mouth.) On the phone last night, my sister says, seven of them under the dining room table waited for the sky to fall. She cannot stop laughing. Your father! Your deaf father. He kept eating his stew. We were all staring at his feet. I swear, Putin himself could not interrupt that man’s dinner. The sky is punctured with black and white storks. A man should smell no better than his country: I smoke a whole pack of cigarettes. Above me, boots hail the ceiling. Hey! You! Keep the bombs down. 111
On the phone, my starving sister sounds like bruised apples when she tells me the soldiers fed my nephew bullets on Kirova street. We bought sweets there. Do you remember? Do you have sweets in Canada? Did your son die for them? I am in the yard burying his sixteenth birthday next to the sugar beets and I am just moving the grief around. I am running through the western streets, looking for the president to take his shirt, his nephew his sweets, give him my first fighting knuckle. I am swallowing pills and I am just moving the grief around. I look up the Ukrainian word for suicide. Around our sweet shop, the houses are making the most terrible noises. Around me, the blue rubble of clouds blood buildings open. The storks are dropping our children.
Sabrina Guo Kill List The teachers didn’t tell us until weeks later. They ushered us in closets and behind drawers. Under desks and behind vending machines. The speaker blared, our principal’s voice shaking, ordering teachers to pack students together like bricks. Yellow beads of sweat clung to rusty door handles. Bullies, bystanders, victims pushed against each other. Others flicked their wrists, flippant sighs like bay leaves tapping the ground.
My Muslim friend prayed, found comfort in the crook of my neck. Flashback: stubbed crayons, the lost ruler I had never found. Flashback: wads of purple gum stuck to chair legs, dried to clay. We still wait with bitter breath.
Saima Begum Know Their Stories Aged 12, he was playing in the park with one of his toys, when a group of policemen pulled up and shot him. No one was charged with the murder. Aged 14, she was taking a walk on the north side, when she was confronted by an officer. No one was charged with the murder. Aged 67, she was selling DVDs outside a petrol station, when she was confronted by two officers. No one was charged with the murder. Aged 22, he was standing on his grandmother’s driveway when confronted by an officer. No one was charged with the murder. Aged 46, he was accused of using counterfeit money, when an officer arrested him. No one was charged with the murder. Aged 18, he was walking with a friend, when an officer approached them. No one was charged with the murder. No one was charged with the murder...
Samiya Saif Ullah Land of the Rose I walked into a beauty parlour where powder paralysed darkened skin, and coloured scarves gently glided in humid heat. I spoke with a tongue John Bull knows with the three lions in my chest, in a country smothered in the sweet sun and mango chutney. Western is sealed to me, when eyes trace faded colours on dark skin. Rub me in powdered Colosseum, or paint me in the colour of a crushed lock, but faces get fragmented easily, and no amount of coloured glass can fix it. A facial was once offered. Leaflets about dark-skin girls with knit eyebrows and sullen skin rinsed in sugar-water and honey, who turned Fair and Lovely. Because the devil would never pierce light blue eyes and fair skin. 116
I left my veins at the market stalls and offered the Union Jack in language as payment. But the red was stuck in my teeth, and the blue dribbled. I spoke in English. In western words, ones that split your throat clean. I vocalised Britannia, And was seen clothed in her lost robes. My culture was internal jewellery, and you saw my many skins. But the roots I have aren’t seen just in clothes and tongues, but through passion and practice and a small spoon of sun-dried fruit. I am British, but I had to colour the Union Jack in on me, and I invited John Bull over for a drink. But the roses always belonged to me, so I put on my bangles and drew them into my skin with mehndi.
Sarah Fathima Mohammed Ruh (after Fatimah Asghar’s ‘Kal’) in my mother’s first language, ruh means both breath and word. how thoughts start and finish. ruh means the softest opening of lip. ripple of tongue. means beginnings and ends feel the same in my mother’s throat. means she believes we move only in circles. mouths folding into themselves. vowels shaped like breaths. shaped like prayers. means when the white man at trader joes tells her shut the fuck up, shaking his red fist, my mother flounders. clenches her throat. lips pressed like the bud of a flower. starves herself of both air and story. My mother squeezes ruh because when her body
trembles all that is left: the shadow of a sticky-shored homeland all that is left: the mouth she was born from.
