Poems by Prerana Kumar, Cameron Spain, Bethany Trinder, L Meadows, and Miriam Gauntlett
Updated: Aug 28
Content warning: violence, bad language (as in swearing; the language in the poems is so good it will blow your minds).
To get your hearts racing, here are five more dazzling poems that received honourable mentions in Fiona Benson's judge's report. We've got exquisitely beautiful use of imagery in a dynamic multilingual serenade, a fantastically wry yet pretty romantic Shakespearean-style sonnet delivered in bed to a partner (relationship goals!), a scene of carnage in which another partner is pretty much torn to bits, a coming-of-age poem that will have you nodding and laughing if you're still at uni or nostalgic for your uni days if they've passed, and a quiet, poised moment of stillness that holds up a mirror to the monotony and loneliness of isolation yet ends with hope. Read and fall in love.
by Prerana Kumar, aged 22, based in Norwich
Prerana says: I am a queer Indian poet doing my MA in Creative Writing at UEA. My submission poem stemmed from an obsession with the multiplicity of language and the liminal gaps that exist between multiple languages; how such gaps house home, memory, language, and history. This poem also owes its existence to my dear friend, Asmaa Jama, and the late-night conversations I had with her about the wonders of multilingualism. Some of my favourite poets are Shivanee Ramlochan, Safiya Sinclair, Kamala Das and Tracy K. Smith. In my free time, you will find me brewing a fresh pot of chai, chasing dragons, or consorting with the moon.
I heard the Pope thinks we can sort of wed.
To think, he never got our save the date.
We could, perhaps, ask him to it instead
Of all your drunken uncles who’ll be late.
You know I still say three Hail Marys when
I cross the road or play the fucking Lotto.
We’ll seep right through your epidermis then
Roam in your Blood should be the Catholic motto.
His cheeks would go all cardinal were He
To know the simple sinful sacred truth:
The only Lord I serve, yes faithfully,
Is you and you and you and you and you.
My God, go back to sleep, it’s almost light.
Alright, sweet dreams my fellow Sodomite.
by Cameron Spain, aged 24, from London
Cameron says: As an English student, I’d become accustomed to seeing literature as ‘work’ rather than something that really excites me. During the pandemic however, I've found myself reading poetry for pleasure for the first time in years. Mark Doty, Don Paterson, Hannah Sullivan and David Clarke have been particular highlights. Until recently, I hadn’t written poetry since some fitful (and, frankly, terrible) attempts in my early teens. To give myself some structure to work within, I’ve been drawn to strict poetic forms. Once I decided to write a sonnet, the theme announced itself to me pretty quickly; as a gay, lapsed Catholic, I figured I’d start with ‘write what you know’!
And then the lights turn on
I stand facing my partner
Slice their thigh open
File their bones
Snort the dust
I’m plucking their eyebrows
With my teeth
I’m flossing with their hair
I rip their spine out of their back to
Use it as a noose
Their eyeballs are my ice cubes
I crunch them in my mouth
I use their liver as a pillow for my chin as
I pull out their toenails
Use them as a fruit bowl for raisins
turn the lights off, they say
I tear out their tongue and
flip the switch with one big lick.
by Bethany Trinder, aged 20, based in Bath
Bethany says: I'ma 20 year old poet based in Bath, currently finishing my final year of my Creative Writing degree at Bath Spa University. My work aims to push the reader to nausea by playing on the idea of wanting another so much that one must tear them apart and consume them completely in order to feel whole.
A Poem for My Baby Sister as She Heads Off to University
Ally, there'll be days filled with sticky plastic shot glasses,
sticky liquid from ALDI that tastes of petrol, sticky everything.
There'll be ABBA, a red dress Mum would never let you wear,
leaving for a night out in January without a coat.
You’ll talk to strangers and scream at the handsy bouncer.
You’ll wonder whether it’s blood or red wine that white wine helps get out of carpets.
Fuck it. You’ll dump an entire bottle of Echo Falls onto the floor. Yep, sticky everything.
You’ll comfort your flatmate when their boyfriend from home inevitably dumps them,
and you’ll fall in love with anyone.
Your flatmate, your professor, a 30-year-old bartender, your best mate and your best mate’s
girlfriend. You’ll definitely fall in love with kebabs at 3am. Your heart will be worn down
into a callus by the time you are done, but you’ll be stronger for it.
You will cultivate a new species of mould under your bed. Maybe write an essay.
Then you’ll come home with a bin bag full of dirty washing,
and some dirty habits. You’ll say fuck at the dinner table.
You’ll have an erratic sleep schedule and huge library fines.
Maybe we’ll be closer after spending so much time apart.
Maybe that closeness will last for a week,
before we start arguing about the correct way to stack a dishwasher. I’ll still love you.
Forgive me for turning your room into a walk-in wardrobe while you are gone.
by L Meadows, aged 20, from London
L Meadows says: I'm a spoken word poet from Essex, currently completing a degree in English Literature at the University of York. In my free time, I enjoy writing articles for various journals and attending open mic nights.
Times are hard and keeping up strength is harder.
In the morning the light arrives late and I can’t
get out of bed. I forget to call a friend. As I pull
the curtains closed, my mother texts and I miss her
so much I cry. On the house opposite, the vines
have turned from glossy green to red and the change
doesn’t bring me any joy. Enough with all of this.
I wake early one morning and go along the canal
in the dark. When I get back the sun is rising over
the rooftops and my hot breath makes clouds.
I place a cold palm flat on my stomach. I make
promises I will keep. I keep living. I keep living.