Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2006
Radio Seventeen

Radio Seventeen masthead

The 2006 judges were Kate Clanchy and Paul Farley.

The title, Radio Seventeen, was taken from the title of Charlotte Geater's poem.

Enjoy the poems!



Callan Davies


A sort of curdled-milk sky

and the council houses


A-reg cars

and the iron terraces,

and football shirts

on the way to the shops


the car stereos

and the drum and bass.


The Greengrocers shop

and the boarded night clubs,

and the wind-swept Tesco bags,

on fly-posted lampposts.


A sort of illegal Sky

and the council houses.



Radio Seventeen
Charlotte Geater

The corridors all smelt like hairspray

not her perfume, even as she passed


so he pretended it was her hairspray

(not that she used it)


and he sat next to her in history lessons

clammily holding his lighter under the desk.


Sometimes he wanted to start a fire,

just in case she hadn't noticed


the way he watched her,

but he never flicked it open.


He wanted to hold her hand,

twirl her around the classroom


failing that, he'd be John or Paul

and sing to her, clap everytime she smiled.


At the school disco, he asked her to dance

she didn't like early Beatles songs


but he twirled her anyway, just that once,

almost kissed her cheek, but for


his sweaty fingers stumbling into his pockets

as she finished and slow-danced with another


mouthed along to Blondie in an older boy's ear

and he remembered calling her, getting the wrong number.



Stumbling on more photographs,
Dan Hitchens

we wonder how black-and-white

has come out in polychrome,

and why so many are blank

or blurred. We say to ourselves

in the dark empty evenings,

holding each other to

broken promises, watching

the day's curtain draw itself

early, where in these tableaux

are the unspoken words, the

words which hang for ever. But

all this is so much grey, and

everything fades in the broad

tenacious glow of late May,

the last day in uniform,

and the berets in the air, weightless.



The School
Alice Howlett

The school, sandstone, soot-darkened,

A maze of striplit corridors and chilly stairwells

Drilled through by bells at nine and four,

Is a site of great importance. It should be protected.

It should be blue-plaqued, revered, respected;


For in these classrooms,

The atom was split for the first time.

Each year it was seen to shatter

In the heads of a new batch of fourth-formers; sometimes a neat

Of one hemisphere from another, sometimes an enormous

Microscopic Hallelujah, shock-headed physicists

Blinking in awe; some girls saw many-petalled

Explosions, protons and neutrons spinning out like beads;

Some saw mercury quivering and scooting away from itself

As it did in the teacher's demonstration; similarly, Newton's apple

Shape-shifted: a russet, a Braeburn, a lunchbox Fuji

Tumbling away in the grass as gravity

Appeared like the Cheshire Cat. Four times a week,

We were biologists; we found soft knots of life

In underground pockets, burrowing, burying

A desert wasp's clutch and guarding it viciously,

Vicariously. Heads down, we followed khakied naturalists

Into a cave in Papua, a whispering cathedral, air dense with bats

And travelled north and west, geographers, noting land use:

Rice paddies, poppies, mangoes, tea; and made our pencilled way

Along the Mekong, learnt Mahayana, Theravada,

Weighed them in our hands, held them like charms. In a
top-floor classroom

We were enlightened, and rising to the edge of space, bore witness to it all.

We were there at the dawn of the nuclear age. We were those scientists

At Los Alamos whose bitter new light bleached the air, who

Melted the ground, stained the sky black with guilt

Like ink from a broken pen, sent tremors through certainty.

Philosophers rose

And fought their corners; the house lights went down, writers entered

Stage left and sang through us. We were Juliet, Antigone;

We acted out the arc of tragedy; we conjured metaphors

In Technicolor; fiction was a never-ending garden; we could see everything.

Our school was a house of dreams, for here

Anything that could be thought was possible; God was

Proved, refuted, revealed, denied; technologically

Blessed, we could reach further into deep space

Than our parents knew existed; not only the Hubble Telescope but

A walk on the beach would reveal Eternity

Billions of times over, and we could see Rome burn,

Troy brought to its knees for Helen, and to the tune

Of the assembly hall's off-key upright piano, imagine: above us only sky...



Street Sestina
Annie Katchinska

A woman stands and opens her mouth

to screech: "These HORRORS, these EVILS, these CRUDE-"/

While pamphlets are scattered like holy white birds.

He pleads with them. Islam! Jihad: Striving

For Peace!/ "CRUDE and BLASPHEMOUS-" Just
some old woman

in some shopping lane, in the skin-stripping wind.


Words carry. Heaved and tossed by the wind

they shoot like tear gas from the round black mouth.

