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Young Poet Laureate Shortlisted Candidates 2012

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

There were some wonderful applications for the 20012-13 Young Poet Laureate post.
Below is a fantastic selection of poems from the young people who were shortlisted.

The Young Poet Laureate for Birmingham 2012-13, Claire Guest was announced on 4 October 2012 - National Poetry Day.

Saima Akhtar, aged 14

The Angel on the Christmas Tree

Older than my grandpa,
As frail as my grandma,
It comes out every year…
The angel on the Christmas tree.

We try to make it look good,
Drape it with ribbon and lace,
But we really can’t disguise
The tears on its arms and legs,
The patches on its face.
It looks hideous,
No matter what we do,
Perched where everyone can see,
The angel on the Christmas tree.

I wish it was a real angel watching over me,
Much better than this lump,
Its misshapen head looks like a potato,
Its body’s just a stump.
All my friends laugh and point,
The one bad thing about Christmas,
Here we go,
Once again,
Posing like a star, for all to see,
The angel on the Christmas tree.

But this year, the tree looks different,
More glamorous…
Where has the fallen angel gone?
Dad says he’s sick of my whining,
So he’s bought a brand new one!
It’s smooth, sleek and shiny,
Not a single scratch or bump,
Billows of soft, frilly lace,
Pink ribbons and fragile wings
A ballerina’s beauty and grace,
Poised above, glowing with glee,
Her smug smile frozen in place for all to see.

I gaze at this beauty,
I try to swallow the lump,
The lump that is inside me,
I’ve always wanted an angel,
But now I’m not so sure,
I now long for what used to be,
My angel on our Christmas tree.

Saima says:

To me poetry is a way of expressing yourself. Poems are often full of vivid imagery that reflect your thoughts and view on the world. In my eyes, anybody can be a poet: you don’t have to be talented in any way, you don’t have to use rhyme, you just need the inspiration to do it. Poetry is imaginative, full of your own images and ideas. You should always try and make every word count.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Karishma Porwal, aged 14

What You Left Behind

Your departure was like a tempest
We all watched the gathering storm
We all knew the silent truth
But we were mere spectators
Our gazing eyes couldn't stop the inevitable
And we couldn't anticipate just when you'd leave

We never exchanged goodbyes
But if we had conversed a final time,
What would you have said?
Your last words remain unspoken
Locked, imprisoned inside of you
And as I wander in your absence now,
I count the things you left behind

A steadfast home, under an Indian sun
Every wall painted light turquoise
Tangling ivy, like a veil over the balcony
A flame tree, with roots of steel
With a bloom singing the colours of the sunset
Like the tail of a phoenix.

Do you remember your yellow ring?
Mellow like your smile
Pure like your heart
A ring so loyal to your finger,
Now lies lustreless
It's warmth dies upon anyone else's

Those pastel tinted shirts,
Those golden-rimmed glasses
That would perch upon your nose
That icy stethoscope
That would curl around your neck
Now lies redundant, upon your doctor's chair

These now become connections between the living and the dead,
But questions still plague my mind
Do you see me now?
Do you see me writing these heavy words?
I hope that you know,
That even though you couldn't last forever,
This poem lives on in your memory.

Karishma says:

Poetry has always been like a portal to me, a path away from reality into my own realm. I find great pleasure in spawning a new concept to write about, handpicking words that wonderfully melt into verse and gradually weave them into a fluid poem.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Rida Vaquas, aged 14

Mon Ami

He is crouching behind the fat bindings
Of Marx, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy;
Like a well-grown hedge, they ward away
prying neighbours.
His garden’s guarded, safe for now.

His head buried deep, the book’s a pale white sheet;
There are nightmares above, outside and under
It will cover him and his sticky sweat and tears,
For now, only for now, as the pages turn like
Seconds, ticking, ticking.
The words sink in, mighty ships consumed by
His turbulent sea, his mad waves
He is drowning too.

Mon ami sits very still;
Eyes only open when the worldly door is shut
He can only see his glib literary mask
(he looks, but he refuses to see elsewhere)
And he quietly envies their firm bindings whilst
He watches his own threadbare stitches
(he will disintegrate with a pluck. they won’t, they won’t)
He sits very still.
Then almost theatrically unhappy, a desperate hand and pen
In a frantic scrawl he tries and tries and tries
To disassociate himself from me.

Rida says:

I think poetry is startlingly relevant to young people and the world we inhabit today, and I passionately believe that every young person ought to have their own, unique connection with poetry and see it as a form of self-expression alongside other arts.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Rebecca Thorne, aged 13

My Creators

We are so alike,
At times it amazes me.
Sometimes we seem identical,
Like two mirrors as our friendship reflects.
From one mirror,
to the other.
From one mirror,
To the other.
We also have our differences,
But that doesn’t split us apart.
We get on well,
Never arguing, rarely disagreeing.
Our friendship flows smoothly,
Like water flowing down a stream,
As we glide through our lives.
I like it this way,
It feels open and free,
Like a blowing breeze.
I enjoy being with you,
My life would be dull without you.

