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This article was published in December 2014. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Festive poetry contest: the results

17 Dec 2014

This year saw Epilepsy Today launch its very first festive poetry contest – Outside the lines. The winners are now decided – and are presented here for your festive pleasure!

The holiday season is a wonderful time for poetry – conjuring the festive atmosphere in rhymes and verse!

We receive lots of wonderfully creative entries to the Outside the lines poetry contest, which closed on the 1 December. The entries were then shortlisted by six in-house judges before the shortlist was forwarded to our special guest judges.

The first of these was Gordon Hutchins, a seasoned poet who recently released a collection of poems called The vanished hour, with proceeds donated to Epilepsy Action. The second was William Fiennes, an award-winning author and a Vice President of the organisation.

The contest was split across two categories: 14 and over, and 13 and under. In each category our guest judges chose a winner and a runner-up. From those, one overall winner was selected by chief judge, William Fiennes.

This winning entry was read on Monday night at the Epilepsy Action Christmas Carol Concert by William himself!

Without further ado, here are the winning poems of the Outside the lines festive poetry contest 2014.

13 and under category runner-up: Anastasia

Grief-stricken woman[Untitled]

As I sit, and stare at the unnerving sight,
I don’t know what to do,
As your fists clench and you start to bite,
I remember you’ll soon come to.

As I gently soothe and caress your hair,
And cushion your small, sweet head,
I know even I couldn’t possibly bear,
If you, my sweet darling, were dead.

But soon I realise, as the minutes slip by,
And I catch sight of the protruding bone
I realise soon, that I cannot deny,
You are dead and I’m left all alone.

As I sit there and hold you, I hold you so tight
I know your memory will live on,
And I realise that you made my life bright,
And that you were the only one.

I wish I had done so many things differently,
And been kinder and more patient too.
All those times when I had been angry,
I wish that I could now undo.

So now I know that I will try more to help,
And to treat people with more grace.
And I know that now I will try to donate,
And to make the world a better place.

Gordon says: “Technically assured, and powerfully expressed. The first four stanzas are strong, where the emotion is specific and personal. In the last two, the sentiment is more conventionally expressed.”

William says: “Anastasia, it's brave to write a poem about such difficult experiences, and to write so honestly and generously. You convey so much about the relationship with a loved-one who is suffering from something we may not fully understand. I’m full of admiration."

Anastasia will receive a copy of Poetry in the making by Ted Hughes and a copy of Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith.

13 and under category winner: Yiannis

Shattered windscreenGiving Is Better than receiving

I sit here and watch your body,
lying still and serene and
I am forced to consider what happened.
glowing amber headlamps flash through my mind
illuminating the dark and eerie underpass.
Your face is constricted with worry and fear
as a brilliant bright burning flash suddenly rips through the tunnel.

Your body goes rigid and fear chokes at my throat.
The smell of pure desperation drifts toward my nose
and I stifle a cry.
Another memory clouds my mind.
I remember You and I were walking together.
A single man is coming towards
us talking about things I did not then understand.
Giving. Epilepsy. Love. 

A small charity box was produced and
I recall you giving me a couple of pounds to put in.
Then, I did not understand the significance of this but now,
Now I can almost imagine the money that came from your wallet
flowing into your blood and body and saving you.
A doctor walks over to me and tells me that everything will be OK.
And I believe him with all my heart.
As always, giving is better than receiving.

Gordon says: “A remarkably mature expression of a range of emotions, and a probing examination of the relationship between rational thought and compelling emotion.  Technically, extremely competent. The rhythm strays a little at times. Nevertheless, extremely accomplished.”

William says: “Yiannis, this is an outstanding, deeply moving poem. It gives a sense of the powerlessness we can feel when we’re close to someone with epilepsy. I love the way the poem moves from particular experience to a broader message about love and generosity. It’s a really powerful and emotional piece of writing."

Yiannis will receive an inscribed pen, a copy of A Laureate’s Choice: 101 poems for children and a copy of Wreck This Journal by Keri smith.