"-UNHOLY, INHUMAN-"/ The Muslim Woman

is dropped on the pavement. His opinions are crude

but earnest. He talks. He's trying. He's striving

to make them see. But they scatter like birds./


The air is thick with obese birds.

She hollers: "-this SPREADING DISEASE-" and
the wind

can't drown out the sound of the people all striving

to ignore him. His truth. Some muttering mouth

will mock his pamphlets and effort but no crude

jokes can stop him./ "WHAT kind of WOMAN


SUBMITS herself to it?" Not this boiling woman,

her bosom heaves, creaking like dying birds.

She has a banner. The drawings are crude

and you laugh at her dress that flaps in the wind

while I stare at the red-black, street-eating mouth.

To be so sure's what we're all striving


for./ And he's still sweating, striving

against her. The Muslim Life, Man & Woman - /

"-these SINS straight from the QUR'AN'S MOUTH-"/

- whip through the air amidst throngs of birds.

He stops strangers, urgent./ She shouts down the wind./

His eyes are so desperate and raw it's crude –


they single me out, as you make your crude

hand gestures, behind his back. You're striving

to make me laugh. But I'm watching the wind

blowing his hair in his eyes./ Now the woman

fights to be heard over pamphlets and birds

and a city's huge noise, its one howling mouth./


Crude free hell. How can we hear one boy or woman

striving against all this street shriek – as fat birds

battle the wind – from the scores of black mouths?



Photograph on Palatine Hill
Laura Marsh

At the top of Palatine Hill, you stand cradling an infant,

a stained glass miniature I have clumsily leaded

with the cracks of a dropped photo frame, its gentle clouds

now a mass of teeth above your jagged body.


A cheap mosaic like graffiti sprayed over a brick wall,

so sorrily childish hands have tiled the glass shards in mock majesty

that vanishes on the smooth reverse of the photographic plate,

vanishing in turn onto an unwritten page.


Yet more often we are not art. How frequently I have looked,

through that glaze of weeping, for you – and in the ruins,

for a moment, have thought that you were only lost

and I was too, still asleep in your arms.



My Future
Emily Middleton

Other people live in fear

of gun massacres, heart attacks,

car smashes, plane crashes,

horrific back-street slaughters.

But me? I can tell you my future:

all two hours and twenty-six minutes of it.


I can tell you how

I will be swaddled in wires

like a new-born in a blanket;

how plastic and metal will nestle

in my flesh like vital organs.

How the firm push

in the small of my back

will feel like a mother

sending her son into the playground

on his first day of school.


I can tell you how

I will step down the path

of the grey terraced house.

How I will walk

along the pavement

clutching my belly, nursing

my newly acquired child.


I can tell you how my sweat

will mingle with dormant electrons;

how I will whisper my instructions

like a mantra as I clutch the slippery surface

of the handrail on the number 47.


I can tell you how I will

disembark deftly despite

my bulk, slip

into the crowd

as an otter

enters the water.


I can tell you how I will

murmur my final prayers,

cradling my phantom foetus;

clinging to the image

of Heaven's open gates

like a daughter to her father's hand.

How my finger will flick

the switch as the clock

tolls twelve





Jazz Clouds
Isobel Norris

Jazz likes to play in the background

As if it has a right to be there.


The clouds outside clog up the sky, and the open window lets them in,

Lets them seep into the furniture and darken the room,

Covering everything.


I can't actually see you anymore;

There is a thick blanket of weather between us.


And last night I dreamt of you, and me.

We were standing in the doorway of your house,

Ran pouring down, cold edging in, and we stood there.



Nothing else happened.

I woke up, was all, to clouds and jazz entering the house,

Lounging about my space like they owned it,

Having sneaked in through the window.


Who opened the window, anyway, in this weather?

You invited clouds and jazz music into my life, you did.


Now, I've swept all the clouds out. Some had to be kicked,

Some shoved, and some dragged, but I got them all.

And most of the jazz.


There's just the one left, I think. It hides behind the sofa,

And only comes out when I think of you –

And even then, quietly. Quietly.





Calendar Girl
Richard O'Brien

"Can you feel the year changing?"

January 1st, and my fingers have gone blue

Holding hands at a street party at 00:02

And we're praying for a thaw, huddled in each other's coats

Waiting for a signal to go out into the world

And make it ours while we still can,

Before our youth has burnt away.

I kissed you in a February dream and

Watched the steam rise from your mouth

As we drew our lips apart.

Now it's mid-March and I'm watching the

Hairs hop up on the back of your neck.

