We're thrilled to announce the winners of the Young Norfolk Writing Competition, as well as the first Young Norfolk Laureate.

Joe Webb from City of Norwich Sixth Form was announced as the first Young Norfolk Laureate for the creative potential shown in his poem, Peripheral Vision. He will undertake an ambassadorial role for young writers in Norwich – England’s first UNESCO City of Literature – and across the region. 

Read the winning entries by clicking on the links below:


Joe Webb, City of Norwich Sixth Form (Young Norfolk Laureate)

'peripheral vision'

self-reflecting like my broken mirror –
another numb young'un wishing the end was nearer
don't fit n here.
in fact the painful opposite -
i'd love to have forgotten but i'm afraid there's no stopping it,

the hurt.
greedy guilt's come for another visit,
hungry kissing, something's missing
my spirit flickering
like my fitting in.
identify anonymous.
powerful people don't need hearts,
it looks like they've forgotten us.

damp sentiments.
nothing meaningful between us
only emptiness,
not believable or deeper than
blank prejudice.
we speak in echoes,
sleep better than ever now that i've let go
cardboard people from the get-go

so repulsively laddy it makes my jaw tighten up -
my veins scream, stricken by pain
and crying for blood,
i look at you and i search for the human inside,
but all i see are pills and decks -
i want to know what it's like
to live a life of moral bankruptcy,
be a twat without reluctancy.
i want you to open up to me.
i've had enough 'fuck you your love's too much for me'
she touches me, but not with love
love's not enough you see


Amelia Platt, Litcham School

'The Suffocating Rainforest'

Chichen Itza, 2016

A cacophony of chainsaws broke through the rainforest. Startled, a group of macaws flew up blotting out the sun. An unearthly silence stalked into the forest. The sickening thuds of falling trees echoed around.

Tears ran hot and sticky down my face. I ran, my feet barely touching the leafy floor. Suffocated by the metallic, harsh sounds that emitted from every corner of the rainforest. My rainforest. A waterfall of past memories cascaded through my mind. 

1570…

The warriors with pale faces poured out of the trees that day, swarming like locusts around our beautiful home. Shining weapons sliced in a frenzy. I watched with horror as my family and friends fell slaughtered, fear frozen on their faces. The warriors seemed to delight in the savagery they bought. On that day, our sacred white temple ran with blood. The cool rainforest offered refuge to me, protecting me with its dark green leaves. Many hours later, after I had sobbed relentlessly, the elders of the tribe found me. Their faces, lined with years, filled me with hope. I closed my eyes and let the darkness comfort me.

The stuffy smell invaded my nose, forcing me to wake from the haven of sleep. Choking racked my body as smoke filled my mouth. Elders sat hunched around the fire. The light danced on their faces, illuminating their distraught expressions. They stood crowding me. In spite of their diminutive, frail and hunched bodies, I felt threatened.  One of them reached out and stroked my face with a hand like a wrinkled prune. He spoke in a wavering voice that dripped with wisdom. It commanded respect.

“Anjaniame, you whose name means life, have been chosen by our gods to live a life of honour.” His eyes bored into mine. “Our tribe is almost destroyed by men with pale faces with sorcery in their blood. They have taken the forest. We cannot forsake our vow to protect the rainforest and its people. For years, we have toiled to find the potion of life. The one that grants immortality!”

The rest of the elders whispered feverously, their eyes gleaming madly. In that moment I saw all the demons of mankind dance around the fireplace: greed, jealously, hatred and temptation. I shivered, my body convulsing with an unknown force.

“This potion was created too late to save many. We are too old,” the elder proclaimed with a hint of wistfulness. Again, I witnessed that flickering reluctance to give up the power of this mysterious elixir. “However in you, life runs strong in your blood. You have fire in your soul.” His voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. “Anjaniame you will drink this potion of eternal life. It will send you to a land of sleep from which you will be called to protect the rainforest.”

