Poetry Competition Winners 2022

Poetry Competition 2022

Overall Winner

Elizabeth Newnam’s Lodger by Rebecca Calderon



As the black swan glided over the mill pond

And my leather satchel strap slipped further down

I strode cross the bridge to Havant Road beyond.


Hers was one of those better houses in town

An ‘Arts & Crafts’ semi with a recessed door;

Stained glass irises; hydrangeas by the lawn.


I recalled her birthday party weeks before

And Elizabeth’s eccentric family zeal;

Their faded glamour siphoned my inner awe.


Granny wore furs, she had Hollywood appeal.

Mother’s matching pearls hung beneath smudged red lips

Daddy large and old sat waiting for the meal.


The long-haired youthful lodger with snake-like hips

Worked the record player for musical chairs

As we in ruffled dresses waited for slips.


Like the Pied Piper she took us up the stairs,

We bounced gaily on her nylon lilac bed.

Then she tip-toed us into the lodger’s lair.


Gingerly the door was closed and there we read

The graphic erotic magazines he kept.

Fleshy pages flicked before us, nothing said.


A shrill bell broke the moment and we all leapt

In swift and panicked unison left the room.

Our parents retrieved us and off we all crept.


She’d told of an oak tree, I dared not assume

An invite to swing on its branches with glee

While Mother stood under her nicotine plume.


Daddy in a chocolate suit called us for tea,

Their yellow kitchen gave off a special glow,

The porcelain honey pot crowned with a bee.


The lodger appeared interrupting the flow,

A ribald demeanor then ruined the style

Of Arcadian beauty all there on show.


Granny cut the shop-bought cake with a wry smile,

Mother was a butterfly with gauzy wings

Daddy left silently after a short while.


The next day they found him under hangman’s bond

As the black swan glided over the mill pond.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“Rebecca’s extraordinary poem is full of hidden meaning, subtle undertones and enigmatic references. The opening line strikes an ominous note with the ‘black swan’ gliding over the pond. The young narrator, probably still in school, is drawn into a family birthday party. The family members are all endearingly odd: granny with her furs, mother’s clumsy attempt at beautifying herself, dad sullen and cantankerous waiting for his food.  However, the poem concentrates on the figure of the lodger with his sinuous waist, his basic music skills and his hoard of pornographic magazines.  The young guests gawp at the ‘girlie’ magazines until summoned by their parents.

The oak tree points to the appalling conclusion and the lodger’s ‘ribald demeanour’ seems out of place the ‘Arcadian setting.  Again Rebecca concentrates on the apparently inconsequential: the cheap cake, mother prinked out like a butterfly, daddy quiet and morose.

The dangling figure of the lodger leaves us asking many unanswered questions. Then the black swan returns, bringing this powerfully rendered poem to a satisfactory close for the reader.

The poem is unquestionably a tour de force. Rebecca has maintained a very demanding verse form: terza rima (Dante’s aba, bcb, cdc).  Few poets have attempted this in English because of the paucity of rhyming words.   Rebecca must be congratulated for even daring to use this strict verse structure and succeeding.

One of the best poems submitted for the poetry competition in a long time.  Well done!”

Poetry Competition 2022

Adult Winner

 ‘Lot’s Wife’ by James Edward McNally


But for a glance
I would have born again this land.
I thought my loins
destined to beget generations.
But destiny is not theirs to make,
they who do not have a name.

I would have been
the mother of the world.
Now not even weeds will grow
where I stand. I am a warning,
distilled by fire
from an ocean of tears.

Even Eurydice had company
In hell; had solidarity in Persephone;
had the love of Orpheus
once more, in time.
No, I am to wait, until
the final judgement. And what then?

Do you think I have not eyes to see?
A wife made crystalline,
reflects everything,
is damned to see her daughters

supplant her, become suitresses
for their father.

They say Yahweh
has a wicked sense of humour.
I think I understand it now.
After all,

what was I ever but a condiment
in the life of Man?



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:

 “James Edward McNally with Lot’s Wife.  The grumpy,  jealous trickster god of Genesis punishes Lot’s wife for looking back at the smouldering ruin of Sodom and Gomorrah-the target of Yahweh’s unrelenting wrath.  In James’ superb poem she is given a voice (she is singularly mute in the biblical narrative without even a name!).  In the poem she laments her fate: ‘But for a glance,’ a mere look, she has forfeited her desire to give birth to ‘generations.’  Instead, she has been reduced to a mere warning, a column of salt in an arid wilderness.

Her suffering is uniquely painful.  The third stanza contrasts her fate with that of Eurydice, dragged down to the underworld by Hades,  sharing that fate with Persephone, but rescued by Orpheus, at least momentarily. No one commiserates with Lot’s wife.

Now her calcified body, sterile and cold, reflects her daughters usurping her place in Lot’s bed.  Yahweh is manipulative and merciless; he has created woman as a mere appendage to man, at least that is the message in the male-dominated world of Genesis. Moreover, Genesis is disturbingly tolerant of incest.

James’ poem has both literary merit and provides an insightful gloss on a biblical text which is usually ignored by exegetes. In fact, I haven’t read such a thrilling commentary on a Genesis story for a long time.  Well done, James!”


Poetry Competition 2022

 Adult Runner-Up

 ‘Hide and Seek’ by Natalie Anne Massetti


I’ve been looking for you

Through the pages of Inferno

The cantos I know you love.

What did I expect?

You to guide me through?

Mentor and student?

Naively, I didn’t preempt the pain

Of wandering alone

Down the circles

Of the lack of discussion.