You’re so unpredictable,
A puzzle I cannot complete.
Every day you seem a different person.
Your true self is a mystery I cannot solve.
Sometimes we’re on either side of a war,
Sometimes we’re walking down the same glistening path.
It’s like playing cards,
Each day is in the hands of fate.
Sometimes I wonder how we get on,
What have we got in common?
I don’t know, but I don’t care,
My life would be so boring without you.

You are so individual,
So observant,
Always asking awkward questions,
But I don’t mind.
You help me do so much,
Choosing the right paths,
Sketching my future,
You make me think,
Consider my decisions, and explain my opinions.
You above all people,
Help me be the person I am.
Flying freely along my journey of life,
And trying to overcome whatever the future may hold.
My life would be so different without you.

You are my creators.
The three books in my library.
The three beads on my necklace.
The three fish in my ocean.
You are the three people,
That make me want to live my life,
Even when it becomes hard.
You know who you are,
So there’s no need for names.
But thank you for being,
The three pieces of my life,
That make me, me.

Rebecca says:

Poetry is another world. Writing poems is a way of taking a break from life, which can be hard for everyone at times. As well as that, it’s a way of exploring, places, people, emotions and yourself.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Anunita Chandrasekar, aged 15

Sonnet 0800

"Tired of being entrenched in routine?
Moments clogging up your time everyday
And carpe- dieming a vicarious dream?
Well, Paradise is just a cheque away!
Up here, the stars are ever bright,
And warm light is perennially shining,
For your new abode is situated right
By the sun (with facilities for rest and dining.)
Only one-oh-four ninety nine (plus your life)
With a sixty day cash back guarantee
If you are left unsatisfied.
Small print; it's paid in celestial currency.
So join the uprising and salvage your soul
By calling the 0800 number below!"

Anunita says:

Living in the ‘digital age’, I am acutely aware of the instantaneous nature of communication and how easily accessible the world has become. However, the advances we have made in terms of brevity and scope of information are matched only by the loss of depth in communication. In a world such as this, poetry seems more necessary than ever to fill void left by our, often hollow, gestures and phrases.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Ashlee Elizabeth Lolo Roberts, aged 17

Ol’ massa come into the fields today
Trudgin’ through the cotton
Must have forgotten to tell me somethin’
So he come

He let his eyes fall on me
His gaze heavy. Feels like he steppin’ on me
That look went straight through my body
So he look
He holler: ‘Get up out this here field into my cabin!’
He don’t stutter
Or mutter
He clear in what he say
So he talk
I head on over to ol massa’s cabin
He behind me
My breathing shallow
His breathin’ deep
Steep, then dives into his lungs
Remindin’ me
I below him. He above me
So he breathe

He push me into the cabin
He tear off my dress
He bruise me senseless
Then he start his ‘thang’
I feel the pain
But what can a darkie do?
I just watch the sun go to bed
While ol’ massa’s face go from white to red
So he look

He ben’ over to get his whip
He leave its mark on my thighs
On my hips
Then he whisper on my lips
So I can feel his talkin’
‘You is mine. No one gon’ save you,
You is mine til yo’ days are through’

It dark now
He finish up his business
He pull up his pants
He glance at me in disgust
He spit on the ground
With his voice all husky and rough
He say ‘You bes’ be here same time tomorrow gal’
So he left…

Ashlee says:

I’ve always been a vocal person when it came to expressing my feelings. I’ve never been afraid to express what was on my mind. However, in March 2012, my Father passed away unexpectedly and suddenly, my mouth, once so active, had become still. New thoughts and feelings began to collide in my head - but due to grief’s sting, I had no way of releasing or understanding them. I desperately needed a way to emancipate my thoughts, which is why I turned to poetry. I had written poems in the past but this time it was different. The pen and paper had become my oasis of calm. All my emotion put into as many words as possible, riddled with repetition, personification and imagery. I painted my feelings on paper with the words that pinpointed exactly how I felt. It was escape on the grandest of scales. I understood why I was feeling the way I did by reading back through my work, editing it and eventually reading my poetry at my father’s funeral.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Alastair Birch, aged 17

War Games

You charge down the hall,
running faster than you’ve ever gone before.
You grab the diamond,
turn around and…

Mechanical horrors,
demonical terrors,
firing blue and red lasers!
No doubt about it, you aren’t getting out of this one intact,

You grab a grenade, pull the pin and fling it with as much force as you can muster.
Five of them go flying.
The rest charge, faster than you’d dared to hope for.
But that’s okay; you have a solution for that one.
You reach for you rocket launcher, load in the first missile and…

What little remains of them scatter in all directions!
It looks like you might live to fight another day after all!