There's a slight chill in the air

(But it doesn't matter when you're there).

And we're shouting 'Bring on the summer!'

At the very tops of our young lungs

As April teases us with sun-drenched rain and rain-drenched

By May we're certain spring has sprung –

It reverberates in the fluffy heads of dandelions

And tickles the new yellow flocks of flowers in the fields.

Then suddenly, before we know a month has passed,

Summer explodes, and I'm laying on my back

On the soft June grass tracing lines around the freckles of your

And the sun is streaming down on me

Absorbing me, absolving me.

I turn to you in the heavy sky of July

And press your body closer into mine

So we can both lie down, and watch the lazy battles of the clouds

Among the golden heads of daisies that now decorate the ground.

August knocked me flat; the Earth was screaming out for rain

While you were screaming out my name

And we were happy once again.

Soon it was September, and the autumn was approaching

Like a fuzzy brown blur on the warm horizon.

The trees danced with colour, then shed their crinkled skin

And soon October came and the wet soil took back its fallen kin.

Winter threatened, frozen-fingered, but I knew

That all I had to do was just keep holding onto you;

And November and December passed us by without a scratch.

We closed the door of the summerhouse, with a blanket and a

All night through the soft music of the season played

And we snuggled under covers; felt that nothing, nobody, could touch us.

Then it was morning, with January sliding back the latch

And I let him in, and had to let you go.



Swing set
Julia Rampen

The garden constructed our swings; scaffolding

that once bespectacled the house became a skeletal

tent, spelling out an iron alphabet. A letter


for each of us. We kicked away the earth, tipped

the world on its axis of falling blue skies,

and hurled our heads against clotting clouds.


I flew up to places no adult could reach; mosaics

of leaves, sun drafting emerald light in a great

lace umbrella. The city of blackbirds. Then


fell like a heart so curls scratched grass; blades

and blue spirits in a tea party where every rule

was bone china. Shadows winging the lawn-


and up again. A rag doll of elements; winded

by air and aching sky, I'd see the street below

rearrange itself, and pause to catch my soul.




Charlotte Runcie

Late last summer, I wore gingham

and brought you fruit from next door, scrumped.

I wanted to crunch

the flesh

and let the juice dribbledown



as we kissed,

and mingle the sweetness.

I had painted my fingers and toes and eyelids with colours you liked

And you licked my sticky lips, shiny dappled apple-red

until the apples blushed. You were more lovely

and more temperate, but the summer was Indian

or maybe you didn't like the gingham.

I ran a bath too hot,

too deep and my skin burst into red like the apples.




Banged Up
Adham Smart

There once was a man from Kashmir,

Who was Muslim and lived over here,

When he went to the mosque,

Some youths shouted, "Get lost!"

And hurled a bottle of beer.


This rather depressed the Kashmiri,

As he set off home, munching a sarnie

(Halal, of course,

With a sheep as its source)

And he thought about the British army


The government, army and police,

Who, oiled by New Labour's grease,

Had cracked down on Islam,

Just like in Vietnam,

When the Americans cracked down on commies.


After watching a bit of TV,

To bed went our friend the Kashmiri,

But his sleep was cut short,

By a knock at the door,

Very early, at just after three.


The officer said, "Sir, we suspect you,

"Even though we have never met you.

"Of what we suspect you,

"We don't have to tell you,

"And on this suspicion I arrest you."


They bundled him into a car,

The police station wasn't that far,

They then bundled him out,

And, with a shout,

Locked the poor man behind bars


As our friend the Kashmiri sat down,

In his long flowing white Muslim gown,

He pondered and pondered,

And wondered and wondered,

Was all this because of his skin colour: brown?


Racism in Britain, surely not?

Racism in the police force, maybe not?

But if they weren't racist,

Then on what basis

Did they arrest our poor friend on the spot?


They held him for twenty-eight days,

They explored a variety of ways

To keep him locked up,

But then they gave up,

And let him go free in a daze


Let not the authorities strangle

Our right to dispute and to wrangle

Or even to hold

Our beliefs loud and bold,

Let it over the monster's mouth dangle



My Fingernails
Tess Somervell

I've been biting my nails

For as long as I can recall.


For years they were slivers

Of white, on pink,

Tauntingly small.


My friends and parents

Would badger me,


In the nicest possible way,

Hoping secretly

For them to be long as the Yangtze.


Then one day, a few weeks back,



Everyone stopped noticing.

After fifteen years

My short nails were permissible.


And I stopped biting,

I noticed this afternoon.


I looked down as I wrote,

And the slivers were broadened,

Not the waning but the waxing moon.


