St Mary’s Students Offer us their ‘Gifts’ of Poetry

This term, St Mary’s students were invited to enter the Catholic Independent Schools’ Conference (CISC) annual poetry competition, which seeks to “create an important forum for expression and vision from those that we seek to inspire and educate.” The CISC selected ‘gifts’ as this year’s theme, challenging students from across the globe to send in their original poems of up to 20 lines and written in any style of their choice.

While our entries were highly praised for their quality, the competition judge, Tom Collingridge, and the CISC general secretary, Maureen Glackin, singled out one particular poem as their favourite entry from a St Mary’s student. Agnes P-R’s (UVI) ‘18th Birthday List’, while not an overall competition winner, was described by Dr Glackin as “incredibly moving and such a poignant evocation of the times we’re in.” She went on to say that she hopes that Agnes “continues to write poetry: she has a sensitivity for words that gives her work great clarity and candour” and that she will be “looking out for Agnes’ published poetry in the future. It was such a beautiful piece of writing.” For this reason, Agnes has been awarded joint first prize in the senior category of the competition, among the St Mary’s entries.

After hearing the official results of the international competition, the St Mary’s English Department decided to run its own internal competition. And who better to judge the poems in both the junior and senior categories than Rosslyn Brand, our beloved former Head of English? Having thoroughly enjoyed reading (and re-reading on multiple occasions!) all the poems aloud, Ms Brand meticulously ranked all the entries and announced her winners.

For the junior competition, Ms Brand opted for a poem she described as having a “New Age simplicity” and that was worthy of being “used as a mantra for life!” The winner of the junior competition is Flora B (UIII) with her poem ‘The Gift of Life’. For the senior category however, our judge found it very hard to separate two poems, both of which stood out as outstanding pieces of poetic creativity. In the end, despite agreeing that Agnes P-R’s poem brought tears to her eyes, and was “really impressive and touching”, she finally decided upon a poem that gave her “goosebumps” and that had a “haunting’ and “well conjured mood”. Sharing first prize (alongside Agnes) is Scarlett R (LV) with her poem ‘Gifts’. Ms Brand described Scarlett’s work as reminiscent of something penned by our former poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy – very high praise indeed!

Congratulations to all of our entrants; poetry is an undeniably important art form, conveying emotion and meaning in a particularly intense and concentrated way that other literary genres perhaps cannot replicate. These poems have captured and distilled the various feelings, concerns, hopes, moods and thoughts we’ve experienced during lockdown, powerfully giving a voice to our students when we’ve been isolated from each other as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

All of the entries will be published in the Crossroads magazine, and the winning entries are published below:


‘The Gift of Life ‘by Flora B (UIII)

Where flowers bloom

there is hope.

Where the grass grows

there is a gift.

Where the sun sets

a new day comes.

This gift of life.


‘Gifts’ by Scarlett R (LV)

You pack your basket for the journey;

strawberries, milk, a handkerchief.

you bid your grandmother farewell,

she slips an iron ring onto your finger.

To keep away the fae she said.

The townspeople gather solemnly around you,

They do not know that you will not return.

One by one they present you with gifts;

yeast risen bread, salt, a new-born’s first kiss.

To keep away the fae they said.

You wander down the overgrown forest path, a doe walks up to you.

Her soft head nudges your bare arm,

and from her mouth she gifts you the bark of a young laurel tree.

Although she does not speak a word you know what it is for.

To keep away the fae her eyes said.

You see her at the end of the path.

She extends her palm and asks for your name and as the knowing

fool you are you give it to her.

She smiles, and you know you would follow her to earth’s edge and beyond

‘To keep away the humans’ you say.


‘18th Birthday List’ by Agnes P R (UVI)

I had asked you for a White Prada bag.

Leather, with a golden clasp.

I had told you that it was what I wanted most in all the world.

But I hadn’t really asked for it. You and I both know and knew this.

This tangible object. This white leather metaphor.

It had to be more than just a white Prada bag?

You see, the gift that I had actually asked for (you really should have read between the lines)

Was for this dream-like trance to be over, and to sit once again,

In a park with you. By a river with you.

Laughing, smiling, drinking,

As I reach to take out my lip gloss out from my white Prada bag.

But for now, my welcome to adulthood,

I am caged between these same four walls where I celebrated turning 6.

But you are here with me, as my future and my past. I am six and twenty-six. I hold each moment in my white Prada bag.

And White leather can be so beautiful in this light.


St Mary's Shaftesbury-St Mary’s Students Offer us their ‘Gifts’ of Poetry