A silent scream emitted from my mouth. Shivers stalked along my spine. The idea of being locked in sleep was terrifying. Trapped in a wasteland. Yes, it was an honour but what if I didn’t wake? What if I lay comatose, a breathing corpse.

The elders surrounded me, arms forming a prison wall. Their wizened arms seemed filled with strength as they clamped me to the ground.

“It is a great honour to be chosen. Your family would be so proud. All that is now left to do is for you to grant the gods a sacrifice that will gain their favour.”

The elders’ foreheads were drenched in perspiration. From the depths of the cave, a rope was brought forward. In the light of fire, the thorns attached to it gleamed wickedly. With my mouth wrenched open, I gagged as the rope was shoved in. My hand trembled as I drew the rope across my tongue. It felt like my tongue was on fire. Sharp pricks of pain attacked my body. I leant against the wall for support. At the bottom of my feet lay a white bowl of bone. Blood now filled it. The deep red stood out strongly against the pale white of my bowl.

Dense fog was forming in the cave. The elders gathered round the fire, their chanting voices creating a weird orchestra. Their bodies swayed from side to side as if controlled by an unseen force. Deep animal-like moans filled the cavern. Encircling me like predators, eyes glazed as if they were seeing something faraway. One of the elder’s hands was closed tightly round something. Slowly they unfurled like the petals of a flower opening to catch the sun. Nestled in his lined palm was a stone vial.

Merging, the elders’ voices formed a harsh and mechanical sound, “Drink!”

My hands moved of their own accord; I was a puppet whose strings were being mercilessly pulled. I raised the vial to my cold lips and drank. The loathsome liquid burned in my mouth like molten rock. I swallowed. It seemed to suffocate me from the inside, fighting every breath that I laboured to breath. The rainforest flashed through my eyes, so vivid I felt like I was there. I fought against an invisible foe in an attempt to keep my eyes open, but my eyelids fell like shutters. Darkness crept in. Screaming cries of macaws echoed in my head. Then nothing!

The next 446 years passed in a land of grey. My sleep was not one of content, rather a restless one. Demons tortured me whilst I lay in my torpor and I saw my family and tribe slaughtered often. No vivid colours to delight in, nor harmonious sounds to listen too. My ears and eyes grew hungry and often wandered in search of a feast.

One day I woke to find the sun’s inviting rays warming my pale cheek. Head spinning as I faced the kaleidoscope of colours before me.

Happiness invaded my body. 

Chichen Itza, 2016

Then the trees started screaming as metal monsters invaded. Yellow beasts stormed through the forest. Their metal hearts were lusting after destruction. Hands sweaty, I faced them. Whispers whipped through the humid air.

“Do not betray the sacred trust,” said one caressing my ear.

“The Gods have willed it,” a silky voice uttered.

“The tribe wills it,” a multitude of voices proclaimed.

Slowly I sunk to the ground.  Clasping my hands to my ears, willing them to block out the voices that had shaped me, loved me and yet controlled me for the whole of my life. Part of me wanted to run. To forsake the forest that had suffocated me and turned me into a breathing corpse. Greed had stolen my childhood. The pale faced warriors would not have pillaged, if it had not been for our hoarding. We had valued gold too much. I never saw the danger of gold, how it entices the foolish and removes their soul until the knell of death sounded.

Standing, my legs wobbled, as if they were unwilling to serve me. Cursing them, I walked out of the forest. Forsaking the elders would allow me to keep my newfound freedom.

A sharp pain rippled through my foot. Submerged between lush green leaves lay a grey stone. Crudely cut into the stone were the words; A caballo dado, no se le ve el colmillo (don't complain about something given as a gift). A laugh escaped my mouth. It burst into the forest, startling birds. Brightly it sung its message of joy combating the metallic chainsaws.

The yellow monsters continued their onslaught. I stood before them, raising my dark hands to the gentle blue skies. I felt power rise up through my body. Fanning the flames that licked my heart. Trees extended their branches like tentacles, snaring the pale faced men with chainsaws. Darkness rolled across the sky vanquishing the blue. Rain lashed the yellow machines. A booming noise announced the arrival of thunder.

