The Lauren Child Poetry Illustration Prize is a collaboration between House of Illustration, St Pancras International, Betjeman Poetry Prize and
2017-2019 Children’s Laureate Lauren Child

1. Oh! And What Inspired You to Write It? Opefoluwa Sarah Adegbite (13)

Oh! And What Inspired You to Write It?  


This poem was written
with the breath of an African
jungle’s lungs. Where the circle of life
is sometimes a squashed oval,
but slowly shifting itself out to rights.
A place where
slow words whisper
life into the strife of God’s
creatures.
 As they lie,
unaware of
the small girl, hidden in the recesses
of drip tips and lianas,
capturing their pain with
a cheap notebook and pen,
scribbling letters onto a
piece
of the tree they used to live in.


This poem was written
in the hidden alleys
of a cramped neighbourhood
in South London. The crust of
the UK bread, that
you
pull apart and toss aside –
you feed this borough to the pigeons,
let them feast on its piles of flats
and chipped street signs.
Written for the boy in the
grey hoodie; the words ‘drop-out’
scribbled in blue Sharpie across his forehead.
Unaware
as the small girl with the
dashiki records his
hurt and lets God blot it all out.


Ink doesn’t last forever, you know.


This poem was written
on the back of a
napkin, in a diner as greasy
as the stringy strands on the waitress’s
head. As the
wrinkled stools yawn their
silvery mouths and the
aching lights shut
their eyes,
she
crinkles out, a back so weary
from holding debt,
the small girl can’t
help but exclaim, “It’ll be okay.”


Into the crippled ears of an off-white page.


This poem was written
in the white walled room
of a somewhat quiet teenager.
No school friends up here
for fear they’d laugh at pink cupboards and
stick-on flowers.
no school friends up here for fear
of them glancing over a mosquito-bitten
shoulder, seeing the poem
being written
At 2 and a half am, where the
silence is so thick and
raw, she almost reached out to stuff it in her
pocket, to chew on later.
Where handwriting doesn’t matter and indents file
their way in like soldiers of an army – and where the
only company is a fragment
of Heaven, written on the palms of my hands.

This poem was written
with the ink of the blood
given to me by God,
on the spare piece of paper
we all have, folded,
inside a zealous heart.


For isn’t that the place where all words start?

 

2. His Place Indra Carigiet (11)

His Place


In a raggedy corner of the patchwork room,
In front of the chocolate box cabinet.
His place.
More special than the sun to the sky,
Than the moon to the night.
The top, covered with careful scratches from a thousand
lifetimes,
And bottles of liquor innocent hands would never dare to
touch.
And photographs,
Capturing the loudest moments and making them quiet.


As he hid behind the custard bowl sofa,
Next to the finger painted piano,
He gently pushed the key,
Into the enameled lock,
Re-entering ended lives.
Silver keys in silent drawers,
Unlocking doorways to hidden pasts,
And unyielding cameras,
With ignorant film,
Denying to ever be found out.


The smell,
Pure beauty,
Not caring about the laws of nature,
Taking him to a place,
Not of gold and diamonds,
Nor endless richness,
But of love.
For the beauty of love,
Was never ending,
Just like his love,
For the smell,
For the feeling,
For,
His place.

3. Norfolk Bryony Strickland (12)

 

Norfolk

 

Holkham Bay is a soaring gull

With wingspan of miles

Millions of tiny yellow feet

Decorated with Nature’s jewels

Sharp and beautiful

 

The sea is a giant squid

Spurting dark ink onto

The greying sky

With huge hydraulic arms

And lethal embrace

 

Old Hunstanton is a pale oyster shell

Grooved by perfect winds

Who then sigh with satisfaction

At what they have created

Irregular geometry

 

The waves are a fighting crab

Whose shiny back swells with the tide

Until he is a warrior

Who plays by no rules

The champion of time

 

Norfolk Coast is an old seal

Whose age is shown by beauty

That passes through generations

With the touch of a grey whisker

That will never die.

4. Feathers in the Snow Dylan McClung (11)

Feathers in the Snow

Little wee bird
Flying all over the world
Looking for his family
Missing them the most

He found empty nests
Feathers in the snow
The little wee bird
Was a little wee ghost

He searched in gardens
And little cat homes
he found his missing family
Buried by the coast

Birds fly away
With each other’s souls
And people’s hearts
To the final outpost

5. My House Tahsin Rahman (12)

My House

School kids with a box of KFC in hand
The aroma of hot wings and chips in the air
Mixed with tobacco and alcohol
Broken glass, shattered on the floor
Sounds bustling out of cars
Music up, windows down
Blaring sirens
People under arrest
Everyone rushing out their houses
Peeping out the windows
Uploading the scene on Snapchat
Middle of it all –
There’s my house.

145
Jet black door
A square-eyed, spoiled little brat hogging the telly
Doing the dishes or sweeping the floors
Screaming or shouting –
That’s my mum
And the ghost called Samia
Hovering from the car
To the laptop,
That’s my sister
In the world of her phone
But I run past the rainbow rooms
To the pot of gold
The arms of my hero,
My dad.