I’ll just have to imagine

‘Que sinvergonzon era Boniface’

Y ‘Que arte tenia Alighieri’.


I’m in Purgatorio now

New territory for me.

I do miss the drama of the deep,

But it’s also a welcome relief.

Are you still here?


Perhaps I’ll find you in Paradiso.

I fear I’m still a long way off.


I looked for you in your home

Last Friday.

The house was alive again:

small footsteps and banging;

Mild chaos.

Shared food and warm conversation.

A few of your favourite things.

Our favourite things.

I think I caught a glimpse of you at the head of the table (With your captain’s hat}

For a moment you were there.

Found you.


Perhaps I should stop trying so hard to find you

When you’re clearly hiding in plain view.


I’m counting to three,

As I dunk biscuits in my tea,

Quite expertly,

You’d be proud to see.

Little flick at the end.

Found you again.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“Dante’s Commedia is the paradigm for any quest story or journey to a distant goal.  Natalie Anne’s ‘Hide and Seek’ is a thoughtful, serious and loving version of the children’s game. 

The three parts of the Commedia provide the mental geography of the poem.  The ‘you’ of the poem has been a Virgil to the narrator, guiding, encouraging and explaining the significance of Dante’s medieval otherworld.  The master-pupil relationship can be fraught with deep passion and longing. Now, bereft of his expertise, she stumbles along, having to imagine what a shameless pope Boniface VIII was, (Dante’s bugbear) and the scope of Dante’s poetic genius. The two lines in Spanish give the poem an intimate feeling as they may represent the conversation of the two lovers during their informal tutorials. 

Purgatorio and Paradiso are mere stages in the life-long quest for the beloved.  Then we are plunged into the everyday world of food, conversation, banging and footsteps.  The fog lifts as she perceives the person she loves at the end of the table.  The way she dunks the biscuit in the tea earns his approval. This poem expertly combines the literary and the commonplace in a very suggestive and complex text which could conceivably be explained in many different ways.  Poems like this one should be read in schools and colleges to aspiring poets and writers.  Well done, Natalie Anne!”

Poetry Competition 2022

 Adult Highly Commended

 ‘Ukraine’ by Levi Josef Attias


Ukraine: Sucked into the anguished knell of hell.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s frenzied rage

and tunnelled wrath chime, pealing nuclear bells.

Putin’s pummelled invasion of Ukraine

chain 11eighours in deathly chokes of acid pain.

This war’s no play, no stage show, no comedic act

though comedian’s prowess leads Ukraine to battle on.

Widows scamper in brambles, silent, un-consoled

to calm the howl of children’s mourning calls

while maggots stir and flitter on morning’s quiet dead;

limbs tom, grim tears, tear dear life away.

Dead, dead, in crimson red; a ghoulish cabaret.


Hellfire impetus; ‘de-nazification’s’ hellfire

fiercely impales innocent sacrificial lambs

in thundering cobwebs of wartime mire,

whittling Ukraine in wedges, like a hologram.

Ukraine’s people of innocence, millions displaced,

in the satanic sport of tombstone Kremlin men,

throttling languid, conscripts and recruits

to bomb and shock, to main and kill;

engulfing Russia in dusts of dissident disputes.


In Kyiv, where death dominion had,

where Putin’s forces fluttered, fled in flight,

ballistic missiles and phosphorous bombs

scarred refugees’ sallow face alight.

Charred anguish, groping at threads of tents

huddle by frigid flames of winged hope,

in naked weather, in soiled shelters

under veiled skies and pregnant lament

and coffins of dreams to soothe doomsday.

Those fleeing, dogged by alcoves of smugglers’ nets

of rape and kidnap and trafficking along the way.


Darkened nights and wrinkled darker days,

fatigued eyes and ghosts of dwindling stars.

Bones, blood, breasts and backbones thud on

on shivering mauve lips, and wombed shards

and dirges of raised fists of broken souls, rife

and horrid odysseys of shades of crimson hue.

Battles battle-on drenched in mothers’ milk of life;

unfurl fields of sunflowers waxing on skies of blue.’



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“Levi’s poem is a long meditation on the unprovoked war inflicted by a paranoiac monomaniac on an innocent country which posed no threat to Russia.  The endless litany of death, mutilation, bomb craters, damaged buildings, wanton destruction forms the background to Levi’s panoramic view of the conflict. 

The Ukrainian war has created a veritable hell on earth: ‘anguished knell of hell’ and ‘hellfire impetus;’ and we watch dumbfounded as the appalling scenes develop, and fill us with fear, contempt for those ‘tombstone Kremlin men,’ and anguish at the suffering of the ‘innocent sacrificial lambs.’  Ironically and tragically, the ‘Satanic sport’ is intent on erasing a whole civilization.  Alliteration often drives home the point Levi is making: ‘bones, blood, breasts and backbones;’ ‘darkened nights and wrinkled darker days.’

The poem is chock-full of striking images-it would take too long to enumerate and examine them in the short compass of this commentary.  But they all contribute to creating a very graphic picture of this devastating war.  It’s a pity Zelensky will never see this outpouring of sympathy for his embattled country and people.  Well done!”

Poetry Competition 2022

    Best Poem in the Spanish Language

  ‘La golondrina que quería ser mamá’ by Samuel Baena Sanchez



Se quedó sin la puesta la golondrina perdida

y posada en un muro apenada y dolida

oyó un joven llanto y asomó a la sentina.

—¿Por qué lloras campesina? —curiosa la golondrina.

—Mi bebé está enfermo —gimió con lamento—,

el médico habita en el próximo pueblo

a tres días a pie y no lo salvaré a tiempo.