Serrina Zou Whitewash On my head, a braid dark as the pregnant night sky; in my eyes, onyx layered in russet. Against the white paper, a canvas bleached blonde as golden straw drenched in crayola. I dust my eyes in sapphires, wishing myself into my 2D creation. If green is the color of envy I know it now: my coloring companion blinks & sheds jade tears, the jewels of my ancestral country. I peel the color from its label: emerald & sink, drowning into myself. The teacher pins our portraits on the bulletin board, pats us gently on the back for painting the princess in us. For open house that year, mama strolls through the preschool gallery, blotting away the corn tassels, paper thin milk skin, cinnamon freckles. She frowns & asks for my portrait. I point to the center at the assembly line of fallen American dolls; all porcelain plastic, no story to breathe. She nods, braiding a native elegy in my foreigner throat. Years later, I unbury the pigment from
beneath the marred scribbles, uncrumpling the whitewashed folds & color myself seventeen narratives, one for each year I chose ivory over ebony. I become the gallery, undiluted with history.
Sinead Bruce The Audience Torrents of bodies erupt through the doors. A warm black is poured on our eager chatter. We’re comfortable among thousands of strangers, Whose faces share our involuntary smiles. A sudden blast presses on our ears, oblivious to the endless vanishing hours. We have drum beats in place of pulses And magnets between our scarlet palms. Restless thunder is awakened inside us, We’re as harmonised as the melodies. Our glowing feet thump in unison And echoes rush through our waving limbs. The roar of song and sting of colour Is an explosion broken briefly by Swift breaths between the boom of tracks Or the sleepy calm of slow chords. As the lamps lift we realise we’re grinning, Fused through our unified cheers. Then with ringing ears we separate, Connected only by a memory.
Sinéad O’Reilly Ode to the Milkman Unseen, your footfalls float like early dew, A tipping fulcrum, captain dawn to shore, The keeper of one hundred blinking moons, Deposited like lanterns at each door. You’re silent as a backdrop to a dream, As wheel spokes glint, unroll Hemera’s cloak, Your eyes alone behold her naked gleam, Your hand unlocks the caged-in glassy notes. With hearth-sparks, beating palm, you lace the cold. The cornerstone of morning, time endured, A memory, a silence not untold, For countless sleeping ears are reassured. At sunrise picture bottles smashed in flight, As day spills round your feet; a pool of light.
Sung Cho Ode to Sh*t No one appreciates how long you walk to reach the light at the end of one’s end. All five feet of the treacherous intestine. A five mile endeavor for someone your size. The body excavated you like a miner does for minerals. You are the body’s most precious gemstone: The Stool Jewel. You crack open like a geode, spilling with fiber fractals, crystals of protein. Studded with carbuncles of corn, carrots, peas, and other greens – a whole cornucopia inside you. You are the body’s most faithful historian. How often does the mind fail to recall what the body has eaten the night before? We unearth you like an archaeologist does for artifacts, to study the body’s dietary history.
O Sh*t, how quickly we flush away your beauty, your wisdom, all unacknowledged.
Theodora Shillito The Story of Squiddly Diddly (after Julia Donaldson) This is the story of Squiddly Diddly, Guard of the Ocean since he was just tiddly. Every morning he’d ride on a wave, looking and searching for creatures to save. Myrtle the turtle was laying an egg when her flipper got caught in a rusty old keg. “Help me, oh help me!” She plaintively cried, as her flipper got swollen and jammed from inside. Squiddly Diddly picked up the sound, and he hurriedly swam ’til the turtle was found. “I’m Squiddly Diddly, Guard of the Sea! Don’t worry, don’t panic, I’ll help you get free!” He wrangled and jangled, and quickly enough, her flipper was loose (though her skin was still rough). “Thank you!” She gasped with a sigh of relief, as her rescuer swam away into the reef. A little while later the ocean seemed calm, but disaster was heading for ‘Freddie’s Fish Farm’...
Tina the tuna was swimming along, minding her business and humming a song, When all of a sudden she fancied a bite. “That bottle,” she said, “looks delicious all right!” “All crispy and crunchy, what fortune, what luck!” Before she had noticed her tail had got stuck! “Help me, oh help me, it’s stuck on my fin! I’m getting so tired and I can’t really swim!” but Squiddly Diddly, dozing nearby, woke up at once to the tuna’s help cry. “I’m Squiddly Diddly, Guard of the Sea. Don’t worry, don’t panic, I’ll help you get free!” He reached out a tentacle, freeing the fish from her crispy and crunchy and dangerous dish. Before she could thank him or offer to pay, Squiddly Diddly was swimming away. I know what you’re thinking; ‘What could go wrong now?’ – A lot, if you’re Dora, the dotty sea cow. Dotty old Dora was out for the day when she spotted a bag off the coast of Marseille.