6. If Only I Were the Azure Sea Rufaro Tom (13)

If Only I Were the Azure Sea

Daddy says I will forever be a graveyard
Where all his ambitions and dreams go to die
Daddy says I will forever be like a prison
Stripping him of every trace of gaiety

I remember when she still roamed the earth, her eyes would gleam
Like a blueberry swimming in a sea of cream
And in her voice as gentle as autumn’s breeze
She would say, sweetie, you can be whoever you please

All I want to be is the beach next to the azure sea
Where we used to swim when we were a family
Mummy’s ashes and I would be entwined for eternity
Daddy would finally be liberated from me

If I were a beach, the Sun would be my friend
Sweltering heat and endless light she would send
When the sun was ready to say goodbye,
A fusion of warm colours would inhabit the evening sky

If I were a beach next to the azure sea
The sand would be like a pool of dough kneaded with glee
The waves would be like a kind hand consuming every-thing in its way
The breeze would be like an orchestra of whistles, singing the night away

Daddy says I will forever be a graveyard
Where all his dreams and ambitions go to die
Daddy says I will forever be like a prison
Stripping him of every trace of gaiety

I say Daddy will forever be my home
Showering me with as much love as a broken man can
Each night I cry for you mummy, why?
Her body is gone but her soul lives on in the azure sea.



7. My Special Place Abdullahi Cianni (11)

My Special Place

Inside of me I have a place I go.
Only there I’ll see your face
One that I’ll never know.

I’ll never touch your big soft hands,
Or see you succeed in life.
Only in my special place
Where your memory is kept.

I never will have a normal childhood
Or height charts to mark it.
I never will stop falling into
This bottomless pit.

I will always be known
As motherless, lost, weird.
I will always be known as the foster kid
And always to be feared.

The memory of that day
I found out you were here
The pain since you were there
Will always bring me a tear.
I’ll hold your memory with me.
The pain somehow I must face
In my heart and dreams
You’ll be with me in my special place.



8. The Dark Garden Naomi Rich (10)

The Dark Garden

Oak trees line the suspicious drive,
wondering if they will survive.
The gherkin grass as green as a crocodile.
Looming in the ghostly shadow of the house.

The scarlet noises dance in the night.
Creepers lie around waiting for their prey.
Plastic bags instead of blossoms,
brown grass and wilting flowers.
Daffodils dying by the hour.

The sweet rose blood strawberries,
and a gardener in a long-lasting sleep,
guarded by the silent lions.
The ivy creeping up across the flower pots.

Roses are red and violets are blue,
the sun is dying,
and so are you.



9. Where Will My Place Be? India-Amethyst Thakrar (13)

Where Will My Place Be?

Your weak breath rattles in your fragile chest,
Eyes closed in a longing for sleep,
Dark hair lies dishevelled on the pillow,
Face damp with perspiration,
Your trembling hand tightly clasped in my own,
Death’s impatience creases your brow,
Every quiet gasp,
I treasure.

The hospital ward,
Is an alien landscape,
Bearing no resemblance to our abandoned home,
Save for the myriad number of,
Pitiful “Get well soon” cards,
Filled with forsaken hope,
And the wilting, silver balloon,
That hangs over-head,
Akin to a waiting entity,
Come to reap your soul.

Surrounded by familiar strangers,
Shadows clad in white,
Their voices,
Constant echoes of your swiftly degrading condition,
Their faces,
Masks never trespassed by emotion,
No tears ever shed.

My place is by your side,
But where will I belong,
Once you’re gone?



10. Rooftops Savina Sidhu (13)

Rooftops

The sun will rise, and the kids will come
the ‘if I could I would feel nothing’ kids
or maybe ‘I feel nothing’ kids
the too-cool kids, the cyan-eyed kids
the bipolar, narcissistic personality disorder kids
the no inside voice kids
the freaks and the geeks
and here they will sit, waiting
until the fire sets
and they will try again

the sun will rise, and the kids will come again
caring about science, caring about art
caring about others, but not themselves
stones kicked, lighters lit
shattering hearts, broken dreams
bleeding eyes, bleeding eyes
profound explanations to their aesthetic, lack of being
empathetic
and here they will sit, waiting
until the fire sets and they will try again

who knows what rooftops do for them
maybe scraps of notebooks aren’t enough
maybe the East wind doesn’t blow away worries
maybe nature and natural beauty won’t do it
and maybe peace and solitude aren’t the answer.
Who knows what rooftops do for them?


 

11. Pitinweem Alex Maltby (13)

 

Pitinweem

 

Here, quaint village sits

By hustled heath and sea.

Battered rocks had worn away.

HERE LIE THOSE WHO CEASE TO BE.

Broken headstone speckle

The even sea.

And its wild gale, retreating bawl

Batters the temperament of Evensongs

Along the shore.

Abled swimmers line that place

With gulls and gills and gales.

These subtle rock pools, dormant.

And the silver, shimmer of a

Sailing sea opens

Her motherly bosom to the public.

A crawling crab surveys them all,

Eyeing those out of place.

Safe within a borrowed shell from

Where the wind doth blow

Like a whetted knife.

 

Here lies a place

Where vicars converg

eIn rickety cabins over

Rickety piers

On rigid shores.

And through the quick-cut silence,

The prayer of one

Faith-lost Father

Is heard.

 

Where the land and sea

Greet hand in hand dictates

Our craggy cliffs.

Its wild and burly tempest roar

Could measure with a lion.

 

A child of only six to be

Lies on the sand in ecstasy.

He’s made new friends from

Shining shells, from hermits in the deep.

As he crawls around these rock pools

The limpets start to peep.I

nfant hands find bygone bottles

Where they dare not creep.

The sun peaks down through

Infant’s thick white duvet

And her warm glow nods him gently to sleep.

12. Sketch Chenrui Zhang (12)

 

Sketch

 

9 Conduit Street,

Mayfair,

London,

England.

Velvety seats,

Egg-shaped toilets,

Moustache men,

Floral ladies.

 

Russian caviar,

Quail egg,

Caramel bites,

Finger sandwiches.

Pommery Apanage,

Dubbonet and gin,

Frappuccino,

Tea.

Gold canvas,

Peculiar art,

Shiny doors,

Pink napkins.

 

9 Conduit Street,

Mayfair,

London,

England.

 

 

 

 

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