—Yo podría ir volando y volver antes del ocaso

pues la vez ya perdí que venía buscando.

—Ayúdame y te fiaré mi bebé por un tiempo

sentirás ser mamá antes del invierno.

—En ese caso te ayudaré sin pensarlo

a mi regreso fugaz anidaré sin descanso.

—Más te aviso que dinero no tengo

robarás para mí el jarabe y ungüento.

—Cumpliré con mi parte del trato

abriré las alas y partiré de inmediato.

La golondrina voló y voló hacia el norte

y bajando el sol por el horizonte,

hendido el murmullo limpieza y silencio

olor montaraz acertó con el hombre.

Audaz pensó el plan para no dejar pista

disfrazada de cuervo robó sin ser vista.

La golondrina voló y voló hacia el sur

y antes de que al sol se le apagara la luz,

entregó a la muchacha el jarabe y ungüento

curando a su hijo bajo juramento.

—Promesa cumplida la deuda en tu nido

disfruta del tiempo pues pasa en un guiño,

volveré a por mi niño a finales de otoño

tras recoger el fruto del último madroño.

Y aunque fuera sin serlo su madre prestada,

semillas de amor flores de esperanza.

A poco del niño salieron mil plumas

a poco las plumas formaron dos alas.

Y antes de que el último madroño se quedara sin fruta

la mamá golondrina y su bebé con alas

abandonaron el nido sin perder una pluma

dejando a la joven sin su cuento de hadas.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“This poem is an absolute delight.  A swallow, deprived of its young, hears a country girl lamenting her baby’s illness and the lack of a doctor and medicine.  The bird offers to help by flying to a nearby town and procuring ‘el jarabe y el unguento.’  But, in this fairy-like world, there is always a catch: the country girl promises to entrust the baby to the swallow for a while, not realising the risk this entails.  The human baby becomes a substitute for the bird’s lost young.  The baby, now in the bird’s nest, sprouts feathers which become wings. They both fly away ‘dejando a la joven sin su cuento de hadas.’ This is not the only transformation in the poem: the clever swallow turns into a crow in order to steal the medicine.

Samuel has created an atmosphere of wonder, innocence and magic in lines which imitate the musical rhythm of ‘cuaderna via’ (stanzas of four rhyming lines) popular in medieval Spanish poetry.  This is especially effective in the stanza with ‘nido, guino, otono and madrono’.  (The absence of the tilde is due to my English language keyboard).  The ‘golondrina’ is reminiscent of Félix María Samaniego’s Fábulas, a collection of animal fables, ultimately indebted to Aesop.  Well done, Samuel.”

Poetry Competition 2022

 Spanish Language Category Runner-Up

‘El Duende y La Musa’ by Mark Montovio


Y así fue que a ese duende jerezano con la musa lo encontré.

¡Ole, con ole, y olé, ve y échale papas José!

¡Toma que toma, esas palmas, fuego y gloria bendita Migué!

Con nanas, boleras, farrucas, tarantas, seguiriyas y fandangos de pie.


No hay manera de escapar de ese embrujo gitano en dolor.

Fuerza antigua, oscura y racial que remueve tu interior.

Una especie de embriaguez que te invade sin permiso.

Que destruye paredes y sueños, y sin pudor te hace sumiso.


El duende de la tierra es, como es del cielo la musa.

Es desgarro, desamparo, y desnudez sin escusa.

Sale cazando suspiros y grita, ¡entrégate soy tu dios!

y luciendo lágrimas negras sin piedad, enmudece su voz.


Y mira que mira y mira, y mira que anda y anda.

Son dos corazones a un tiempo cantando al amor con alma.

Es el espíritu de los caídos en reuniones y festejos,

y no viene porque sí, el duende te camela de lejos.

Ella dueña de la inspiración, creatividad, e inteligencia,

se rinde sin reglas ni límites al legado y a la herencia.

Cuando el siente el corazón abierto compartiendo esa emoción,

en ese justo momento de amor, sin dudar se asoma con convicción.


Hundiéndose en el abismo y llorando sin razón,

el sollozo de almas perdidas pellizca su corazón.

Es catarsis e invitación a que sea su fantasía,

liberándola del método que castra la alegría.

Misterioso torrente de dolor que transmite su mirada,

cuando se rasga las vestiduras, se muerde o se araña casi hipnotizada.

Se pone de mantilla su mata de pelo negro, trasmutada, empoderada,

y es señal de que despierta lo ancestral y esa esencia tan auspiciada.


Ese espíritu flamenco de realeza, con tanto orgullo guardado.

Esa fuerza arrebatadora con apostura y elegancia que te murmulla descuidado.

Hará bullir la sangre con su arte hasta el abismo con exaltación,

donde se vive el ensimismamiento, el renacimiento y la liberación.


Su queja, el esguince de esos cantes, no es un dolor fingido ni aprendido.

Del mismo manantial del que bebieron sus ancestros lo han comprendido.

Así le dan vida a un sentimiento que se ahogaba en el silencio y la impotencia,

y ese duende, como pequeño demonio, hace que siempre se cumpla la herencia


Poseída por el espíritu, que sus entrañas desgarra y su cuerpo retuerce,

y con el rostro marcado por dolor, inconsciente del poder que ejerce,

se rinde al seco taconeo, girando en el braceo, y emite ese quejío.

Solemne majadero es quien esté sin su duende, ¡ven que te lo he pedío!