Hysterical screams escaped the petrified men as they stared up at the rainforest that had come to life. Eyes widened, as to my left, translucent figures stood beside me. Their faces twisted in anger and their eyes flamed as they surveyed the men before then. A gust of wind blew some leaves through the forest. Hands that gripped chainsaws turned pale, as the leaves morphed into a monstrous apparition. Footsteps pounded as the men fled, weapons discarded.

Turning my head, I saw the shadowy figures bow then vanish. I looked proudly at my hands, amazed that I could command such power. A rustle of leaves startled me. Vines rushed towards me, gently stroking my hair. An urge to sleep overwhelmed me. My heart swelled with love. It stole my breath away. Eyelids falling, I turned to my rainforest. Sleep claimed me. I vanished amongst the tall trees. I, the protector of the forest, slept with a smile.


Anoushka Apelian, City Academy

'I can’t write ♥ poems anymore'

The things we left unwritten …
String unravels,
And snaps where it was moth-eaten.

Ink spills from her pen,
Pooling on the page.
Staining the sky.
Staining your spotless skin.

It drips off the desk in droplets,
Flowing down through the floorboards,
Seeping into the cracks in the pipes and faucets,
And slipping along the electric cords,
Below.

Memories flooded in ink,
Black with purple undertones.

We shared dreams of white rabbits,
Falling in a hazy blur,
Through clouds of acid,
Then, melting like fresh spring snow.

I’m left with a broken verse,
And only seconds of disjointed memory,
Filled with white-noise-thoughts.

The things we left unwritten …
String unravels,
And snaps where it was moth-eaten.


Barez Suliman, Open Academy

'End of the World'

I observe the eradicating creatures,
Their cold - hearted, spine - tingling snarls are my music,
They approach me alarmingly,
My heart is a frantic alarm clock singing in my ribcage like a canary.

Figures as sinister and bombarding as a perplexing jungle,
A million piercing glares depositing a menacing focus beneath clumped bold brows
Their heinous smirks unveiling hatred,
Showing such jagged, blood-thirsty, razor sets of nashers.

How do I feel?
I am petrified as my intestines clench like an endless string of sausages,
I drown with apprehension,  
Isolation & intimidation assails me and the screeching, terrified townsmen.

The city is as hypnotizing as an illusion,
Obliterated skyscrapers crumble, beginning to topple like dominoes,
I see death, complete mutilation,
My surroundings fade wickedly yet rhythmically.

I taste the raw icy wind,
Inhale the ponderous, shadowing smoke,
Perceive the demoralized cries of the folk,
And experience the hollow emotions with capability to kill

What are these beasts?
What do they want?
Is my blood their fuel for victory?
Or simply a desire?

They are soldiers… I am a Jew.


Ellen Flower, Taverham Sixth Form

'On the uncountable nature of things'

I sit under the tree and pick
at the bark.
It oozes gold,
the sweet product
of its labours.
Delicate leaves
in screaming
orange
fall to join
their many ancestors.
The tree has been
tattooed with
a drunken heart
a name
a curse
by Andy and
some anonymous
others.

Mushrooms,
like miniature tables
or defiant fists
live and have lived here,
uniquely.
This is their
birthplace and their
graveyard –
unmarked.
They lay and are
recycled,
each with a tale
that can only be
assumed.

The fleeting
melodies of songbirds
are in a foreign
tongue.
They were dreamt here,
in nests woven in
careful patterns.
Their cries are
lost.

This tree’s story,
which is sadly being
missed,
is playing out to the
exacting,
but unpredictable,
nature
of time. 


Anna Wasse, Norwich High School for Girls

'De Profundis…Phoenix Resurgit'[1]

The pages are delicate petals from a long-ago pressed flower, now etiolated, wilting, leeched of any bygone vitality and vibrancy. They flutter in my fingers as the wings of a trapped moth would, the corners curling, the once crisp ink lacklustre, the letters smeared in places by tracks of fallen tears. The words, however, they are as fervent and tormented as the man who wrote them, and read by everyone but the one to whom they were addressed – me.

