Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2007

The Wouldbegoods

Romeo and Juliet
Erica Berry (International Winner)

 

ms. connings said that at fourteen years old, the sparks between them

would of been enough to set the whole of middle america  blazing--

leaving us non-believers standing in smoldering cornfields

 

she said the looks shared across ivy covered balustrades sent

gossamer threads of dedication

stronger than the tightropes in Ringling Bros

 

and the letters they penned to each other by flickering candlelight?

every word a symphony unto itself

the clash of consonants and clarinets, vowels and violins, syllables and saxophones

 

and then the bell rings, and geometry looms

and romeo and juliet dance away in a cloud of smoke

smiling at our hopeless high school sagas

 


 

Peckham Rye Lane
Amy Blakemore

 

The sun, today –

it leaks desperation,

Gunmetal droplets of perspiration

gather.

 

I take the bus - through Peckham.

 

Knickers lie flaccid

in Primark.

Like salted jellyfish - tentacle pink,

grandmother mauve

 

briny in £2 racks of rainbow.

 

Peckham Rye lane is tight

as damp and crammed as a coconut shell

 

afro combs and mobile phones in the white heat –

punctuated cornrows and seed beads,

cornflower scrunchies, liquorice weaves.

 

The delicate babies in KFC,

children, plaid-dressed children,

wailing, clutching drumsticks like weapons.

 

Underfoot

the pavement is a gruesome meat,

each person is a sturdy hairbrush bristle on its surface.

 

Angels gaze from the treetops

like William Blake

 

and radiate

 

comfort.

 


 

Afterward (in memory of my grandmother)
Camilla Chen (International Winner)
 

i.

How did it happen?

Ten hours and ten minutes more

but the day has ended, and I see you:

shoes still on your feet, and your clothes,

all the colours out of place against the mortuary walls.

 

I remember: The way you’d hold my hand

in both of yours, the way you'd ask, smiling,

你好志?  *

 

ii.

The night is eloquent

but I have hemmed myself in.

 

No words to give

so I fold paper and

feed it to the fire,

 

watching flames lick

through the petals,

each incense structure

 

curling and crumbling,

slowly collapsing

into ash.

 

I remember: Sunday afternoons at your store,

you teaching me how to count out change

and letting me sit in your storekeeper's armchair 

 

iii.

When they sing

it's part of the ritual.

I don't understand the dialect,

your dialect, but I close my eyes

as the voices lift, soar, dip,

in a language of grief

that requires no translation.

 

I remember: Dinner with you,

your cooking fragrant as you urged us on,

eat, eat, eat generously, eat more.

 

iv.

It's a beautiful morning today

and we're sending you off.

 

In my head I try to talk to you,

think of the things I would have

liked to say to you, imagine

how you would have answered.

 

I remember: Once asking your age

and not having enough fingers and toes

for your sixty six years.

 

v.

We watch from behind a glass panel

as you make your last journey alone,

slowly, in a box on a track, into the crematorium.

 

When we emerge the sky is the brightest it's been in days

I remember your smile, the creases around your eyes,

the way your hands were always cool and dry.

 

Nobody says a thing on the way back

But when we smile with the tears still in our eyes

I hope you know we're thinking of you.

 

vi.

外婆, 你好志?

我很好, 我很好.  **

 

 

---

* Ni hao ma? - How are you?

 

** Wai po, ni hao ma? / Wo hen hao, wo hen hao. -Grandma, how are you? / I'm fine, I'm doing fine.

 


 

My Hands
Arabella Currie

 

I exfoliate with sea salt

I moisturise in garlic

I rub raw pink chicken

smooth as a baby

and wet.

So I can smell

deep in my skin

all those meals that I've cooked.

Ginger mixed with onions

butter and cauliflower.

And sometimes

if the time is right

just inside my wrist

is salmon.

I'm proudest though of my left thumb

hard as a nut with its own grand canyon.

Here years of bluntly cutting cucumber have

given me my war wound

my armour plated thumb.

You my hands aren't as soft as some

nor is your skin a pearly peach.

But with you in my kitchen

I can hold the whole world

and I can slice red pepper

at the speed

of light.
 


 

Ordinary
Mengya Du 

 

I like to imagine that we are so ordinary

We have names to shout from rooftops

From which we can jump, arms akimbo

And take leave of our bodies in religion.

