2001 was the first year the Foyle Foundation sponsored the Young Poets of the Year competition.
The judges were Amanda Dalton and Stephen Knight.
Scroll down to read the winners' poems and commended poets.
Who would think that you,
a lazy gambler, could hide
those sort of secrets in
your curled black hair.
Dusty roads, trodden by those
who would stab your honest son
and burn down your farm, forged
from blood, sweat and tears.
From under the wiry mosquito
nets, I remember stumbling out
and knocking from you a
The Philippines was our home,
for a short while. Only you were
weaker then. Couldn't walk.
Arthritis had set in.
But your mind was stronger,
maybe a little lonely.
I could hear you cry that one night.
Softly, I moved through among the strange
salty smells of the kitchen and into your
empty room. I noticed that the plant
beside your bed had finally given up
reaching for the open window. Not
even water blessed by the Father could
wake it now.
Lying there, you wept. It was the second
time I saw you cry. Under sheets of the shadow
you whispered to me, the ways you had cheated
and lost my Grandfather's clean money. How you
thought your gambling had rotted away the time that
you now so wishfully had spent with your now valuable
children. It was painful for you now, wiping the tears
from your eyes.
You were curled up like a baby
in the womb. You, I'm sure, are fine
in your new life.
Sometimes, I feel that long shard
of guilt run through me, as I remember,
that was I, who should have apologised.
A large muffin of a man
Leans against a grimy signpost
Swathed in a toffee coloured duffel coat
Speckled with tears of rain,
His coal black hair is slicked behind scarlet ears
And a thin snake tongue licks pursed lips.
Slitted eyes narrow dangerously as,
Glancing at a silver watch
Strapped tightly around his podgy wrist
He tut-tutters and peers down a dirty street
Listening out expectantly
For a double-decker's distinct rumble.
Behind 'Lizard lips'
A frail teenager slouches against a graffitied wall,
Bloodshot eyes distant and staring,
Slimy knotted locks swept hurriedly back
Into a grubby bobble.
Her pale oily face is festooned with large pus-filled spots
And her manicured nails
Are chipped and bitten.
Ragged fading flares grip her slender legs
As water spits down
And she wobbles dangerously on four-inch heels.
To the left of 'Pizza face'
A feeble old granny stoops,
Gripping a tartan shopping trolley
Bulging with a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables.
His leathery skin is wrinkled and raw,
Brittle fingers and trembling,
A thin moist layer of saliva
Trickles down blue-tinged lips
And onto a hairy chin,
Skagged tights lie rumpled around weak ankles
While pools of water seep up
Into her worn plimsolls.
On the graffitied wall behind 'Wrinkles'
Sit a ginger cat
Gazing curiously around
Through glistening honey-toned eyes
And tensing as rain beats down
Upon her silken fur,
A pallette of autumn hues;
Bronze and scarlet, gold and tan.
Yawning lazily, he scratches at the decaying wall
And proudly catwalks across it.
It sweeps on for miles, it seems,
This creature, of green depth,
Green shadow, and green gold,
For miles, its bulk, heavy with pines,
And lightened only by snatches of pale sun,
In clearings, and in the movement of branches,
Seems to stretch....
There are places,
Near the heart of this creature,
Where you can look, in every direction,
And see nothing but slender pillars,
Slender, straight, and dark topped pillars,
Carved beautifully, in an ancient style,
That whilst growing perpetually
Never seems to grow out of date.
The style of the wood.
And there are places where there are pools,
Of green water,
In the wood,
That look although they have lain stagnant,
And still, and unchanging,
For years, and years.
And you can throw stones into their centres,
And watch the waters disrupted, froth,
And surge, slightly, and watch waves,
Rush up and down the entire length of the dark pool,
And lap at the edges, and then drift back,
Once more into sleeping silence.
In the wood.
There are places,
Where there are people,
Wandering, perhaps, through the greenness,
And the blackness,
And the dappled gold,
And the fiery seas,
Of orange ferns,
Of this strange creature, the wood,
As people, I like to think, have always done,
With dogs running freely,
And wildly, and with smiles on their faces,
And, perhaps, with a golden greenness growing,
Inside of them, too,
In the woods.