Any good piece of art deserves to be acknowledged, any great piece of art demands to be acknowledged. To ignore such a creation should be considered a crime, and if so, I am guilty. But as my pen wavers over another wad of pages, these ones white and unblemished, I shall be guilty no longer.

---

Dear Oscar,

You once wrote that suffering is one, very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons.[2] It is but a single, immobile twilight.

I do not agree. Suffering is not a moment, for moments are stagnant, sequential chapters in one’s life. No, suffering is a wretched, infinite circle. There is no immobility. It revolves as surely as the treadmill in which you once paced. Suffering is never truly escapable, for once it has been experienced it cannot be forgotten.

I have no doubt that you will, with whatever little strength that remains, scoff bitterly at my words. For how could I – a flâneur[3] who still resides in comfort amid the cloying constraints of the same fickle society that now shuns you – have any concept of the true scope of suffering?

Well, allow me to belatedly assure you, whatever sorrow you felt that had been doubled by my silence was shared most acutely with me.[4] I must forever carry on my shoulders a single, ineluctable truth – I have ruined a man. Please believe me when I write, to bear the weight of guilt is a punishment infinitely more painful than picking oakum. It is suffocating; a merciless concoction of remorse, shame and self-condemnation so intense it smothers any sense of self-worth. Guilt is, like suffering, a master of entrapment. 

You are the phantom of my past that haunts my present. I am chained to De Profundis; it defines me. I am known to all the world as the man who inspired such a despairing lament, and I have, through your words, achieved absolute humility.[5]

And so I may not have physically resided in that black, hiemal cell as you did; but it remains a metaphor for an all-too-familiar state of mind. The day may have been blue and gold,[6] but through the thickly muffled glass of a tiny mocking window you could not see it, and through the miasma of guilt, neither could I. Is it not ironic, don’t you think, that the cell I indirectly placed you in is the material manifestation of my own psychological prison?

Perhaps, when this reply reaches you it will be discarded amongst the past. Nonetheless, you of all people will know that the importance of being earnest is irrefutable, and therefore I write this letter as much for your sake as for mine[7] – to forgive, to forget and to accept. True freedom will forever elude me, but I cannot help but crave it – intangible as it may seem. I have, during my musings, concluded that like Christ forgave men to free himself of his mortal body, I must also forgive to free myself. Or perhaps, as preached in Buddhism, I must seek freedom through the removal of attachment. Either way, I sincerely hope the sending of this letter will provide some level of freedom for me, just as the receiving of it will do so for you.

I am no longer afraid of the past.[8]

Your affectionate friend,

Bosie

---

[1] Translation: ‘From the depths…the phoenix rises’
De Profundis is a letter of 50,000 words, written by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment to his former lover – Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”) – who is arguably the cause of Wilde’s sentence. Douglas denied ever reading or replying to the letter. The following is my own interpretation of what Douglas may have written had he ever replied.

[2] Quote from the opening sentence of De Profundis – “Suffering is one very long moment.  We cannot divide it by seasons.”

[3] Wilde uses the term to describe himself before his imprisonment – “I amused myself with being a flâneur, a dandy, a man of fashion.”

[4] Wilde wrote in his letter, referring to Bosey - “And by your silence…The sorrow you should have shared you have doubled.”

[5] These words echo a line in De Profundis - “There is only one thing for me now, absolute humility, just as there is only one thing for you, absolute humility also. You had better come down into the dust and learn it beside me.

[6] When describing conditions within the cell Wilde wrote - “Outside, the day may be blue and gold…” 

[7] Wilde also said that he was writing De Profundis for the exact same reason – “I have determined to write to you myself, as much for your sake as for mine.”

[8] Wilde’s final words to Bosey in the letter were words of advice – “Do not be afraid of the past.”

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