 

I like to imagine that we are so ordinary

We can dedicate our lives to some gentle lethargy

Tea and rampant bibliophilia

A vintage car fixed up with love, and a battalion of leafy plants

Hushed evenings of curry, and the drone of a TV

Redoing the walls with tubs of paint

Teetering on ladders, wiping away the crusted white

From the tips of our shoulderblades.

 

I like to imagine that we are so ordinary

I could slip inside your ceaseless summer

Fit as an Armani suit

Folding over in the wet, warm creases of your skin,

That the wings on your back are plastic imitation

Dyed chicken feathers glued messily, come undone in my hands

And that we are shaped by the pull of gravity

Burning human satellites

With no politic or gradation between us.
 


 

The Wouldbegoods
Charlotte Geater

 

We'll make ginger snaps wrapped

in ribbons, bake trays of mudcake

spilling into crevices in the oven

mix the icing with too much sugar

and too many sprinkles

not enough chocolate or lashings

of water; lick it from our hands

and stickily push our hair

from our faces. We'll finish up

and leave bowls unwashed

on the draining board, trays of sweets

and cakes and darling things sunning

on the windowsill. There are tattered

dresses in my wardrobe

 

and we'll sew them into duvet-covers

on which we'll draw maps in eyeliner

pencils and face-powder, body-glitter

rolled across to mark the seven seas,

the ever-collapsing ocean.

 

We'll hide under the world

and turn off the lights, even the lights

flickering inside the globe that we'll make

from a bedside lamp, blue paint,

the shade we'll find in a corner

of the attic. I think that we should recite

the names of every country until it all goes green

around us; you start with Abkhazia and I'll

draw the atlas from under my pillow, softly

turn the page with another lick

and say even softer, I think, that one day

we'll end it all in Kuwait, Kuwait,

the kingdom near the sea.
 

 


 My father recounts his childhood mischief
Sophia Jih (International Winner)


When I slip my grades, blunder fingers

through an audition, refuse to gather my tongue,

my father sits me in the library, self-important:

 

Between study and study

and study, he was expected

to uphold ancestry's honor, clean his

family's worn apartment, patch

the gaps between its teeth. One day, they could not

afford tincan noodles. Starving,

 

he stole a fistful of grains, tricked

a chicken from its stingy owner,

strangled it.

 

Through various repeats, I still

do not know how the art of pheasant-murder

transmutes to chemistry. Instead, I nod dutifully, think how

simple for my father to sacrifice rice for meats, wonder

if he will as easily dissolve love

for approval.
 


 

Crash
Annie Katchinska

 

OK OK OK listen. You mincepied? You roastpotatoed? You goosefatted?

You burping in public? No worries, no worries, come, come and see

what we have here. We have Lycra, pink, green, leopard-print,

and pumping pumping muzak (top 40 type, you'll recognise),

gym membership, yoga mat, swimming costume, Lucozade coupons

et cetera now: listen: carefully: you start and you do not

stop you do not stop look LOOK at her, she did not stop

now look at her bouncy hair and happy children

and the sunlight. No worries, come, come.

If you got the money buy berries, porridge, bulgur wheat,

this exotic polysyllabic lettuce that actually consumes fat inside you

or if not, percentages, 3%, 1%, 0%, or traffic light colours.

Sooper-dooper. Nothing you couldn't work out with a piece of paper

and a brain and some time but never mind this is prettier.

This is Comic Sans. This is louder. Come, come.

OK OK OK go. We have our cake. See you next year. 

 


 

Moth
Eleanor Kendrick

 

moth,

you silkflutter at my window,

amberdust wings in a flurry of hope,

legs and arms tangle, scramblescraping

at the stoneblack glass,

shivering across the loose-slip surface

no foothold, crack or nook to stop.

 

moth,

my cruel reflection thrown over you

and flung into the night at the stars

(where you should be, throfting milk-white at the moon)

stares through me black and cold and clangs,

for I’m goose-guilty of this sly deception: for me

the light clucked on and spread its beamy fingers out

to you, and beckoned lithely through the dark.

 

moth,

you tint and tut and thub and thud again,

again, against the blot-strong glass, you ram

and butt your blunt flat head, and bleed mothblood,

and pulp yourself to death – for nothing

but a humming siren, pulsing

fools-gold lovebeams at the night.
 