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“This highly wrought poem analyses the full range of meaning of the ‘duende’, Lorca’s name for that elusive quality which inspires the more erotically charged poetry, the hypnotic rhythm of Spanish guitar music, the twirling and suggestive swaying of the flamenco dancer, the sense of bacchanalian abandon, the orgiastic celebration Nietzsche named ‘dionysiac.’ 

Mark makes an initial distinction between the muse which is heavenly and the duende, autochthonous, earthy and intoxicating.  The defining characteristics of duende are its defiance of rationality, its over-spilling of emotion, its ability to subjugate and inspire.

One would need the more ample space of an essay to do justice to Mark’s searching exploration of ‘duende’.  The poem itself reflects the ‘fuerza arrebatadora’ of the duende’s spark. Strangely, in this very ambitious poem, bullfighting is missing.  Lorca was especially drawn to the ‘fiesta nacional’ as a full expression of duende.  However, in these days of a heightened awareness of animals’ rights, it was probably prudent to leave out any reference to killing and maltreating an animal.  Almost certainly, Mark was aware of this and decided to omit the reference.  Still, this is a major poem and should be required reading in all classes of Spanish in our schools.”

Poetry Competition 2022

 Spanish Language Category Highly Commended

 ‘Tú’ by Elena Scialtiel



tú me cosquilleas el alma

con pétalos de flor de loto.



Chispeantes pupilas negras

como aceitunas griegas.



sonrisa nacarada de sakura,

acariciante voz de aguardiente.



merodeando como lobo bravo

en las noches sin luna de verano.



tu ojeada no me ve.

Solo, sigues adelante.



Soy invisible, impersonal.

Por tí, soy aire, soy cristal.


Y mi corazón se quebra

en escamas secas de culebra.



Judge Charlie Durante’s comments:


“Just when you think you will never again come across a love poem which is not full of clichés and does not regurgitate the common tropes, along comes Elena’s Tú to upset your conviction. 

Tú is charmingly structured with the personal pronoun ‘tú’ followed by two lines in apposition which serve as a comment on the alluring qualities of the beloved. 

Tú tickles your soul-a physical sensation transposed into a spiritual experience induced by the petals of the lotus flower.  The beloved’s sparkling black pupils have the shiny gloss of Greek olives.  (We seem to have moved into the erotic world of the Sappho fragments!).  The pearly smile of a Japanese doll and caressing sensation of eau-de-vie are both attempts to describe the ineffable qualities of the loved person. 

A hint of threat enters the poem with the ‘lobo bravo’ stalking the moonless summer nights.  Is the beloved occasionally uncaring, even cruel?  After all, the smile could be cold, unfeeling (nacarada); the voice could burn and wound.  The man fails to perceive the presence of the woman: is she a mere wraith?  He follows his own path so that the speaker’s heart is torn, scattered ‘en escamas de culebra.’  The unpleasant image at the end makes us reconsider the poem: the positive images after Tú now appear ambiguous and double-edged.  This is a remarkably suggestive poem.  Well done!”

Poetry Competition 2022

School Years 11-13 Winner

 ‘The wild child of Donegal Bay’ by Angelika Bosco


She was the daughter of the North Atlantic coast;

Her mother the howling wind;

Her father the tempestous sea.

Claire was the wild child of Donegal Bay.


That wild Atlantic Celtic girl

Who conversed with the spirits flying in the wind

And laughed and snubbed the admonitions of the sea.

She was a girl best left alone.


‘Tis said she can cure the sick.

‘Tis said she weaves evil spells.

With hemlock and smouldering herbs

And incantations to her Celtic gods.


Once a child a dead sparrow she did espy

Which within her small cupped hands she held

Warm air into them she breathed

Ruffled its feathers and saw it fly again.


She cures the sick

Her tools are herbs and honey bees

Valerian, coriander and the fever-few leaf

Ginger, cloves, sage, lavender and chamomile.


And now in troubled Tudor times

When epidemics that not the poor nor the rich forgive

They say she is bewitched

An agent of the Devil they cry to the four winds.


‘An abomidation, a crime!’ shout they

‘Thou shall not suffer a witch to live.’

Malicious tongues that serve no God

But are the masters of all evils themselves.


And Claire laughs at them, no ordinary mortal is she.

She is the fusion of the north Atlantic seas and its companion

the wind Born of a spray, a gigantic myriad of countless particles of sea

Transformed by Helios into a multitude of colours for all to see.


And as the spray rests only to be renewed again

There always remains Claire her hair red and eyes of emerald green.

And so it carries on even to this day

In the wild Atlantic Celtic coast of Donegal Bay.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“In the Tudor era the English viewed the Irish as indomitable, superstitious and rebellious.  The western coast of Ireland, Sligo, Donegal and Galway are lashed by the tumultuous breakers of the Atlantic, a wild place where nature has withstood the civilizing hand of man. 

This is the setting for the exciting story of a girl apparently endowed with magical skills and herbal lore.  Claire is the epitome of Celtic wisdom, an embodiment of the powers of the Celtic gods, an incarnation of the ‘howling wind’ and ‘tempestuous sea.’ 

Predictably, this wild creature is suspected of witchcraft; how else do you explain her revival of a dead sparrow?  In fact, the poem acknowledges Claire is a force of nature: unaccountable, wayward and irresistible.  She mocks the slanders of the po-faced upholders of a conventional morality, hinting that they are only hypocritically good.

It’s comforting to know Claire is still haunting Donegal Bay, her fiery hair and green eyes emblematic of a true colleen.  I would like to point out that, though this is an exceptionally good poem, it employs a few dated locutions and inversions: ‘tis said,’ ‘she did espy,’ ‘shout they.’ In a lesser poem these expressions would have been considered blemishes.  Well done, Angelika.”

