Cape Farewell/Poetry Society's SWITCH: Youth Poetics Year 2

The Commended Poets and their poems

1st Challenge: Vanishing

The theme for the first challenge was disappearance. What happens when something disappears? Will it come back in another form or is it gone for good? What would you least like to disappear? Or what, perhaps, would you most like to disappear? Climate change and growing industrialisation is bringing many changes to our environments, such as loss of habitat, and the disappearance of whole glaciers bringing rising sea levels which threaten whole communities and species.

Tapestry

You danced, you sung
You smiled at the sun
You coughed and the joy became undone
That's when the first thread vanished

You laughed, you played
You giggled and cried
You doubled over and the happiness died
That's when the fifth thread vanished

You lay, you read
You retched and screamed
You contorted with pain and the tears streamed
That's when the tenth thread vanished

You frowned, you gasped
You grimaced and slept
You writhed in your sleep and everyone wept
That's when the fifteenth thread vanished

You murmured, you blinked
You whispered and rose
You slumped back down and the whole house froze
That's when the last thread vanished

Alice Guest, 12

 

how to disappear in the city in the rain

wait
as the water beats
on your face
like the perfectly flat
skin of a drum and
as it fits
your smile
like an oyster
let
memories of everything
you've touched
roll from your pockets
like pennies
somehow licked away by the cool water
leaving just
sticky rust left
on your fingertips
watch
breathlessly
as the drops
stick to you like blue clay
and each one takes
something from you
and each drop erodes you
closer
closer and closer and closer
into raindust

Yongyu Chen, 15

 

Moon

It begins a comedy, a pocket-sized calamity,
as eye and lens turn to sky, and there,
fuzzed and haloed, sallow and pale,
the moon shrinks in its socket.

Slowly, slyly each night,
It wisps to cobwebs, fizzes to ash,
No longer the prize opal,
but a synapse in the empty sheath of stars.

And the spectacle turns sour,
As NASA project images across still seas:
a sphere of marbled blue and white,
draped in black, and very much alone.

And gradually, the word salutes,
it’s newly deceased companion,
with arrays of artificial, clammy oranges,
icy whites, each night,
that burn too small a hole, in the darkness.

A slow tragedy, as grandparents tell,
of the lantern that lit their nights,
of the mythical onion that shed,
slice by slice, skin by skin,
visibly and vulnerably,
into history.

 Natasha Keary, 19

 

2nd Challenge: Moving

What does it feel like when the place you call ‘home’ changes? In the 2nd challenge, we looked at how ice is disappearing and habitats are under threat. Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are changing marine habitats for fish and altering aquatic ecosystems too.

Instinctive Thinking

My instinct tells me the wind is cooler
I prepare for the torrent of birds
Growing nervous, the bitter air is engulfing me
Raw snow drifts lazily to the rocky floor
A group of geese pass by
To Africa!
I cry, I fly
Over the mountainous terrain and winding streams
Never looking back. A new leaf

Daniel Bond, 11

 

a riveting gift

you are moved by the earth, you are moved by the earth
hold it
in the rage of the river
something’s come loose

this is water jumping off a cliff

without wearing its bathing suit
the audience sits on the bank
are looking which here means nearly
crying are all saying all

in all your knowledge
you’re no less gritty
than that tear

all saying we are all
false have tried to make things
bigger

see that stream?
it is a courtroom, it sings

Nasim Luczaj, 16

 

Barrier Breaker:

So often we see the ocean
tinkering neatly
in it's own space.

Bouncing the wet bodies
of swimmers
like grandchildren on its knee,

sucking the loose tooth of the shore
and brushing clean
backsides of jetties.

How fascinating
to see the waves
break rock for once

and shower over
the small children on their stomachs,
their hands reaching down

for crabs
in the rippling spool of navy.
How fascinating

to leave your own body
if just for a few seconds.
To be a boy,

digging through
the ocean's sediment for crabs
and imagining yourself a man

digging between the car seats
for a lost wedding ring.
Outside the barrier

of even your own body.
How fascinating
to see the cat walk out

the back door
and rub its head
against a mailbox

instead of your cotton sleeve.
How fascinating to pull out
a water bottle from the freezer

and see the plastic split open
or to see man
rotating in space

like a doorknob turned gently by
the weak hand of an elderly.
And how fascinating

to find the teenage poet
thrusting her hand
out the bedroom window

to see what shape
the hairs on her hand make
when the wind ruffles them.

Alex Greenberg, 15

 

3rd Challenge: Build it up, Burn it down

This challenge looked at how we build it up, burn it down. Sometimes, you have to destroy part of something to keep it. Controlled burning stimulates the germination of certain forest trees, therefore helping to renew the forest. This might seem like a slightly contradictory idea at first – how can partly destroying something help to save it in the long term? Sometimes, a part has to be sacrificed for the benefit of the whole.

