In late 2020, a flurry of electrifying poems swept in to be judged for Pearson’s poetry competition on the subject of ‘Belonging’. Inspired by Imtiaz Dharker’s whirlwind exploration of confused identity, In Wales, Wanting To Be Italian (PDF, 211KB), and influenced by pieces from Pearson’s GCSE collection Belonging, British students from Years 9, 10 and 11 submitted a broad selection of brilliant verse.
Today we hear directly from competition winners Bismark Adomako Fosu, whose poem Nowhere scooped the top prize, and Eden-Miah Ross, who came third nationally with Among The Rose Ones. Both are GCSE students at Greig City Academy, a secondary school in Haringey, North London.
All three winning submissions, including Belonging by second-prize-winner Andrew Kriek, are available now to read online.
Bismark Adomako Fosu
Winner of the 2020 Pearson ‘Belonging’ Poetry Competition
On representation, emotions and what inspired his work
"I come from a family that never stays
Moving from place to place
Never seeming to take a break"
Lines from Nowhere, B.A.F., 2020
‘I entered this competition because of the theme, “belonging”,’ Bismark says. ‘I felt like I related to this topic as I sometimes find it hard to understand who I am as a person, and what I want to be represented as.’
He continues: ‘For me, poetry is like music – they both allow me to pour out the emotions I’m feeling in a lyrical way, or in a writing form. When creating Nowhere, I was inspired by the poem I Come From by Dean Atta. [“I come from jet fuel and fresh coconut water / I come from crossing oceans to find myself / I come from deep issues and shallow solutions”.]
‘Another poem that touched me deeply was We Refugees by Benjamin Zephaniah, which is in the Pearson Belonging anthology. [“I come from an ancient place / All my family were born there / And I would like to go there / But I really want to live.”] The author talks about the injustice that many people are facing even today. He creates themes of abandonment and prejudice by expressing how, where he comes from, people are tortured, oppressed, and driven out of their homes with no hope of coming back to them.
‘Even though I am not living in an area where I am oppressed or tortured, I can understand how it feels to see someone die who you love deeply, or to see them tortured or discriminated against for the colour of their skin or for not coming from the same background as everyone else.
‘I was really surprised to win this competition for my own poem. I was very thankful to be picked.’
Third place in the 2020 Pearson ‘Belonging’ Poetry Competition
On appearances, creativity and breaking the rules
"If I were a rose
Maybe you’d pick me
But I know that you don’t have a clue
How much I would give to live like the rose girls do"
Lines from Among The Rose Ones, E-M.R., 2020
‘It takes a lot of thought to come up with a successful poem,’ says Eden, ‘so I usually prefer reading them over writing them – but I enjoyed the process of writing this. I love that, with poetry, there is no right or wrong. You can be completely unorthodox and unconventional.’
She explains: ‘To an extent, in poetry there aren’t really any rules. Similar to story writing, you can mess around with structure to help communicate your ideas, feelings and message. Furthermore, I feel like, through poetry, you learn the extreme significance of words. A poem can be five lines long and communicate a message worth a thousand words.
‘The two very different flowers in my poem Among The Rose Ones represent two types of people in society. “Rose Ones” refer to those with undeniable “beauty”. The “Yellow Ones” – ultimately revealed to be sunflowers – represent those who long to be like the roses; the centres of attention who receive special treatment. I wanted to think of something creative and outside-the-box to portray the idea that people are treated in society based on appearance, and so I used flowers. My poem was simply inspired by the harsh reality of the world.’
When asked how she felt to be selected as a winner, Eden responded, ‘Honestly, I was very surprised. I thought my poem wasn’t good so I was quite pleased with myself! I’m really glad that my class was encouraged to take part.’