Poetry Competition 2022

School Years 11-13 Runner-Up

‘Self Love’ by Kyrene Wink


There are facets to me I tuck in perpetual orbit

A never-ending cycle of heightening melancholy

By virtue of knowing that no matter what parts

I could pick and choose, replace with a discontented lie


It will never be enough for everybody


I have tried consistently, from time to time

To enclose the door of dissatisfaction, of resentment

In hopes that one day, everyone could learn to love for what I am

Yet there has always been a defect


Because it will never be enough for everybody


Nothing will be enough to appease the world at large

Regardless of what is claimed to be the standard of beauty

Personality, weight, lack of weight, straight hair, curly hair

A circle destined to rotate boundlessly, unrestrained

Continuously altering unachievable elegance

Limiting beauty to untruthful magazines

Women, men, those who define themselves outside of the binary

Everyone will determine themselves unworthy of love at one point

Longingly grasping at any potentiality to make a living

Consequently losing oneself under public influence

What does one say when they can no longer recognize who they were?

When they feel as though their reflection is a stranger?

How does one respond when all of who they once were ceases to be?

Unable to be restored?

One cannot.

There are parts to each person that they will declare unfit to be seen

To express openly with pride

There are parts to everyone that they feel would demolish their aspirations

Along with how others perceive them

Though, you will one day learn to live with them

You will one day learn to love

Your insecurities, your “imperfections”


And true friends and family will admire you for who you are

The people who will hold you close to their heart despite everything

Because it will never be enough for everybody

But it can grow to be enough for you.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“Our self-image has become increasingly central to our self-esteem.  We are continually bombarded by the media with paragons of so-called beauty, femininity, virility, strength, elegance, and power.  The young especially are expected to conform to these unrealistic ideals. 

Kyrene’s poem is a bold statement that we must accept ourselves as we are; reject the false models and ‘learn to love’ our ‘imperfections.’ How many adolescents especially have miscarried when they have been unable to match up to the glamorous pictures touted by TV, magazines and social media?  

Kyrene wisely states we must stop trying to live by standards set by others.  If we are true to ourselves and those who truly appreciate us, then we have a chance of happiness and fulfilment.  This poem should be required reading for all those who are facing the challenges posed by the onslaught of ersatz glitter and fabricated charm of the film industry and entertainment.”

Poetry Competition 2022

 School Years 8-10 Winner

 ‘Bricks and Mortar’ by Lyra Jane Cant


I am a mortar metaphor for living, a simile-like life setting.

I am a castle, a zoo, a warzone, a vault, a dump … a solid shelter for my charges.

On rainy days I become a warm retreat, and a playground for bored minds,

Who hide and seek in my brick recesses, like wiggling woodworms in old chairs.

On hot days I expand and breathe, releasing cooling cement air on to cold tiles.

I am an opera of sounds, that reverberate and are absorbed as four walled memories.

I accommodate obligingly, my paint and plaster heart grateful for the spirits and souls who fuel my purpose.


I am loyal, and will protect till I crumble, for all inside are my children,

For my aching brick bones sorrow at the passing of each member.

As all who lie under my paintwork sky and cracking facade are cherished and remembered. But one day, I too will pass, whether by wind, rain, snow and nature’s way,

Or by machine, hammer, war and man’s unflinching way.

But I am forgiving and humble, for I have stoically stood the test of many times,

I have forged memories like the rings in a tree stump and the historic layers of paint upon my skin.


My foundations remain rooted, robust and resilient,

Laden with poignant echoes of all who treaded and touched my tactile soul and walls.

I was always an open door, my key a gift to those who entered and took sanctuary.

But when the lock finally shudders, sorrows and shuts for eternity,

My metaphorical key and personified brick heart will rise and soar into the ether,

Like the Happy Prince and his faithful swallow there is more to me than meets the eye.

For I leave my world and plot of land with a wealth of knowledge, love and cherished



For something so lived in and loved never truly disappears …



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“A brick structure like a disused pill-box or store must be the most unpromising topic for a poem.  However, Lyra has woven a series of striking images to create a picture, at once both mesmerising and suggestive, of a simple box made of mortar and bricks. 

We start with a ‘metaphor’ and ‘simile’, both literary tropes which are then expanded into a structure which has been endowed with human qualities. In fact, the whole poem is a huge metaphor. The bricks and mortar ‘breathe’ and ‘expand’; they provide protection, a shelter, caring for those who inhabit it and ‘stoically’ withstanding the test of time.

The heavy alliteration of ‘my foundations remain rooted, robust and resilient’ establishes the structure as defying time, though it acknowledges that, like all man-made structures, it will one day crumble and collapse.  Nevertheless, it will overcome natural decay and ‘man’s unflinching way’ to rise to another plane of reality, a plane guaranteed by its ‘wealth of knowledge, love and cherished imprints.’  It is its relationship with humanity, its embrace of the poignant feelings of others that will transform the senseless structure into something with a human face and body.

This poem is definitely original in conception and execution.  It is a remarkable achievement for someone in this age bracket.  Well done!”

Poetry Competition 2022

 School Years 8-10 Runner-Up

 ‘Alone’ by Ayanna Gordillo


I pulled out my book from my bag

As I sat down on the rusty bench

At an empty park filled with trees

And the orange dead leaves

Scattered around the concrete floor


I loved this feeling, it brought me comfort

I felt lonely, aside from the chirping birds

And the squirrels running around

Most people are scared of being alone

But I didn’t mind being on my own


I sat there reading my book,

a butterfly landed on my finger

It was a beautiful blue

It reminded me of you

It reminded me that I may be alone now,

But I won’t be alone forever


It brought back all the memories

Memories that hurt to think about

I should have stayed quiet

But now we’re apart


It was for the better

And now you’re happier

It’s weird how much a person can change

It felt strange.