Fire Fights Itself

Trust not a word I say, not one lick
or spit of hot-hit-whisper. Don’t let me
beguile you, peacock feather dance,
melt the air above my head: this is no magic,
just a rotten science. Resist the urge for compliance:
pat me down, put me out, smother me
with your rags. Clothe me in black rings.
Don’t let me do what I want, don’t let me
reach my full potential, don’t let me become
an ember of myself, a ravenous beast
of buildings, forests, your Sunday roast…
turn me off, shut me down, leave me dead
in your boot. I didn’t mean to spring here,
summoned by two-stick friction,
pictured in your battles, your catastrophes,
painted behind the eyes of your devils
whose abodes bow and cower at my brothers…
douse me, drown me, let me settle.

Jake Reynolds, 19

 

Your Story

tell me what it is about you that flies, kite-like, through crimson skies and seas of algae and marble turquoise frosted over with footprints and floating sand tell me what it is about you that fights, a sharpened scythe hanging at the very edge of a pale crescent moon a furnace-fired armour tell me what it is about you that falls, tumbleweed, into story and whispered folklore like you belong perhaps below iced-over rose-arches tell me what it is about you that flashes, vital ultraviolet in cupped hands crooked ash-wrists reaching out ever and always, for yourself, for the world.

Pratyusha Prakash, 17

 

Bell Tower

My dad shovels the snow from our driveway
Like a monk cleaning his monastery.

I watch him from the bedroom window,
Back bent into old age,

The cupped hands of his tool raising
The snow’s soft animal

And putting it down again amongst its kind.
Like a prayer, the thousand doves of winter

Fly up off the ground and settle
In a spot a few inches to the side

As if to beg pardon
for a deer who might wander by that evening.

When the sun goes down, they huddle for warmth
And forget how to move.

I shake their feathers from my head
Once I step inside.

Alex Greenberg, 15

 

4th Challenge: 

Climate change has been altering our sense of borders, whether those borders are political, geographical or physical. Coastal erosion is changing the boundaries between land and sea. Different countries have to work together globally to find new solutions to the changes the planet is experiencing. This challenge was about borders and how we cross them.

The Waiting Room

Just give it time
A cyan sky will merge with the purple ocean
The horizon will turn orange at dusk
Just wait for a bit
The evergreen hills rolling on and on
(they roll like dice on a thunderclap)
will bloom, revive beech trees from dust
Give it time
The brown clouds above you
Borrowed from fossils, fuelling the tides
will rain and purge and purify like morning dew
what are you going to do
when drums crackle beneath you
when you’re on your own
when eagles and falcons fly on through
when the sun cries
the moon says goodbye
when light and nothing collapse into each other
leaving you behind
what will you do
when the wide bright dark swallows you whole
when the drums beat into chasms
when the earth turns itself inside out
erupting from the magma seams
will you cross that bridge?
Will you jump with us? With me?
cry to your shadows? to the supernovas?
to the black holes? to the trees you ashed?
To the sea you blackened like sticky maple?
will you stay? repent? reminisce?
jump and leave with us?
Or pretend to wake up dazed with the breakfast honey sky
just give it time
there is no time

Serena Cooke, 17


Cartography

You needn't go far
To notice the difference.
The ground is the same
The trees are still there
But the air feels wrong.

There are no skulls, no bodies
No cheap horror film cliches.
If it wasn't so stifling, you could almost enjoy it.
But it's always so stifling.

It used to be a pilgrimage for you,
To sit there, in the clammy dusk
For as long as you could, before
It all became to much.
Time to run along home.

After a while, they started moving.
Whole sections of the map
Had to be cut away.
The fringes spread out.
You lost a metre or two each day.

The pilgrimages have stopped now.
Too tiring, too large a strain.
Scraps and cuttings of maps
Litter the table. Slowly
A picture is forming.

They're all round the house now.
A perimeter wall.

When you pull down the tablecloth,
There's a whole world under the table.
A half light sometimes shines
through the fabric horizon.
The ground is the same
But the air feels right.

Nat Norland, 16

 

the borders of our beings

when the quiet eyed boy
who spends class scribbling
soft words onto paper meant for
diagrams and equations
who creates worlds out of pencil
and freedom from the gentle movement
of his fingers and wrist
asks "would you like to see my notebook?"
say yes

when the sparkling girl
whose laugh is so loud
it encompasses her like a cage
and leaves her sitting on a throne
of insignificant conversations
and loneliness
tentatively whispers
"can I tell you something?"
say yes

when it is 3 am
and you're staring at your ceiling
your thoughts like balloon
that has slipped from your grasp
and "I miss you, do you miss me?"
is thrown at you like a life vest
from your buzzing phone
just in time to stop you from drowning
say yes

Stephanie Brown, 15

 

 


   

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