“How lovely!” She cried, “Why, it matches my eyes!” But she didn’t account for her rather large size... A few minutes later, what do you suppose? Dotty old Dora’s a bag on her nose! “Help me, oh help me!” She whimpered, alone. “I can’t even see and I want to go home!” Squiddly Diddly hopped off the rock he was sunbathing on by the little French dock. “I’m Squiddly Diddly, Guard of the Sea! Don’t worry, don’t panic, I’ll help you get free!” He whipped off the plastic from poor Dora’s face and disappeared instantly, leaving no trace. Later that evening while sleepy and wet, Squiddly Diddly got stuck in a net! He wriggled and jiggled with all of his might, but his legs were too small and the net was too tight! “Help me, oh help me, I’m stuck here for good! I’m Guard of the Ocean, but soon I’ll be food!” All of a sudden he noticed a crowd, swimming towards him and hollering loud:
“We’re Myrtle and Dora and Tina the tuna, we’re sorry we couldn’t arrive any sooner! “You rescued us all in the dark, scary sea. Don’t worry, don’t panic, we’ll help you get free!” They all pulled together and rescued their friend. And now that our story has come to an end, The next time you want to go out for a drink... stop it and bin it, recycle and think!
Tom Griffin Drawing God The eyes were round paracetamols, white And cold. The nose was a carrot. The mouth started at either blue Ear, shaped like fifty pence. The face was a rectangle And the neck just a line. I ripped up some grass And glued it to the forehead. I didn’t colour in the Purple paper skin, Or draw a body. He laughed, Is that a self-portrait. No, it’s God. His face went red. That’s not what God Looks like. How do you know, I said, curious. He sighed and said nothing.
Vidula Selvan House Downstairs, my parents are watching old Bollywood films, that they’ve watched before scenes of lovers and melodrama In the kitchen, the pot is ready to burst with its loud shrill whistles, scents of spices and tradition, Upstairs, I sift through a shelf of saris I take in their silk sheen and smile – My house might not be like the one next to it, but it is ours.
Zayaan Jamil Odd (after Anna Kamieńska’s ‘Funny’) What’s it like to be a big brother the little brother asked The big brother thought to himself and said “It is having to give some light on their darkest day while waging world war three supporting their every move and chained by the shackles of responsibility showering unconditional love to an unwelcomed perpetual shadow being the rampant monster of the pettiest things whilst being a breath of calm absorbing waves of anger and teaming up as partners in crime having to save the last prawn for the other while stifling your own craving it’s feeling the raging fire but not being allowed to burn yet a bond unbreakable, unique like diamonds it’s being a pillar of support it’s a loyalty so fierce like a tsunami rampaging” “That is odd” said the little brother and they began to wrestle.
Zoe Dorothy Leary Alice as a Mother Last year my daughter said she wanted to live in the garden, so I let her brush her hair on branches, tie her limbs upright with reeds and go abseiling down a rabbit hole where she fell into bluebells which replaced her eyes, wandered into sunlight crying petals, washed her face in the rapids, swam through the long grass which nipped at her feet until she grew wings and became a storm cloud heavy and bursting into the scent of mud, wild garlic and a note of purple-veined rosemary blooming into the voice of a maimed bird, who flew back home to sing me the story of how she bit into the lip of a foxglove and survived.
Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2020 The top 15 winners: Anna Gilmore Heezen • Anna Winkelmann • Brigitta McKeever • Daniel Wale • Em Power • Imogen Beaumont • Indigo Mudbhary • Lauren Lisk • Leandra Li • Libby Russell • Linnet Drury • Maia Siegel • Preesha Jain • Victoria Fletcher • Zara Meadows The commended poets: Aashka Vardhman • Ahana Banerji • Ailsa Morgan • Alyssa Theofanidis • Amala Sangha • Amélie Nixon • Anisha Jaya Minocha • Anne Kwok • April Egan • Arabella Green • Artemis Fernihough • Ayra Ahmad • Blessing Verrall • Celeste Herriotts • Celia Mostachfi • Charlotte Hughes • chenrui • Claudia Quin • Connie Alvarez • Divyasri Krishnan • Elise Withey • Eliza Sinclair Kidd • Elsie Hayward • Elyse Thomas • Emily Man • Emily Ng • Erin Hateley • Eshan Fadi • Euan Sinclair • Eve Calvey • Eve Wright • Evie Collins • Florence Bullion • Francesca Morgan • Freya Leech • Georgina Cary • Grace Phillips • Hannah Eve Kilgore • Helen Roth • Hope Vaughan • Iona Mandal • Jaewon Chang • Jamie See • Janiru Liyanage • Jeanne Everett Meraioth • Jennah Agha • Jonathan Truong • Kate O’Brien • Kerensa Pickering • Kitty Joyce • Kitty Robinson • Lilly Jane Nolan • Lily Celeste Ashby • Liv Goldreich • Lucy Stone • Lucy Waters • Maddie Harris • Madison Averill • Martha Iris Blue • Martha Routledge • Martine Maugüé • Maureen Onwunali • Merrie LeMaître Nugent • Olajuwon-Alhaytham Abdullah Adedokun • Oreva Esalomi • Patricia Ssonko Nalule • Phaedra Wright • Phoebe Z. Barowitz • Priya Abularach • Priya Shrivastva • Ran Zhao • Remi Seamon • Sabrina Guo • Saima Begum • Samiya Saif Ullah • Sarah Fathima Mohammed • Serrina Zou • Sinead Bruce • Sinéad O’Reilly • Sung Cho • Theodora Shillito • Tom Griffin • Vidula Selvan • Zayaan Jamil • Zoe Dorothy Leary
