Poetry for Peace

The Poetry for Peace project is aimed at building bridges between English and Arabic-speaking communities. Generously supported by Arts Council England, Oxford University Museums and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the project involved poets Adnan al-Sayegh and Jenny Lewis working with over sixty 11-17 year olds from four Oxford schools on themes of heritage and peace.

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The Ashmolean Museum. Image: Simon Clayson

The sessions started with tours of the Ancient Near East Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum led by curator Paul Collins, who spoke about Mesopotamian culture and asked the young people to pick an artefact they felt particularly drawn to.

This was followed by creative writing sessions in English and Arabic by Adnan and Jenny, seeing how structure, metaphor and imagery could transform ideas and reportage into poetry. The children were then invited to submit poems to the Poetry for Peace competition, judged by Adnan and Jenny, with the overall winner selected by Poetry Society Director, Judith Palmer.

There were five first prize-winners – Ibrahim Karsani (Oxford Spires Academy), Lily Altohamy (Sudanese Saturday School), Shakira Morar and Tamsin Rodgers (Headington School) and Simon Rood (Cherwell School). The overall winner was Shakira Morar, whose poem will be made into a film poem by The Poetry Society. You can read Shakira’s poem, ‘The Cracked Jug’, below:

The Cracked Jug
by Shakira Morar

The girl dips her jug into the river,
Whoosh goes the water.
Sweet thoughts are her friends.

She lifts the jug and embraces it,
As a mother with her baby would.
The drops are her lifeline.

Carrying the jug, she takes many steps
To find herself in her home.
The four clay walls are her shield.

She pours the water for her brothers,
Gripping the handle tightly.
Those drops are their lifeline.

Her mother lifts the jug
To set on the shelf, next to the stove.
Her mother preserves their lifeline.

Her father returns from work,
Concern pulling him, from the present.
Her father reveals her reality.

Her earth shakes with terror,
The jug topples to the ground.
The crack foreshadows her fate.

Clay shards cut her face.
The girl pulls herself from the rubble.
Stinging thoughts are her enemies.

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Shakira Morar, 17, with project organisers Jenny Lewis and Adnan Al-Sayegh

We are also delighted to share Sama Elamin’s acrostic poem, ‘Peace’. Sama was the youngest competition entrant, and her poem was a runner-up:

Peace
by Sama Elamin

Place where there is no war and friendship that never ends
Everyone is happy and smiling
All of the enemies become friends
Coming together and not fighting
Equal to each other, no differences.

Judge Judith Palmer said “Choosing an overall winner was almost impossible because the young writers employed very different approaches. But in the end I selected as our winner an open, spacious and subtle poem that proved incredibly memorable. It employs an arresting central image that places the object at its very centre, vividly imagining the lives it touches. It met the brief brilliantly and will translate into a fine film poem.”

A bi-lingual anthology of the winning and commended poems, Poetry for Peace 2016, will be published by the FCO and launched on 21 March, 2017 (World Poetry Day) along with Shakira Morar’s film poem, ‘The Cracked Jug’.

One thought on “Poetry for Peace

  1. A really memorable and moving event. thank you to everyone involved but above all the wonderful young people who expressed their ideas so eloquently.

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