14 and over category runner-up: Dawn


Night time brings a silence
Eerie echoes start
To revive a sense of loneliness
That dwells within my heart.

Cold and aching tingles
Creep along my arm,
Tired, I start to tremble
Aware I must stay calm.

Alarming thoughts are flowing
An aura reappears.
I gather my thoughts to overcome
A haunting sense of fear.

Conscious of how sinister
These illusions really seem,
An overpowering sense of imagery
Creates abnormal dreams.

Strange feelings of uneasiness,
Unsettled thoughts now flow.
In prayer I ask for comfort –
It’s the only way I know.

Expressive words evade me
No longer can I speak.
Lord give me strength to carry on
More faith in you I seek.

Touch me with your healing hand
Please take away the pain.
I believe you’re going to help me
Live a healthy life again.

Gordon says: “Technically very assured, with good rhythm and rhyming. The first few stanzas are very atmospheric, creating a mood of expectancy. In the concluding stanzas, I feel the strong faith seems to come, not from within, but from outside.”

William says: “Dawn’s poem has a classical form, rhyming like a hymn or carol, and it conveys very movingly the unease and apprehension of living in the expectation of seizures."

Dawn will receive signed copies of Gordon’s poetry collection, The vanished hour and William’s novel The music room. She will also receive a book of photographs taken by Gordon’s son, Craig before his death.

14 and over/overall winner: Kate

Christmas bauble[Untitled]

Christmas Eve and the home creaks in its sleep.
A lichened branch, hung with memories, forms tracery against the window.
For unto us ‘a child was born’, and 22 ornaments tell your story:
A sparkling star blinks in the moonlight through the glass:
Beside a snowman, knitted for inquisitive fingers.
A miniature book with a Christmas story
And a plastic house, brightly coloured and unbreakable.
Toy figures of kings, reindeer, camels and angels,
And a felt London bus from a weekend away.
Two glass icicles from your chandelier period, later labelled by you
As ‘minging ornament number 1’ and ‘minging ornament number 2’.
Subtle baubles, frosted and textured, stored in tissue,
In whites and blues, reds and black velvet,
And from your very last Christmas,
A handmade globe from Palestine for peace and hope.

‘Silent Night, Holy Night.’
22 ornaments emit thin vapour trails of memories which wisp through the house,
Enter our minds and wrap our sleeping thoughts:
Homemade gifts in rustling paper,
Stockinged satsumas and chocolate with your sister in the morning dark,
Later, waiting impatiently for you to wake in your own time, gently keeping seizures at bay.
Family parties and music and games,
Windblown, surf-splattered walks in the rain.

‘Ring out the bells for Christmas morning’ and let ‘the Herald Angels sing’
For you were here.
Joyful, singing, loved and loving,
Perfectly imperfect.
Our grief is great, but Love is greater, and with it we are gifted the courage to continue,
Travelling with others, reaching out, hands held, with
The rhythm of your music ever-present in the beating of our hearts.

Gordon says: “Technically very assured, Kate captures the presence and soul of her daughter through the selection and presentation of objects, moments, memories and music. The emotion is conveyed powerfully through association and imagery rather than directly.  It is intensely moving and beautifully caught in the last line.”

William says: “This is a deeply moving poem that borrows the imagery of the Christmas season and transforms it into a eulogy, a song of loss and remembrance. For all its sadness, it feels on the side of life. It's really beautiful and striking."

Kate will receive signed copies of Gordon’s poetry collection, The vanished hour and William’s novel The music room. She will also receive a book of photographs taken by Gordon’s son, Craig before his death.

As our overall winner, Kate will also get an inscribed pen and a beautiful leather-bound pocket book. Her beautiful poem was also read by William Fiennes at the Epilepsy Action Leeds Christmas Carol Concert.

May we wish a merry Christmas and a huge well-done to all our very talented entrants. Everyone who entered Outside the lines will receive a certificate. You can read all poetry entries in Epilepsy Action’s My stories section.

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