Read the winning and commended poems online The online anthologies of winning and commended Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2020 are available at bit.ly/foyleyoungpoets
About us The Poetry Society The Poetry Society is the leading poetry organisation in the UK. For over 100 years we’ve been a lively and passionate source of energy and ideas, opening up and promoting poetry to an ever-growing community of people. We run acclaimed international poetry competitions for adults and young people and publish The Poetry Review, one of the most influential poetry magazines in the English-speaking world. With innovative education and commissioning programmes, and a packed calendar of performances and readings, The Poetry Society champions poetry for all ages. poetrysociety.org.uk
The Foyle Foundation The Foyle Foundation is an independent grant-making trust supporting UK charities which, since its formation in 2001, has become a major funder of the Arts and Learning. The Foyle Foundation has invested in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award since 2001, one of its longest partnerships. During this time it has trebled its support and enabled the competition to develop and grow to become one of the premier literary awards in the country. foylefoundation.org.uk
Help young writers thrive The Poetry Society’s work with young people and schools across the UK changes the lives of readers, writers and performers of poetry, developing confidence and literacy skills, encouraging self-expression and opening up new life opportunities. Support us by donating at poetrysociety.org.uk/donate
About the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is at the core of The Poetry Society’s extensive education programme. In 2020, the competition received almost 16,000 poems from over 6,000 young poets from 118 territories. From these poems, this year’s judges, Maura Dooley and Keith Jarrett, selected 100 winners: 15 top poets and 85 commended poets. The competition’s scale and global reach shows what a huge achievement it is to be selected as one of our winners. All 100 winners of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award receive a range of brilliant prizes, including a year’s youth membership of The Poetry Society and a goody bag stuffed full of books donated by our generous supporters. The Poetry Society continues to nurture winners throughout their careers, providing publication, performance and development opportunities, and access to a paid internship programme. The top 15 poets also receive further sustained mentoring. Alongside the annual competition, the award programme includes a number of initiatives to encourage and enable young writers. We distribute free teaching resources to every secondary school in the UK, share tips from talented teachers and arrange poet-led workshops in areas of low engagement. The winners’ anthology, together with an online anthology of the 85 commended poems, is distributed free to schools, libraries, reading groups, and poetry lovers across the UK and the world. It’s not only young people who are celebrated as part of the award: their teachers also receive special recognition for inspiring the next generation of poets. Each year The Poetry Society identifies a new cohort of ‘Teacher Trailblazers’ through the award, for individuals showing outstanding commitment to poetry in the classroom. Young people play
a vital role, nominating their most inspiring teachers when they enter the competition. In 2020-21, we are delighted to collaborate with Gareth Ellis from Whitley Bay High School, North Tyneside, and Stephanie Nobes from Hounsdown School, Hampshire, to share their enthusiasm for poetry with the wider teaching community. The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award plays an influential role in shaping contemporary British poetry. Former winners regularly go on to publish full poetry collections and are often recognised in significant national competitions for adults. In 2020, for instance, Caroline Bird won the Forward Prize for Best Collection and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award with The Air Year (Carcanet), and Martha Sprackland was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Costa Poetry Award with Citadel (Pavilion Poetry). Theophilus Kwek’s new collection Moving House was published by Carcanet. Bloodaxe published Phoebe Stuckes’s first full collection, Platinum Blonde; Phoebe also won The Poetry Society’s Geoffrey Dearmer Prize. One of the winning poems from the Foyle Award, ‘Peckham Rye Lane’ by Amy Blakemore (2007), is now a set text in the updated Edexcel GCSE poetry anthology (Collection D: Belonging). Poet and critic Jade Cuttle was a judge on the Costa Book Awards, and launched her debut album of poetic-folk, Algal Bloom. Sarah Fathima Mohammed won first prize and Ife Olatona was commended in the Ledbury Poetry Festival Poetry Competition 2020. We are confident that the most recent winners of the competition will go on to reach similarly dizzying heights, and we look forward to discovering yet more fantastic young poets in years to come. If you’re a young writer reading this anthology, enter the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2021 and you could follow in the footsteps of some of the most successful poets writing today.