When I started this poem,

They were almost to my fingertips.


Now my teeth have been at work,

And once again they are

Chips, slips, strips, a lunar eclipse.




Emily Tesh

This house is too well-known to me. It creaks

In high winds when the ocean blows them in.

It murmurs to itself. I hear the thin

Soft whispers of its voice pour through the leaks.

I think you hear them too. These old walls seek

To hem us like the mountains, pen us in.

The shore is where the prison-wall begins

And on the land the light is grey and weak.

But water catches sunbeams where they fall,

Reflects them back again all dizzy-bright

With split-gold meanings: 'You could still be free.'

It's true – though, for a little while, let's stall,

And watch the sea-birds circle to gain height

Where cliffs divide the sunlight from the sea. 




Down in the Greenhouse
Flora Thomas

Summers ago

I went tomato picking in the greenhouse.

I remember it so well –

The hot, sticky smell of the air around us

Contrasting with the cool, strangely calming smell of the fruit,

Shiny, red and speckled,

Wonderfully different from all others,

It was the one for me.

Small and round

But hard at the same time.

My sister always gulped hers down

Quick as a flash.

I remember her face.

Not me.

I peeled off the skin

Oh, so very gently,

One strip at a time,

Then placed it on my tongue

And shut my mouth.

I heard the buzzing of the bees

In their own world

Working for their queen,

The rustling of leaves, and

My mother laughing at our messy faces. 




The New Guy
Isaac Graf

All the whales wonder

at the new guy

in the sea.



with his one stalk eye.


The new guy's not

real social,

he cruises by himself.

And rumor has it,

he's controlled

by little people

from somewhere else.



Watching stars
Sanne Nilsson Lindberg

I pointed at the stars -

far away,

dead as diamonds,


watching us

with gleaming eyes.


You bent my glance

towards earth


and said that

the starry sky

is found here:


Near as now.

Adjacent and alive.


You taught me

that all flowers

are stars -


and earth

is another heaven.



In A Parallel Universe
Mine Serizawa

I remember:


California skies are blue and taste of sunlight and cold wind. I once submerged a soybean seed for science class. Twin tendrils grew long and cynical. And withered in the late weeks of September.


Here in polluted airways and toxic sunsets I cling to the ghostly strands of your smile.



Commended Poets

Phoebe Amis, Sarah Aston, Frances Balmer, Christina Beasley, Henry Bell, Rebecca Broome, Rosamond Brown, James Bunting, Jon Burman, Jacob Burns, James Byrne, Giovanni Calarco, Fred Carter, Theo Carter, Amanda Chong, James Coghill, Lilith Cooper, Rebecca Davey, Rees Arnott Davies, Louisa Dawes, Athene Dilke, Paul Evans, Harriet Hale, Hector Hamilton, Kit Hargreaves, William Harris, Helen Harvey, Zhengxun Hee, Cleo Henry, Ruby Hirsch, Jemima Hodkinson, Jiayi Huang, Hannah Hudson, Shillat Hussein, Anna Isaac, Morwenna James, Ross Johnstone, Ekaterina Karabasheva, Jahanzaib Khwaja, Rowena Knight, Emma Lawrence, George Legg, Tiffany Li, Catherine Lough, Stephen Mack, Bella Massey, Emily Mercer, Jon Melling, Sarah Mooney, Emi Morioka, Jamal Msebele, Tara Mullin, Katy Murr, Beth Nixon, Toby Parker-Rees, Jessica Pattison, Amanda Picardi, Joe Rybicki, H L Salter, Samantha Scammell, Nat Scroggie, Rebecca Senior, Colette Sensier, Mansi Shah, Ellie Slee, George Sully, Elizabeth Francine Tan, Alice Thomas, Rachael Thomas, Nicholas Tolkien, Phoebe Walker, Calum Watt, Michael Wee, Babatunde Williams, Yoke Hin Nicholas Wong, Daisy Wootton, Lizzie Wright, Sophie Yeo, Rosetta Young, Nafeesah Younis.


  • Callan Davies
  • Charlotte Geater
  • Dan Hitchens
  • Alice Howlett
  • Annie Katchinska
  • Laura Marsh
  • Emily Middleton
  • Isobel Norris
  • Richard O'Brien
  • Julia Rampen
  • Charlotte Runcie
  • Adham Smart
  • Tess Somervell
  • Emily Tesh
  • Flora Thomas

International Winners

  • Isaac Graf
  • Mine Serizawa
  • Sanne Nilsson Lindberg

Commended Poets

Foyle Homepage