But one more lumbers forward,
this one with a weeping doll’s face,
and you’d blow him away too,
except somewhere in the proceedings you seem to have run out of rockets,
or indeed ammunition in general.
Only one thing for it now…

As a last resort, you make for your chainsaw,
the one thing left that can save you.
Finding it, you rev it up, it roaring in your ears,
and you scream a battle cry and charge!

He grabs you instantly and bites off your head.
That’s annoying
Sort of humiliating, too.

After all, everyone knows you have to be really, really awful to die on Level 1.

Alastair says:

I became interested in becoming Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate after attending a poetry day with Spoz, although I have always had a keen interest in poetry. Having being diagnosed with dyspraxia at a young age, I appreciate that sometimes school can be a very difficult place. I would like to encourage young people with learning difficulties to take part in events and have fun joining in poetry events, as I think it would help build their confidence.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Amara Lawrence, aged 17

The world towers over you

The world towers over you.
Your cowardly steps are uncertain and your eyes are clouded with wavering ignorance.
You do not know / are not quite yourself just yet.
Your own skin an awkward shell you are anxious to escape yet find strange comfort in.
Everything inside you is a constant unyielding battle.
Yet you feel as though you are ready to love and be loved.

Amara says:

Although I think that poetry can be very personal I think it is also important to share poetry with others who may have a different interpretation which makes you then see new things when you’re read your work again. It’s nice to have a teenager’s point of view on things, as it feels like sometimes adults don’t really know what things are like in our world. I like to write things which are meaningful without sounding as though I’m preaching.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Aimee Hughes, aged 13

If it hadn’t been

If it hadn’t been for those rocks and that water
and the reassuring sunlight
and the smiles and laughter
if it hadn’t been for the day we went to the sea-side
with the beckoning of the ocean
If it wasn’t for the waves cracking off the stones
and if the current was gentler
and the tide had taken pity
if it had been colder
and we hadn’t waded in
if it hadn’t been for that water and those rocks

Aimee says:

I think that people tend to not be drawn to poetry because it is the grey area of English, in which there is no strict layout or set of rules which will make it a good or bad piece. It isn’t about how many adjectives you use or how you vary connectives, it’s about the emotion of the poem and how it is conveyed. I think that keeping poetry alive is very important as it is such a part of our history and culture and that it has been going on for thousands of years so we can’t afford to let it die out now.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Hanna Haneen Salim, aged 15


I don’t remember the time I first met Pakhtunkhwa
Too young, too dazed- amazed,
Too stung
To properly absorb her.

Pakhtunkhwa- where the elite meet poverty,
Where corruption deletes the lives of so many of the needy.

Yet, there is another side
To this complex story I call my hometown
An alternative side,
A twist in this nightmarish tale
that keeps me holding my head up high.

Moreover she, my meek hometown,
Was to be overwhelmed by the amount of seekers
In search of her forgotten flipside,
Hence, she shies it away
And hides.

The alternate,
Appreciates her innocent inexperience
On the topic of mothering a nation
And allows her to live her own life
With minimal interference.

And so this tale sheds her truthful,
Native tears.
Where Chukar birds fly freely,
Ahead of their patriotically striped feathers
Engulfed in a hazy honeyed sky that caters for many weathers.

And as we dip our crusty feet into the ceaseless topaz river tainted a bluish hue
The familiar scent of slightly fumed diesel air overcomes us,
And back at the earthy straw hut we sparingly sip
At our small cups, full to the brim with lychee and green leaved tea

Think fast!
I hear my mother tongue sprint across the ancient streets,
Sugar-coated with the dust fallen from a thousand men’s bare feet
And as I fathom the fables, hymns and tradesperson's speech,
I inhale the raw aroma,
Finally freed,
From the burnt ombre roots of nectarine trees.

So, this is my hometown
The land where my eyes first set sight
To the intricately carved wood of a palace dome,
Where my infant fingertips had once
been honoured the touch
Of a crude kitten’s feline fur
Whilst my callow ears
heard her designated pur.

Gosh, Pakhtunkhwa for me is like being lost in Rome.

Hanna says:

For me, poetry is a way to connect with the world and capture every last bit of feeling of my memories that nothing else I tried, like painting or photography could ever recapture for me.

Young Poet Laureate Birmingham

Jacob Adey, aged 17


Blinking angels weeping on earth,
Looking to us with outstretched arms,
As they speed past unable to grip.
both past and future,
We watch in awe,
Making spectacles of distant giants,
falling and shooting, through the dark abyss we fear but unknowingly climb into.
Forever we gaze to burning globes of fire in wonder and dream and they stare back with what?
or pity?

Jacob says:

For most of my life, I used writing as an escape to avoid troubles and hardships in life. Whether it was to ignore the arguing of my parents or the violence outside in the streets. Now I understand that it is meant for use in a different way. Writing should be used to tackle troubles head on like a suit of metaphorical armour for anyone of any age. Not an ancient relic to be admired and analysed but an ever changing account of the minds ramblings, this should be expressed to every age and be accessible by everyone. Poetry is not written it is lived and breathes with us every step of the way.

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