Further opportunities for young people As well as the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, The Poetry Society offers lots of ways for young people to engage with writing for the page or exploring spoken word. If you’re a young person who really enjoys creative writing, check out Young Poets Network, The Poetry Society’s free online platform for young poets worldwide up to the age of 25. It’s for everyone interested in poets and poetry – whether you’ve just started out, or you’re a seasoned reader and writer. You’ll find features, challenges and competitions to inspire your own writing, as well as new writing from young poets, and advice and guidance from the rising and established stars of the poetry scene. Young Poets Network also offers a list of competitions, magazines and writing groups that particularly welcome young writers. For updates about poets, poetry, competitions, events and more, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @youngpoetsnet and Instagram @thepoetrysociety youngpoetsnetwork.org.uk Aspiring writers and poetry enthusiasts aged 11-18 can also buy Poetry Society Youth Membership. Members receive poetry goodies, discounts towards opportunities for feedback, The Poetry Society’s newspaper Poetry News, and other benefits. poetrysociety.org.uk/membership
Do you have an inspiring teacher? Tell us about them We want to connect with brilliant teachers who care as much about poetry as we do, so we can continue to reach young poets like you. If your teacher inspired you to write or read poetry, and you think we should know about them, email firstname.lastname@example.org Please tell us your teacher’s name and the name of your school, and include a sentence or two about how your teacher has inspired you.
Schools and The Poetry Society Foyle Award teaching resources, including lesson plans and online versions of the winning and commended Foyle Young Poets anthologies, are available on our website at poetrysociety.org.uk/fypresources Poetryclass lesson plans and activities, covering all Key Stages and exploring many themes and forms of poetry, are easy to search and free to download. Each resource has been created by our team of poeteducators and teachers, with hands-on experience of developing an enthusiasm for poetry in the classroom. Find Poetryclass on our dedicated site: resources.poetrysociety.org.uk Page Fright is an online resource, bringing historical poetry to life with contemporary spoken word performances. Page Fright poets such as Benjamin Zephaniah perform their own work, and explore historical poems afresh. poetrysociety.org.uk/pagefright Poets in Schools help develop an understanding of and enthusiasm for poetry across all Key Stages. Whether you are looking for a one-off workshop or a long-term residency, an INSET session for staff or a poetled assembly, The Poetry Society will find the right poet for you. Online and in-person options available. poetrysociety.org.uk/education School Membership connects your school with all that poetry has to offer. School members receive books, resources, posters, Poetry News and The Poetry Review (secondary only), as well as free access to our Poets in Schools service. poetrysociety.org.uk/membership Follow us on Twitter @PoetryEducation or sign up to our schools e-bulletin by emailing email@example.com
Enter the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2021 Judges: Clare Pollard and Yomi S·ode Enter your poems – change your life! The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2021 is open to any writer aged 11 to 17 (inclusive) until the closing date of 31 July 2021. The competition is completely free to enter and poems can be on any theme or subject. Prizes include poetry goodies, mentoring, places on a week-long Arvon writing course, publication in a prestigious anthology, and much more. Winners also benefit from ongoing support and encouragement from The Poetry Society via publication, performance and internship opportunities. How to enter: please read the updated competition rules, published in full at foyleyoungpoets.org. You can send us your poems online through our website, or by post. If you are aged 11-12 you will need permission from a parent or guardian to enter. You can enter more than one poem, but please concentrate on drafting and redrafting your poems – quality is more important than quantity. Entries cannot be returned under any circumstances so please keep copies. For more information, visit the rules section at foyleyoungpoets.org School entries: teachers can enter sets of poems by post or online using our simple submission form. Every school that enters 25 students or more will receive a £50 discount on our Poets in Schools service. Want a FREE set of anthologies, resources and posters for your class? Email your name, address and request to firstname.lastname@example.org For full rules and instructions, visit foyleyoungpoets.org
Now YOU can be part of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award Send us your poems by 31 July 2021 and next year YOUR work could be read by thousands of people all over the world in an anthology like this one. Enter online for free at foyleyoungpoets.org Remember, you must be aged 11-17 years old on the closing date of 31 July 2021. Good luck – we can’t wait to read your poems!
“I truly feel the future of poetry is in safe hands, and it is vital these young voices are nurtured and supported wherever they find themselves in the world.” – Keith Jarrett, Judge, Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2020