I snapped back to reality

The butterfly fluttered it’s wings

It gently flew away

And I was alone again




Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“A wise philosopher once said: Never less alone than when alone. This lovely poem exemplifies this dictum.  The setting is propitious for quiet meditation and contemplation.  We read of a rusty bench in an empty park, an autumnal feeling in the air with the dead leaves, and the highly symbolic butterfly on the narrator’s finger. The speaker recalls an emotional break-up, when the lovers were estranged-words were said, probably in anger or reproach, a relationship was undermined.

Of course, the focal point of this poem is the blue, the butterfly which lands on the speaker’s finger and seems to embody the person you once loved and with whom you hope to be re-united very soon.

Dante figures the soul as the ‘divina farfalla,’ the divine butterfly.  Because of its beautiful wings and its metamorphosis from larva to fully-fledged insect, the butterfly has always appealed to poets seeking a symbol for transformation, fragility and beauty.   Ayanna’s  poem explores this phenomenon in a quiet, winning way.”

Poetry Competition 2022

School Years 8-10 Highly Commended

‘Honourable Encounter’ by Siddharth Lakhiani


This slice of paradise has always been my home

And gives me a glimpse of beauty from the hippodrome.

Surrounded by forests, mossy meadows and streams

Nature in a time capsule of magnificent glory, or so it seems.

Permission I am granted to fish and explore all day and night

Watching insects and birds of rainbows take flight.

Might I see every tree in existence, quench my thirst in every creek?

Protected I am in a cocoon surrounded by nature’s mystique.


Startled by the sudden screech of animals fleeing in a rush

I find myself staring at the trampled underbrush.

Willing myself to keep as still as my beating heart permits

I try to regain and hold onto my faltering wits.

Where once I felt like the king of the world

My confidence now lies whimpering and curled.

Because from the corner of my eye, I can barely believe

Is my mind playing tricks or trying to deceive?


Before me, a small dinosaur pushes and pulls with all its might

For its leg is stuck between two trees, a rather sobering sight.

Unable to free itself from the snare

I think about my next step – should I dare?

Countless books I have devoured of knowledge galore

And still craving more and more.

Yes, a herbivore and Albertadromeus Syntarsus

They won’t pose a threat or put up a fuss.


Whispering a kind “hello” while inching near

I try to stay calm as I don’t want the Dino to fear.

Scrutinising over a way to free a friend in need

I hope my willingness to help won’t be ill perceived.

Carefully unsheathing my trustworthy hunting knife

I might just be able to save his life!

Murmuring encouraging words while touching his side

I let him know that his bravery fills me with pride.


As I kneel beside him, Dino warmth radiates from his skin

A tiny sniff at my head encouragement to begin.

Slicing at the tree obstructing his option to roam free

A gracious snap the signal that better days would be.

With his leg released, he bolts forward and away

But not before turning to thank me for my brave display.

Will anyone believe that I freed a dinosaur from certain despair?

Perhaps it is my secret and not a story to share…



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“This poem describes a scene which could have been taken from that blockbuster, Jurassic Park: an encounter between a human being and a dinosaur. 

The first stanza creates a picture of a paradisal world: a primeval forest, alive with insects, birds and, yes, a benign dinosaur.  This herbivore (luckily for the narrator, he knows he will not be swallowed up by the giant creature!) has unwittingly got trapped between two trees so the brave narrator decides to free it with his hunting knife. 

The rescue attempt is successful and the ‘Dino’ scampers away but not without first thanking his rescuer.  This poem is very ambitious with its five stanzas of eight lines each; the vocabulary is wide-ranging and varied.  There is probably a determination to rhyme which results occasionally in an unnatural  word order, but generally the poem is interesting, original and very detailed  Siddarth has put a great deal of effort into constructing this piece of work.  Well done!”

Poetry Competition 2022

School Years 8-10 Highly Commended

‘The day you decided to end it’ by Noor Menghnani Segui


I go visit you when I can and bring flowers when I do,

White Egret Orchids, your favourite ones too.

So elegant and graceful almost as perfect as you.


After placing the flowers down I look up and stare out into the blue.

I’ve always been able to see what people were thinking yet you were someone I could never see through.


A million thoughts start to circle around my head as something blurs my view,

Then deep within my memories I suddenly saw you.

Why am I remembering what you told me all those years ago now? I have no clue.


I still remember your voice when you said it as if it was something brand new.

“Remember to always treasure the life you have because all flowers that bloom eventually come to an end” which I know is true.


There are strange things in life I sometimes wish I could undo.

Like why you decided to leave us the way you did, I wish I knew.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“This poem, so seemingly unpretentious and simple, has a haunting quality which lingers in the mind long after one has read it. 

The speaker looks back yearningly to the visits when she took ‘White Egret Orchids’ to someone she treasured.  The recipient has an opaque personality, impervious to the searching scrutiny of the visitor.  The visitor was regaled with advice about making the most of life; after all, flowers only bloom for a fleeting moment.  The end is full of regret and nostalgia: the inability to explain or understand why the loved person left.

A remarkable feature of this poignant poem is the rhyme scheme-there is only one rhyme, maintained throughout the thirteen lines. Also, the stanzas vary in the number of lines and in line length.  These features show that the writer was interested in the formal qualities of verse making.”

