2006 winner

Kaleidoscope by Jamal Msebele

The flavours of the world are sticky

sweets in Newham’s pockets


Three miles from the City of London

in the womb of the East End

Newham sits on the bend of the River

pregnant with 365 languages and dialects








Watching her belly swell each day

a shifting scene


Today I walk

through East Ham High Street

Travel the globe in an hour

smelling the fresh aromas of




Jollof rice

Jerk chicken

Pie ’n’ Mash


I flare my nostrils to take it all in

like a hippopotamus yawning


Eatery lights flash at me

sunlight on silver and gold

I buy into them all

burning cultures on my tongue


This kaleidoscope swirl of tastes

holds nations in my mouth

as if my saliva were the Oceans


© Jamal Msebele, 2006

"Winning the John Betjeman Prize was an immense experience for me, meeting the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and celebrities like Trevor McDonald alongside being the first prize winner was brilliant. It was a symbol of establishing myself as a page poet and gave me the confidence to continue to perform at various venues and festivals across the country such as the Latitude Festival. A BBC interview was the direct result of the prize and gave me an insight for interviews, which will be useful for interviews about my work in the future, but also interviews for other situations such as work.  Other than experience and motivation, the prize partly funded my self-published book Kaleidoscope."  JAMAL MSEBELE

"The standard of entries for the John Betjeman Poetry Prize was certainly high enough to justify the existence and continuance of the competition: the theme helped applicants to concentrate their attention on real things in real places (which has a lot to be said for it), the styles and techniques covered an impressive range (from free to formal), and the language was generally both concentrated and lively. At the same time, though, there was enough evidence among poems which did NOT make the final shortlist to suggest that the competition has a value in encouraging schools as well as individuals to give more time to poetry. To become a rallying-point for ideas about the need to use a more concentrated language, more definite structures, and more animated rhythms. The competition has already achieved a good deal – and it has a bright future ahead of it." SIR ANDREW MOTION, 2006 judge

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