12 December 2020

English-language poem by authors internationally (14-18), judged by poet Raymond Antrobus

WINNER: Olajuwon Abdullah Adedokun, Nigeria

Poem Title: Finding Home in Loneliness

Selected Artwork: Asim Abu Shaqra, Cactus with City in the Background, 1988

Judge Raymond Antrobus said of the winning poem, ““the fastest way to set yourself on fire / is by lighting your home” begins of this striking poem “Finding Home In Loneliness”. A great first line on its own, but the enjambment is impressive and does a lot of work. To break on “fire” and “home”, raised such a high bar for this poem that I wondered if it would sustain its quality. It does. The word “home” appears five times, but this feels intentional, as does the uneven stanzas and line lengths, which work to unfold the images and evoke longing, wandering and loneliness. Also the speed and rhythm of the lines become a kind of spreading fire, it roars and then simmers by the end where we are left with the feeling of the speaker, despite stating to have found “a home away from home”, the sadness and pain for the “home” that has been left continues to burn. This is serious poetry talent and this poet must keep writing!”

RUNNER UP: Shiza Ronald Khokhar, Pakistan

Poem Title: Woman and Wall

Selected Artwork: Mohammed Issiakhem, Woman and Wall, 1977-78

Of the poem, Antrobus said, “A skilled dramatic monologue poem that feels believable and unforced. Despite the poet directly using the same title as the painting, it felt earned with lines like “The world happens to us and in the end I am left / One part wall, one part woman /less part wife, more part mother / and one part corpse.” The poet gives us multiple dimensions to the speaker, thereby managing to avoid the cliché of the victimised woman, tormented by war. The speaker of the poem is victimised but by stating and repeating the nouns “wall”, “woman”, “mother”, “wife”, we know she is more than any clichéd image of a walking “corpse”. This poem is in the hands of a skilled and emotionally intelligent young poet. They must keep writing!”

More about the judge and winning poets:

Raymond Antrobus was born to an English mother and Jamaican father and is raised in Hackney, London. He is the author of The Perseverance. In 2019 he was a recipient of the Ted Hughes Award and won the Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award, and became the first poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize. 

Born in 2004, Olajuwon Abdullah Adedokun lives in Lagos, Nigeria and writes about home and broken people. 

Shiza Ronald Khokhar is a 17-year-old student at Kent College in Dubai who was born in Pakistan. Literature and reading has always been a large part of her life and recently she has begun exploring the world of poetry, and so far, it has been a marvelous experience.