Poetry Competition 2022

School Years 6-7 Winner

 ‘Fearless Flying’ by Lucas Posso


You frown at my packed bags, but I’m off to fly my plane.

Stop you say?

No, my dreams are not insane.

Yes, there’s drag, resistance and turbulence too,

But I remind myself, Da Vinci, The Wright Brothers and Earhart,

Did what their hearts really told them to do.


Controller clearance.

An altitude of twenty, thirty, forty, perseverance.

Yes, off I go,

To magical places,

And out of my comfort-zone spaces.

I must ignore your caution and your mocking,

I love flying and I’m not stopping!


Excitement, exhilaration and a cabin full of dreams,

The unexpected awaits me, I am ready for the unseen.

So, I’d fasten your seatbelts, if you are coming along for the ride.

Courageously we climb,

Into the mysterious misty world of clouds.


We all cruise at a different velocity, but we should never dampen our curiosity.

Didn’t you know we are all bound for an unknown destination?

So, to all you doubters, of judgement and condemnation,

Watch me spread my wings and take to the skies to explore.

I do hope we all have a butter landing,

Full of peace, love, mutual respect and understanding.


So yes, I’m off to fly my plane.

Hopefully one day, we shall all meet again.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“This poem is an exhortation, full of fun and high spirits, to fly fearlessly and enjoyably.  The examples of intrepid flyers (though Da Vinci did not fly) should coax the hesitant and encourage the faint-hearted.  The derring-do speaker must be an ace-flyer, who finds flying fulfilling and challenging. He upbraids those who counsel caution and prudence, those who doubt. Our pilot is impervious to these warnings: he’s for the high altitude, the thrill of being air-borne, the adrenalin rush.

W.B. Yeats has a similar poem-An Irish Airman Foresees His Death. Four lines could serve as a comment on Lucas’ panegyric on flying: ‘I know I shall meet my fate/somewhere among the clouds above/a lonely impulse of delight/drove me to this turmoil in the clouds.’

I think the Irish poet would have approved of Lucas’ Fearless Flying.”

Poetry Competition 2022

School Years 6-7 Runner-Up

 ‘The struggle is real’ by Krishaa Lakhiani


We are taught to learn from our mistakes

And to recover from the wrong turns we take.

We are cautioned against the fake friends we make

And are comforted at the times we almost break.


Our mistakes, we are repeatedly told will help us grow

But at the time we choose to ignore what we didn’t know.

We choose to hide, don’t want our weakness to show

Independence we seek, time goes by too slow.


Once trusted but now fake friends were there

But it is now clear they didn’t actually care

Secrets once sworn to keep now something to share

Strange that now, as we walk past, they just stare.


We believe that not breaking means you’re strong,

Although we’d know where we went wrong,

Express your feelings, don’t wait too long

Adolescence, yes, we’ve all heard that song.


Misunderstood, misinterpreted and misaligned

Frustrating the mask we present that all is fine.

Because speaking out is met with your frown

It is in our own teenage sorrows we will drown.


Do not take our outbursts as rebel intentions

It is not onto you we seek our vengeance.

Simply because life is still learning us to live

Don’t think there is nothing productive we can’t give.


While judging us, aren’t you just judging you

Because you were there once too?

Your righteous comments a mere reflection

Of your absurd and crude intention.


So let’s hear it for all the liars and the traitors

Put your hands together for the wannabes and the haters

We won’t listen to the commentators

Mediators, educators or dictators!



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“The Struggle is Real consists of eight stanzas of four lines each with one rhyme to each stanza.  This structure conveys the writer’s ‘struggle’ to express his thoughts in an orderly, persuasive manner.  The poem, therefore, is full of sound advice: learning from our mistakes, not trusting false friends, expressing our feelings and so forth.  In sum, we are  cautioned, cajoled, and encouraged. 

The poet dismisses all those who would deprive us of our precious freedom, who would claim a superior vision or power, who would like to control us, suppress us and, if possible, eliminate us! The essence of the poem lies in its insistence on our inviolable right to be ourselves. 

In these dark days of populist, right-wing governments, state-sponsored censorship, gulags and repression, not to mention, war, this poem is like a breath of fresh air.  Well done, Krishaa.”

Poetry Competition 2022

 School Years 6-7 Highly Commended

 ‘My Prophecy’ by Sofia Ratajczak


Swift like the wind my paws are aching.

Feel the pain when my heart is breaking.

The Sky is blue like my tail.

This is my story; this is my tale.


The Sun devoured by the Moon,

When will this night end?

I hope its soon.

Stars brighter than the pond,

Glistening bright, glistening long.


Tangy air through my hair,

Don’t know where to end it all.

Some might fall, some might fly,

But something else catches my eye.


A hit to the stomach fast and tough,

All this is enough?

Tears flowing down my face,

This is going past my pace.

Limping down the forest floor,

My gut ripped; my mind tipped.

This is the bang of the ticking clock.


Animals of all such,

Keeping them in my clutch.

My world is no wonder

I cry at my blunder,

But you are a storm filled with thunder.


Flowers in bloom waiting for doom,

Bees for honey that’s all they’re for.

The sky is polluting, business men want more.


My bones are decorations for those more wealthy,

If you ask how were doing,

Were not healthy


My skin in your wardrobe,


My Tail is your scarf,


My life is divided into half .



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“We have unthinkingly plundered nature, driven some species to extinction, poisoned the atmosphere, and despoiled the rainforest.  Only now, when it might be too late, have we come to a realisation we must stop if we want to salvage what is left of our precious ecosystem.

