EIF Childhood Poetry Challenge: The Results!

The results are in! It was a delight to read all of your magical childhood Christmas entries. Judge Nick Reeves, aided by his panel of snow sculptures (pictured above) had a hard job arriving at his decision. But decide he did, and so I hand over to Nick to bring you the results of the final EIF Poetry Challenge of 2020:

Season’s greetings one and all! It has been an honour (and a challenge!) to be able to judge the 12th EIF Poetry Challenge of 2020. The subject being The Poetry of Childhood. The response has been so overwhelming that picking an overall 1st, 2nd and 3rd place from all of the poems struck me (as the week progressed and my inbox buckled) as an impossible task! It became apparent that one way around this conundrum would be to divide the challengers into two sections (although these sections could have been expanded to at least several other sub sections!) – so this is what I have done!

The entries were forwarded to me as anonymous pieces marked only by the age of the writers (in the cases of the younger poets) or else were headed ‘adult’ – this I took to mean poets over the age of 18 rather than being explicit content! This became an easier way to get to grips with the deluge of quite brilliant entries.

The challenge was to write a piece being either ‘about’, ‘for’ (childhood) or, ‘by children’. I’m more than certain that a great and in-depth thesis could be written about the differences surrounding the subject – here we find joy, melancholia, memory and hope… I shall perhaps leave this thesis just where it is for now and put it on the backburner for when time and energy allows (hmm, *glances wearily at our post-Christmas future lockdowns* … anyway, blahblahblah… drum roll, please and on with the proceedings!)

The young poets, of whom there were many, who deserve a special mention are as follows…

Rollercoasters‘ by Benji, 8 years old

Around the loop the loop…

Rollercoasters go so fast.
Around the loop the loop around you go
very fast yes very fast.
And you go so high like a bird in the sky.
Yes yes yes you’re the best fun ride of all!

Rollercoasters is a wonderfully visual, frenetic piece of work that can barely contain its joy and excitement! It sparks with a surprisingly bright energy for such a compact poem. What draws the eye immediately is the skilful wordplay and movement of the second line –

Around the loop/the loop around

This skilful play is continued in the 3rd line where the affirmative ‘yes’ is balanced at the centre of the blurring and repeated ‘very fast’! Quite dizzying!

‘Sprinkle and Twinkle’ by Mason, 8 years old

Santa’s almost ready…

Sprinkle and Twinkle
Glitter and Gold
On Christmas Eve
I’m not going to get cold.
On Christmas day
I’m going to rush down
So lively and quick
Hoping for presents from St. Nick.

Such immediacy again! I have particularly enjoyed the entries from our younger writers this challenge. Sprinkle and Twinkle is a visual poem of place and sensation. It also captures, quite brilliantly, the notion of the passage of time – in itself a very tricky concept to write about.  It is a piece that balances the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve/ Christmas Day at home. The youthfulness shines through in almost every line and the reader cannot help but be drawn into the excitement

‘I’m going to rush down
So lively and quick’

I adore the hope evoked in this lovely little poem. Congratulations! Do keep writing! And I hope that Saint Nick delivers!

Christmas is in the air‘ (Winter Wonders: Joy)’ by Rishika, 13 years old

The fire burns with a bright light
In the darkest of nights, the stars shine
I open my heart, unveil it with care
Everything falls into place, layer by layer
Christmas is in the air!
I realize, being happy is not too hard
As a feeling of joy tingles my heart.

My favorite thing about Christmas?
The joy, the vibe, the sense of being alive
A merry cheer from someone near
A smile from the homeless man sitting by the canal
Looking at me with sparkling eyes
Are just enough to make my heart smile.

The way my family gets together
Making pacts, sticking by one another forever
Inhaling the aroma of freshly brewed love
Experiencing the warmth of humanity, it holds my heart like a glove.
Protecting me from the harsh world,
Keeping me safe when I feel lost and alone.

Give without sparing, love without hating
Hug without withholding, dance without over-thinking
Open your heart, fill it with love
There’s darkness, but you are the light that can shine like the sun.

©Rishika Jain 2020. All rights reserved.

The third piece of work in the young poets section that deserves a special credit is Christmas is in the air (Winter Wonders : Joy). It is surprising and a delight. Immediately, the reader senses the rapid advance of the years (though there is only 5 years difference between this and the earlier selected winning poems). Here we find a young poet pushing against the boundaries of childhood into a mature and thoughtful arena: and triumphs! It is a longer form free-verse piece that succeeds in addressing both childlike and adult qualities. Indeed, there is something old and wise (Dickensian?) in the opening lines that set the scene wonderfully –

The streets are quiet, the weather is cold
There’s a tale in my heart, waiting to be told.
The fire burns with a bright light

There is a maturity tempered with youthfulness at work/play here in lines such as –

‘The joy, the vibe, the sense of being alive’

and –

‘Hug without withholding, dance without over-thinking’

that I find to be very telling of a young mind discovering its poetic skills: the subtle wordplay, the extended metaphors (‘I open my heart, unveil it with care/Everything falls into place, layer by layer’) and the awareness of those less fortunate. This is an excellent piece of work and I hope to see more from this poet – as I hope to from the writers of Rollercoasters and Sprinkle and Twinkle and, indeed, everyone of our young writers who took up this EIF challenge! Many, many thanks and please, keep writing!


The ‘adult’ section again brought its own difficulties and I realised that my decisions could only be subjective. Bearing this in mind here are my favourite entries…

3rd Place: ‘The Old Child In Me‘ by Ivor Steven

Ho Ho, there is a child in me
splashing in the cool summer sea
dreaming of distant alpine trees
fluttering like a pretty butterfly in the breeze
laughing under moss covered circus marquees
and there is that day I sat on Santa’s knee
asking for my red-head to be set free
wishing her a life of peace and tranquility

2nd Place: ‘Incomplete memories of childhood’ by Valdis Stakle

Lost memories of my early childhood
Are far now from being too clear
Wanderings as though through a wild wood
blinking back many a tear

Then waking up soon with the sunrise
A morning so brave and so bold
I gazed slowly upon those bright skies
And watched as the day did unfold

I remember some scrapes in the back yard
Wild flowers beside a brick wall
I fell on some stones they were too hard
I picked myself up from my fall

i remember a dog that scared me
Almost it seemed near to death
I stared and felt helpless and lonely
I struggled with shortness of breath

I screamed and I cried
But the dog didn’t bite
Then I ran back inside
And shivered with fright

That’s all that I fear I have left
Of the first few years of my life
Alone now and feeling bereft
Of a time filled with joy and with strife

The streets are quiet, the weather is cold
There’s a tale in my heart, waiting to be told.

1st Place: Children Singing in Latin by Elizabeth Gauffreau

When was the last time
You heard children
Singing in Latin,

Every note clear and sweet,
Every vowel in its proper place,

Your gaze transfixed
By the unwavering flame
Of brass-tipped beeswax?

If you ever again
Hear children
Singing in Latin,

Will you dare
Turn around
To see their faces?

What chimed with this piece is the sense of ‘looking back’ and so, ‘returning’ to childhood. It is a skilful and considered poem that evokes the past (Latin!), tradition (the service) without being melancholy. I admire the stillness and the final dare. Bravo!

Wishing you all a magical Christmas!

Once again, many thanks to everyone who got involved. And much love to Ingrid from Experiments In Fiction for her extraordinary effort this year!

Much love from Reeves Towers!

Peace! And, indeed, peas!

See you all in the next year! Keep on keeping on! xoxoxo

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