 

Blood Isn't Thicker Than Success
Mark Maguire 

 

A father looks on at his empire: buildings, walls, business

Rent, money, tax, segments of one father's real son.

 

His DNA son looks at a picture, a picture of his

Father at a young age working a hard farm life.

He sees hunger.

Hunger not for a roast dinner but for an empire.

The DNA son looks into his father's eyes,

Pools of his own blue.

 

A cricket match.

Another opportunity for a father to disappoint.

The DNA son looks to the crowd for a father's unforgiving face.

The match has been won, but the crowd don't understand

Why one of the players is not smiling.

 

The son looks up, sees his father, by his side,

He's looking at his son's poem,

 

Tears are rolling down his face. 

 


 

Canute's Wife, after Carol Ann Duffy
Emily Mercer

 

It was a hot day, too hot for June.

I took him to the beach with a picnic; red wine

and strawberries, like when we were young.

 

He was wearing his suit (never had

much of a memory; he got up for work on Sunday).

With rolled up cuffs like a little boy he sat in the sand

and spoiled his trousers,

sucked the juice of a strawberry and gave me

little red kisses.

He'd forgotten

 

it was our anniversary, too,

of course. But I didn't mind.

We drank a lot of that wine, a viscous red. It was nice,

celebratory.

 

He chased me on the sand dunes in the heat

and I cut my foot on the grass spears.

By evening, our empty glasses

looked like bloodied light,

empty bottles full of a sticky green glimmer.

My head was full of it too. Full of an anniversary

that felt like a honeymoon.

 

I sat with a red serviette on my foot and watched him

run into the sunset.

He called something back to me; no,

not to me, to the sea.

I laughed and couldn't hear.

He ran out into the foam, shouting still,

shouting louder

 

but he gave up and took me back to the car.

Lying on the seat, my foot throbbed, my nose was peeling.

I felt invincible, I slept while he fetched

the remains of our evening.

 

How many hours in that blissful sleep

how many moments of lost confusion

and where was he, by the time I reached the shore?

 

The sea was beautiful and incessant

chewing up the sand at my feet

as I called his name.

Those dunes were silent

and the water a smug Red Sea -

parted for him, betrayed and closed over him,

while my eyes bled tears to join the salt that stole him.
 

 


 

The Revelation
Richard O'Brien

 

I knew the shoulder's anatomy;

how it worked on curves, the joint's smooth rig,

the elegant roll of the pulley

that preceded Newton's boltless bridge.

I had focused on the eyes though,

or the places love can act

with the lights out, where the smile

is like a curtain drawing back.

Perhaps it's simply that until your shoulders shone

last night when you wore that dress

that was a chalky halo draped around your chest,

their skin so young, a field unsown,

a God unphotographed, lost continents from lore –

I had never realised how beautiful your shoulders were before.

 


  

Where I'm From
Melanie Poonai
 

I am from a life filled with colour,

From the chocolate brown that is my skin.

I am from the sunshine yellow of my mother's laugh,

From the red and white of my brother's favourite football shirt.

I am from the crisp new white pages of a book,

From the miserable grey of the street I live on.

I am from green, pink and yellow; My garden in summer filled

        with flowers,

From the terrifying black of the nightmares that haunt me.

I am from the ginger orange of my buried cat,

From the blue and gold of my ever-short school tie.

I am from the dark oak of my grandmother's coffin,

From the golden "Aum" pendant around my neck..

I am from every pink scar etched into my body,

From the red, orange and brown of a hot curry.

I am from every identical colour of the twins I love,

From the blue and green of a hospital ward.

I am from all that has happened,

And all that will be.
 


 

The Tale of a Chivalrous and Gallant Knight
Sarah Williams

 

In days of yore when England fair,

Hath fallen into disrepair,

The knight to whom she in despair,

Did gratefully turn was Tony Blair.

 

T’was glorious, that triumphant sight!

The hearts o’the nation hath shone bright,

With hopes that the fearless Sir Blair might,

Put all the wrongs o’England right.

 

The dragon slain, the kingdom won,

Indeed hath Tony well begun,

And England hath rejoiced as one,

When spake he thrice, “Education”.

 

To fight the nation’s enemies,

Sir Tony gathered brave M.P.s,

And with the help of such as these,

He drew up many wise decrees.

 

Blair swore from thence that ne’er should live,

In that house a Conservative,

That all he had he’d surely give,

To stand o’er his land defensive.