The poem, uttered by some wounded animal or bird, gives us a new perspective on the struggle for survival.  The creature’s gut is ‘ripped’; its skeleton will embellish some crass tycoon’s sitting room; its skin an expensive shoe and other accessory.  The whole of nature is ‘waiting for doom’, hence its title, My Prophecy. 

Probably, the most effective image of cosmic disaster is the ‘sun devoured by the moon’-a reversal of the natural order, the extinction of the life source; the triumph of the cold, dead satellite which presages universal catastrophe. 

Sofia will say we have been warned: the picture she paints is reminiscent of some Bosch depiction of chaos, destruction and apocalyptic collapse.  This is a disturbingly prescient poem.”

Poetry Competition 2022

School Years 4-5 Winner

 ‘Red, White and Blue’ by Amabel Carruthers


Red looks like a bright magical sunset.

It sounds like the crackling of a scorching hot fire.

It smells like a beautiful elegant rose.

It tastes like a sweet, juicy watermelon.

Red feels like love on Valentines Day.


Blue looks like the the dazzling feathers on a peacock.

It sounds like the crashing waves of the sea.

It smells like the strong minty Vicks when I’m feeling ill.

It tastes like my favourite bubble gum ice cream.

Blue feels peaceful and calm.


White looks like cold frosty snow.

It sounds like a snow owl hooting in the middle of the night. It smells like a delicious tropical coconut.

It tastes like a gooey marshmallow

It feels fresh and clean like a white pillow.


When I see these colours together,

It looks like the Union Jack.

It sounds like the chime of Big Ben.

It smells like a green English meadow.

It tastes like strawberries and cream.

It will forever make me think of the Queen.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“Usually one would dismiss any expression of jingoism as unworthy of a poem. Any writing which smacks of nationalism should be confined to politics, not literature, However, Amabel’s Red, White and Blue has a freshness, innocence and sincerity which raises it above any objectionable ideology.

We start with a series of similes: the colour red is ‘like’ a sunset, a hot fire, a rose, a watermelon, love.  Each simile carries its own charge of sensation, feeling and beauty.   This structure is repeated for the colours blue and white.  But Amabel avoids sounding clichéd by employing all the senses in her exploration of the three colours:  they sound, smell, taste and feel in manifold ways. Some of the comparisons are quite arresting-white ‘sounds like a snow owl booting in the middle of the night.’

The last stanza is quintessentially English with Big Ben, a green English meadow and the late Queen, summing up the message of the poem.

The striking comparisons and the appeal to all our senses make this poem delightful and engaging.”

Poetry Competition 2022

 School Years 4-5 Runner-Up

 ‘How I love Autumn’ by Anna Marie Salmon


Copper curly leaves float down from the trees,

Crunching and breaking under my feet.

How I love the colours of Autumn.


A chill in the air, in the first morning light,

A breeze that makes me hug my coat tight,

How I love the wind in Autumn.


A dramatic sky, full of reds, oranges and purples,

Lit up like fire as the sun rests,

How I love the sunsets in Autumn.


Kicking the leaves, high in the air,

Watching them fall, like confetti all around,

How fun is Autumn.


The rain, when it comes,

To breathe new life after a dry summer,

How I love the rainy winter days in Autumn.


The mud, the dirty splashes, the messy rain boots,

Sliding happily through the puddles.

Nothing beats a puddle in Autumn.


The musty smell, of the humid earth,

The deep dark tones of the soil,

How I love the smell of Autumn.


How I love Autumn.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“Keats left his Ode to Autumn with the ‘gathering swallows twittering in the skies.’  Since then poets have attempted to outdo him but with little success. 

Ana Marie’s goal is more modest: to convey her personal feelings when autumn leaves the scorching heat of summer behind.  We see and hear the ‘crunching’ of the stiff, yellow leaves; feel the nip in the air; admire the splash of copper colours in the sky; trudge through the muddy puddles created by the first rains. Six of the eight stanzas close with plangent refrain: ‘How I love….Autumn,’ making the poem feel intimate and private.”

You would think that everything that can be said about autumn has been said, but Ana Marie still manages to add her mite of feeling and pathos to this much-celebrated season.

Poetry Competition 2022

School Years 4-5 Highly Commended 

‘In October’s golden light’ by Sienna Morello Reyes


In October’s golden light,

A truly lovely sight,

Leaves falling down trees

Reds, oranges, yellows.


Cotton candy clouds,

Sit above chilly crowds

Of people talking, walking, working

Under the misty grey sky.


Monstrous waves crashing against rocks,

The ocean a dusty blue block,

Shaking, breaking, raging,

Winter is right around the corner.


Animals start hibernating,

Hungry squirrels concentrating,

Eating, gathering, yawning,

Nature prepares to sleep.



Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:


“The second half of Sienna’s autumn poem sees nature preparing for the short, cold days of winter.  ‘Nature prepares to sleep,’ says Sienna in this  delightfully charming poem.

There is a flurry of activity: hoarding food, cleaning lairs and dens, acquiring fat to ward off the blasts that blow mercilessly during the bleak days of winter.  The ceaseless movement, in both the human and animal worlds, is conveyed by the plethora of present participles in the poem: falling, talking, walking, working, crashing, shaking, and yawning.  It seems as if the ‘rigor mortis’ of winter must be kept at bay for as long as possible. 

The poem is suffused by the ‘golden light’ which ushers in Sienna’s poetic meditation on the ‘mellow fruitfulness’ of autumn.  Though a melancholy season, autumn seems to elicit a deep response, even in candidates as young as our poet.   Well done!”