Today's homework: write your life story.
Well I was born in Langdon, Essex. July 13th, almost fourteen years ago.
My name is Patrick, although, my Dad preferred Darren. That's about it.
The detention room is like a greenhouse. No windows open, just glass letting
the June afternoon heat toast us.
and they are fields of rain.
and the hens and cockerels,
they have to defecate somewhere.
it is also true that
such simple happiness here
is often found in thatched houses
(that burn easily),
down algae-choked wells,
and could well be boxed up and kept
in cement villages, complete with running water
besides, the sands you step on
are blackened with industrial oil and ugly mangrove,
the shards of glass make them dangerous,
they chip wounds away,
meld blood too close
imported sand would do better,
it is silken, white,
the way this sand could never be
yes, all this is true. besides,
these sampans are small, and
the salt sea stings its passengers
Today, Pulau Ubin will be given a "facelift".
They will mould her into something
prettier, remove the mud fromher sand
Today, I return to the mainland,
leaving two small mounds of sand
on the concrete pavement
*Pulau Ubin is an island off the shore of the Singapore mainland, and contains one of the last surviving rustic attap-hut villages, or kumpungs. It has recently been earmarked by the government for redevelopment into a theme-park-like tourist attraction.
**sampans are the small boats that are used to ferry the infrequent visitors of the island.
I need to change the sheets on my bed.
They are thicker, less soft, than they were.
I need to brush my hair and go for a walk,
and I need to put the plastic bag in the bin to a recycling place,
and I need to put ample milk on my breakfast, staring at it and laughing at it, listening
to Radio 4, or a loud CD.
I need to set my alarm cock so that I can enjoy the squirming, uncomfortable
morning sleep for longer startled minutes, and then droop back, pretending it's all a
dream, not just bits,
and I could buy a new belt and keep my trousers high, or a new pair of
socks or braces. Dad doesn't wear braces. They hurt his shoulders, make him feel the weight
of the Earth like the muscled, tortured Greek man who couldn't put it down.
I can't put his name down.
I need to change the sheets on my bed, put some fabric softener in the
always does. What a life. I could do a bobble hat at a football match,
I could light a cigarette and choke until I proved it was real, I could laugh.
I need to laugh,
I need to put on women's clothes and dance around, or I could want to, I could.
If there are planets enough, I need a planet,
and if it were Wednesday I could want to lie down on the grass and look at the clouds,
I might need to.
And, speaking of need,
the breakfast without it, and the recycled bags, or planets, or sky
- if sky could be sold to a charity shop -
would be the same, or similar, and my sheets, like cigarettes, would not be
real, without this choice of words, my choice.
The only choice.
I need to do something about my hair I look silly.
He's sitting in his comfy chair,
Shouting orders at unsuspecting young cargo workers
He hides me in the double bunk,
Behind the freezer,
With the cans of tinned beans,
Me, 7 years old,
Listening to his great "Boogie-Woogie" CD,
At 6 in the morning,
His old Teddy Duck,
Sitting faithfully on his lorry mantle-piece,
Waiting to protect him,
Plastic packets of ham and tuna sandwiches,
Lying with the crumbs of '86',
In the industrial sized bin up front,
The thunderous engine,
Telling me to strap in,
And start eating my plain crackers,
Watching the world go by,
Playing with his shiny Gold Watch.
A humming bird treads an invisible thread
researching the leafless ground below;
a dissertation on silence.
You send balloons up,
haemoglobin bubbles in the sky
dispersing sudden thoughts like Apollo's limbs -
maybe you do not want to be alone now,
(after that first fatal wish)
wait for the card to be returned; Wish you were here.
The weather is nuclear:
everything yellow like pickled fruit
or temporal grey; the complexion cadaver's wear
You know that if you died, you would leave no ripple,
a skimming stone succumbing to gravity's symmetry.
Days dissolve into weeks, months,
old conversations make your teeth chatter to themselves
your stomach the only reply for a hundred miles.