 

But though Sir Blair airs could put on,

His power could not forever go on,

For soon o’er Westminster horizon,

Showed the form of David Cameron.

 

Sir Cameron was brave and good.

Whilst in the chamber great he stood,

Proclaimed he to the world that they should,

Embrace all those who wore a hood.

 

Sir Cameron gloriously decreed,

From his energy saving steed,

That he too could take the lead,

And meet the English people’s needs.

 

Sir Blair himself made judgements poor

In leading his kingdom to war,

It had been done by many before,

But ruin was all his people saw.

 

Many men whom Blair had happy made,

Now their champion hath betrayed,

And came to young Cameron’s aid.

It seemed that Blair’s power would fade.

 

Thus when the time came for election,

Blair to his men gave the direction,

To each ride out to his own section,

And campaign for Blair’s protection.

 

When at last the day came for the duel,

It fell that Blair again should rule,

But had he now votes minimal,

Whence he had had them one and all.

 

How cruel it seems Sir Blair to blame,

O he of nineties Labour fame,

For despite Cameron’s young blue flame,

The two were really much the same.

 

But Cameron, with all things green,

And helmet and two wheeled machine,

Though threatening, could not have been,

The only threat that Blair had seen.

 

For Blair had lasted contests three,

And now the choice was made by he,

To resign with dignity.

Another knight his heir should be.

 

In this way Tony hath stepped down,

Moved out from number ten in town,

And gallantly he passed the crown,

To that brave knight, Sir Gordon Brown.

 

 


 

Red Alert
Katie Willy

 

Crimson sinew of pummelled raspberries

And bittersweet citrus Squished and Oozed

To a sticky vibrant pulp

Glugs out of the carton marked

"Innocent".

The juices rise to the rim

Slip down my throat;

I can feel the sharp tang fester and bloom

Tantalisingly sweet

As the pith sinks to the bottom of the glass.

 

A midsummer haze later

And the Man and his autocue inform us

Of the car bomb in London.

He tells it like it is,

Black and white characters on a changing screen

The time, the place,

And that they didn't go off.

Yet everywhere the nation freezes –

Then sighs as it melts back into lukewarm normality

Because this is reality

And in reality

These things never

happen to

you.

 

But at the back of the mind

The suppressed fear of a nation lingers

As I decide I'll have water, not juice, today.

 


Foyle Young Poets 2007: Commendations

Anthony Adler, Ayodeji Ajanaku, Mopelola Ajao, Phoebe Amis, Jocelyn Arnold, Kate Ashton-Butler, Tom Ayling,  Dannish Babar, Joe Bakes, Ben Barker, Briony Beckett, Leanne Bridgewater, Georgina Brown, Rachel Burns, Ivy Callaway, Peter Candy, Laura Carr, Sophie Clarke, Jenn Clarke, Heidi Clifford, James Coghill, Helen Cooper, Camilla Crawshaw, Emma Cullen, Olivia Cunningham, Callan Davies, Jessica Dove, Frankie Drew, Jack Edwards, Natasha Footman, Patrick Ford, Kayleigh Fox, Holly Green, Amy Gregg, Sarah Hammond, Alice Hancock, Olivia Hanson, Helen Harvey, Robert Henthorn, Alys Hobbs, Howard Horner, Naomi Hyba, Natasha Hyman, Fatima Jalil, Daisy Jones, Cedrik Kavanagh, Sawsan Khalaf, Aimee Kwan, Agnes Lambert, Andrew Latimer, Jessica Lauren, Ben Leverett-Jaques, Geoffrey Lim, Ziwei Lin, Faye Lipson, Zeljka Marosevic, Charlotte Martin, Jessica Mattler, Frankie Meadows, Paul Merchant, Kaja Met, Matt Morris, Ashleigh Newnham, Chu Ting Ng, Marjan Nouhnejad, Szu Yoong Ong, Katie Painter, Jessica Reid, Charlotte Repton, Caitlin Robbins, Ronnie Robertson, Emily Russell, Kate Ryrie, Sabrina Sayeed, Adham Smart, Sophie Stephenson-Wright, Kirsten Stewart, Elizabeth Francine Tan, Beatrice van Grutten, Rebekah Vince, William Warren, Tomas Weber, Abigail White, Rosetta Young, Jing Zhu.