Earthwords is the 2023 theme for Ledbury Poetry’s first ever dedicated Young Poets Competition, launched in partnership with Herefordshire Libraries! Ten winners have been selected (from 134 poems) by Ledbury Poetry Director, Chloe Garner and Librarian Amanda Simmons. You can read the poems below, with introductions by Amanda.
Come and hear them read at a special winners event at Ledbury Poetry Festival on Saturday 1 July, The Master’s House, Ledbury, 12pm – 1pm hosted by the Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho.
Winners in category 1 (5 – 11 years)
Thank you’ is a wonderfully wise poem that uses a delightful story to put across a very important message. The opening uses rhyme and rhythm to create a joyful and optimistic start as we hear about the worm’s plan for the seed. The use of speech as the action turns to the girl and her father is highly effective as all of a sudden we have tension! The surprise of the transformation is delightful which is heightened by the words of gratitude to the worm. Rose’s poem is a thank you to nature as well as the worm and a reminder to think about what we consider to be beautiful or worthy.
Aidan’s poem is dynamic from the start. The reader is immediately placed in the middle of the awful action and with striking language we are faced with the horrific sights and sounds of machines felling a tree. The contrast of the ‘sharp metal teeth’ with the ‘rough, aged armour’ is highly effective as is the quiet of the tree ‘Alone’. Crafting this as a one word sentence is powerful and encourages us to empathise with the tree as we would a fellow human. Personification of the tree intensifies with the alliteration of ‘hacking’ and ‘hearts’ leaving the reader with a sense of loss. By creating a sad ending, Aidan challenges and invites us to do better.
From the beginning we too are enticed away with the speaker of Iona’s beautiful poem. Powerful imagery allows us to explore the idea that the natural world is not separate to humanity but something to ‘which we all belong’. Water, trees, branches, leaves, soil and wind are endowed with words and language passed along through the ages creating a song, a ‘story, forever being told’. It is an incredibly mature response both in its form and message. It is such a hopeful and uplifting poem in its suggestion that we can live in harmony with nature if we stop to listen to the ‘words that rest beneath the soil’.
Niamh treats the reader to so many wonderful sounds and images through language in ‘Four Seasons’. Each season is brought to life, starting with the energy of spring celebrated through the movement of petals and blossom ‘dancing’ and ‘swirling’. The heat of summer is brilliantly captured though likening the silver birch trunk to the skin of a leopard. The onomatopoeia of ‘sways and heaves’ to describe the maelstrom of autumn winds is highly effective and winter ends with a question to begin the cycle again. A wonderful celebration and perceptive observation of our four seasons!
Kimi’s choice of the acrostic form is highly effective! It allows for a light touch whilst dealing with some big, serious issues. It dares to be different and surprises the reader with an unusual word for this form of poetry. The constraints of needing to write lines that work with each letter also produce some striking, entertaining turns of phrase such as ‘Immense the litter is these days’! Kimi makes reference to the River Wye too, making the poem pertinent for local readers.
Winners in category 2 (12 – 18 years)
‘The forest’s fecret’ explores the environment in a highly unusual and evocative way. Macabre and murderous activity is set within a cacophony of noises from nature which combine to create a potent, terrifying poem! The run on lines give the reader no let up as the awful events unfold as sensory descriptions are fired at us again and again. The language becomes increasingly gothic and reminiscent of witchcraft as the ‘hum of crickets’ leads into ‘the shriek of an owl’ leading eventually to ‘the scuttle of a newt’ and ‘the sob of a wolf’. Riley has responded with a unique perspective and allows us to experience the natural world in a highly original way.
‘Habitat’ is a call for us to stop abusing our power and what a powerful poem it is! The one line verses immediately create impact, presenting a series of images and sounds within statements that pack a punch each time. We are made to face up to difficult truths right from the start with the image of trapped animals underneath pavements we walk on every day. The theme of kingship is highly effective, reminding us of the extent of human influence and our duty to do better. Striking verbs such as ‘disassembling’, ‘evaporating’ and ‘crumbling’ are carefully placed but not overused so none of the impact is lost. Faith’s strength of feeling in ‘Habitat’ is inspiring.
The regular rhythm and structure of Laura’s poem skilfully echoes the underlying question posed by the poem, to wonder which is greater, a woodland or a sky full of stars? A definitive answer isn’t given, instead more imaginatively, it suggests that wherever we are in any moment in time is the ‘more beautiful’. Instead of looking up, the reader hears the ‘crack of a twig’ and feels ‘my feet on the path’. Laura’s poem uses nature and the environment to explore the importance of taking notice and living in the present, a theme which in an increasingly noisy world is a timely and important reminder.
The title ‘Rogue Daisy’ suggests this is going to be a story of a flower who is a bit of a rascal and certainly the poem begins with what could be read as an unexpected but exhilarating adventure! The turning point at ‘smoke arised’ soon disavows us of this notion and striking language is used to create the ferocity of a forest fire. The blaze irritates, licks greedily, swallows whole and is ‘blinded by rage’. The final verse is incredibly powerful in the suggestion of a bleeding wound and whilst the daisy is ‘voiceless’ we are allowed to feel hope with the assertion that the fire ‘would go away’. Amelia has created an energetic, striking poem of contrasts which explores the fragility and power of nature.
‘Turtle Mummy’ has such depth and ambition! We experience the strength and magnificence of the mother as she overcomes the challenge of laying her ‘precious eggs’. She is ‘tired’ but we are never in doubt that her instincts will overcome the ‘violent sea’ and ‘brutal waves’. Jess skilfully juxtaposes the softness and sharpness of the sand, perhaps to highlight what it is to be a mother.
Very High Commended Poems
While not one of our ten winners, this poem by Sam Morgan, aged 11, shows real potential, originality and humour, and therefore is very highly commended by the judges.