We have lived here for centuries,
Ginger and me.
Pressed close between the dust-sheets,
We wait for my Robert to return.
I pretend to make tea at six.
Pretend. Just think about it,
In case, by chance, he might
Walk in find me unprepared.
Ginger chases spiders, he
Crushes and crunches
Their black ooze between his jaws
And turns his eyes -
Gleaming emerald coals
Set high in his face -
To look, and stare
And ask me if he was right.
And I have to scold: tell him
"No, bad Ginger,
Bad boy, for we have food."
And though it is a lie,
He will slink, silken and obedient,
As a slip of amber
To the cupboard by the stair.
The windows are my eyes.
They are impassive, they
Stare neutrally at the grey outside,
And the sprawl, the
Long reptilian spine
Of the moor
And the sky,
Soft sky, the sky
That is never full of clouds.
The windows watch for me
And they are full of cobwebs,
Like my own eyes.
Time stands still.
The clocks have long since stopped
And if the ticks do not tick,
There must be no time.
So we are caught in a frieze, Ginger and me.
We are stuck here in our
Dusty little refuge.
The one thing I never
Think of is the battle.
The one thing I never
Think is that he might be dead.
We have lived here for centuries
Ginger and me,
And I have never banished
The clockwork shadows from the walls.
"Go and catch a falling star;
Get with child a mandrake root"
--Song (Go and catch a falling star), John Donne
He spends his days working in the fields,
sweating in the wheat's pale gold.
When I go to the well
or call the children from their play,
I see his back dipping and falling
in a steady unstoppable rhythm.
But my eyesight is bad;
now, I don't miss what I had
never wanted. When he first came
I was spinning futures from the stars,
and barely noticed the new kid, son of the aunt
who married some foreigner. My sister
is the one with time to smile at visitors.
His eyes slipped over me like oil from water
to settle on her face, covering flesh with gold
for seven years. But it was me they sold
in those years. It was me they veiled,
pushed against him, my fists clutching
only darkness. His blind hands
roamed my flat silent body,
happy until morning
unmasked my fae. His I couldn't see;
the records make it very clear:
he loved Rachel more than Leah.
He did his duty during the years
of forever. Most nights I spent alone
with the children. Sometimes
I lay outside, fractured vision
melting the known stars
flickering on other eyes, other places.
I wanted them to flare my distress
signals, a silver SOS
to lives beyond one line on one page:
Leah's eyes were weak
but Rachel was beautiful and lovely
and traded two mandrakes for a night of love.
On the day she pointed out
their usual tree. I waited
curled against the amber evening chill.
He gave no greeting and no smile; still
I said, You must come into me;
for I have hired you for my son's mandrakes,
the words falling from my mouth
as if into oil - extinguished, ineffectual.
Before he woke I slipped beneath his arm,
stumbling across a plain of stones,
quartz stars dying in the sun.
One more artless morning had begun.
And next door
At number 30,
A pig-tailed six year old,
Freckled and "angelic"
Thinks of dolls houses,
And a world take over bid......
Hangs in the sky,
As you walk,
Through the sheeting drizzle,
Glinting in the light
Cast from pink streetlights,
Suspended down the nameless street
In cardboard-fronted houses.
Their heads, filled with candyfloss dreams,
And low-fat mayonnaise.
As they lie,
Fantasy upon fantasy,
The golden girl,
Of plasticised figures,
On a mound of nauseating white,
Icing, and chiffon swirl,
In a spiralling dream
The flickering street lamps fizz,
As you walk through the sheeting drizzle,
Heels click on the polished tarmac.....
Was it just sea cows peacefully suckling?
When scurvy set in they carried on,
until even the captain lay below,
his gums red and swollen
in his dry face.
And then the wind died.
Long, long days of the sail sagging.
Thin and weak they sprawled on the deck
dreaming of oranges, limes and red peppers,
only small waves, breaking softly against the bows,
white as a hand
that grips the hull...
A thump on the wooden prow, once, twice -
and then the singing begins.
They had no Circe, no bees wax.
If they were deaf and blind they might stand a chance.
