The fabulous Better Read Books shop in Ellon ran a competition open to Aberdeenshire school pupils throughout November and, last Friday, I gathered with fellow poets Haworth Hodgkinson, Catriona Yule and Fred and Francis Crawford to discuss the entries over cuppas and sandwiches on the shop floor.
The pupils were offered two themes – ‘winter’ and ‘change’ – with the vast majority opting for the former and its images of icicles, snowflakes and, strangely regularly, steaming mugs of hot chocolate. As is often the case among young poets, the majority of the entries attempted a strong rhyming scheme, generally couplets or an alternative rhyming ABAB structure. This, of course, brings with it the added difficulty of keeping the rhyme solid without dissolving your message or finding unrelated themes or bizarre English creeping in. Therefore, many poems made our shortlist but ultimately not the prizes for this reason.
The best poems explored language, concepts and moments rather than form, rhyme and rhythm and we were unanimous both in our choice of winner and in our amazement that the author was eleven years old at the time the poem was written. A name to watch out for in the future – you bet!
To hear the winning poem and those that finished in the runner up positions, come to Better Read Books (18 Ythan Terrace, AB41 9LJ Ellon, Aberdeenshire) this Friday (11th December, 7pm-9pm) for their regular Open Poetry event. If you haven’t been before, you can be assured of a warm welcome by shopkeepers Bill and Euan (who always seem to put their customers before profit!) and can either read a poem of your own, one by somebody else or just sit back and listen. See you there!