The tiller creaked, the ship lurched,
towards the rocks.
Their voices rise
her fin slaps the stone, faster and faster,
one spreads her arms
chests heave the crescendo -
There is the first awful boom,
and the creaking, splintering of tarred planks,
and the pouring rush of water.
A sailor screamed, high as a woman
some cursed, and scrabbled for muskets, for clubs,
one shouted a prayer to the Virgin.
Later, in engravings
they showed the men brave and strong and handsome.
And the women's silky hair soft billows against the dusky sky,
scallop shells for modesty.
That was later.
Now the men reeled against the bucking floor,
dizzy and hungry, their ears full of song,
full of song, full of song.
Great gashes in the curved planks
broken like a rib-cage.
Now smooth arms hauled themselves up
hair plastered back
streaming salt down their breasts,
the flick and thrust of those muscular tails, terrifying.
Already dying of salt-pork
the men were weak in those wet arms,
before the freezing plunge of water.
They bubbled and turned blue,
gouts of water,
no blood - only cold fingers at their lips.
And still the chanting like sonar calls of mammals,
notes they'd never heard before
not meant for mortals.
Still they struggled,
sluggish under water,
a cracked splinter, two foot long, scratched deep
a scream of pain, of rage,
and her hands were round his throat
her tail between his legs.
Embracing as the fathoms pass
- unheavenly choir
seducing them to chilly boudoirs
in ladylike blue-green,
and darker places,
not so ladylike.
This is no cold-blooded androgyny, no sexless fish.
The sea-bed approaches,
A nuptial, welcoming,
waves sweep nausea
and peels of song,
face on face, eyes clouding with beauty, and death.
Down here there is no sun to flash against silver scales
nor sails for shrouds,
only the wet enfold of the sea, of the mermaids, no longer maids.
for Bill and Ben
On a normal day,
you'd see my stalk quiver
towards the moss-free flowerpots
which I live behind.
But underneath, there's the legful haze
of my crazy roots encountering
worms. The furious tingle,
of spread-eagling round bricks
and buried stones oval and sea-formed
in perfection - my treasure.
My ambition? To travel.
I want to laugh
my whispery name
down your drainpipe,
to echo and boom when you
turn on your taps.
To slowly drive my legs
through rich earth,
letting a hunch of gathered snails
clatter from my leaves.
I have never worked
on grass so sharp
that it cuts into my feet like glass.
under a sun so hot
that the soles of my trainers melted
welding me to the ground
hanging in a sky so empty
so spotlessly bare that I can see solar systems
wood pigeons are still,
smooth, wooden statues,
bead eyes glimmer -
they teach the worms to fly
I have never worked
among dropping silver pinecones
where tomatoes swell and blush as I watch
and abrupt gales bring trees, chimneys crashing to my feet
or in a place where my watch
ticks like a dripping tap
and my clothes stick to me skin-tight
for fear of the air
where trees reposition and starlings fly from my nostrils
when I cough or sneeze
and my ears try to meet
at the back of my head.
But someone's got to do it.
"Every Singaporean Matters"
The woman at the mouth
of the MRT station
is hard not to notice.
We want to hold her hand,
drift towards her siren-voice
wailing in Hokkien. Her with
the withered white hair,
with crumpled face and clothes.
But we turn away, too
embarrassed to buy her garish
kiddie plastic combs, guarding
faithfully in our heads
the model answer for such people:
without money or talent,
without an education,
without the welfare cheque
which we know she would surely abuse,
what good is she to us,
this failure who has robbed the state
of its kindness,
who never grew to become a
useful member of society?
We are the citizens of a regional hub
for excellence in technology and the arts.
*MRT is an acronym for 'Mass Rapid Transit', the subway train service in Singapore.
*Hokkein is a Chinese dialect commonly spoken by the old or the uneducated.
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The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is Britain's most prestigious poetry prize for young writers between the ages of 11-17. Each year we look for a hundred of the best young poets in the UK and beyond, as well as some of the most active poetry schools with special prizes for both 11-14 and 15-17 year olds. The closing date each year is 31st July.
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