Respect the Mic Student Poetry Competition – Results

We’re delighted to announce the results of the EMC Respect the Mic Competition

The competition

In March this year poets Peter Kahn, Noelle Aiisa Berry and Asia Calcagno joined us on Zoom from Chicagoland to run a Respect the Mic workshop and open mic in March for teachers and three of their students. Following the event, students were invited to complete the poem they had begun during the workshop and enter it into the EMC Respect the Mic competition, poems to be judged by Peter, Noelle and Asia.

Many thanks to all the students (and their teachers), who took the time to enter. We were delighted by your poems.

The results

Peter, Noelle and Asia have now made their choice of Champion, first runner-up and second runner up.

  • Champion: Zoha Shah, The Latymer School for 'child of cigars and smoke'
  • First runner-up: Fay Bertram, Berlin Bilingual School for 'My Mother and Her Caring Hands'
  • Second runner-up: Jedediah Sandeman-Shakespeare, Saffron Walden County High School for 'Security Question to Cauterize My Sanity'

Congratulations to Zoha, Fay and Jedediah.


Zoha Shah: child of cigars and smoke

My father asked my mother,
If she wanted to keep her name,
She said yes,

A loveless marriage,
Soon bought an empty house,
Soon bought generic Swedish furniture,
Wooden tables,
With the fruits of a woman’s labour,
Consumed quickly,
Little to no talk,

How bittersweet a full, silent table can be,

A loveless marriage,
Needed desperate saving,
Soon birthed a child,
Maybe new life,
Would bring a little light into this,
Dark shell of a home,
And when that didn’t work,
The child was named after light,

But how could a tiny spark stay alight,
In a house where it was always just cold enough to snow?
The blisters of snowflakes never provided the relief of knowing Winter was here,

My mother never wore her hair up,
Always down,
The sign of an unmarried woman,
I don’t think she ever thought herself a wife,
Simply a mother,
To the man she married,
And a daughter she never wanted,

My father never thought himself a husband,
Nor a father,
His home was simply the place he lived,
His family simply the people he lived with,
His only love was the ashy cloud of tobacco,
So regularly blown in my midst,
I spent my childhood,
Playing in its thick heavy cloud,
Darkening my lungs,
I was birthed in the smoke,
A child of the ash,
A daughter of the cigarette

First runner-up

Fay Bertram: My Mother and Her Caring Hands

It reaps through my head, destroying. Destroying the tiny little neurons, Whizzing about.
I ask myself,
Where am I from, Who am I?
Confusion, about where I was born, and who my mother really is, The woman who roams around my house,
Breaking vases, Breaking hearts. I scream,
“Mother, give me your hand!
The mother who was never really my mother, The mother who did not dare to bother, About me, your lonesome child,
Buried under bridges, Drowning in shallow water.”
But the deafening silence, shouting back breaks a thousand vases.
Vases. Shattering.
My mothers silent words, falling down the drain. Drip.
Drip. Drip.
I try to catch the words, the wordless answers, but the water seeps through my fingers. Slow.
“Who am I?”
I shout into darkness, but there is no answer. No ghost will come to my aid,
Giving me Pandoras Box,
A thing I shall not answer, But I will have to, one day. To find my origin.
So who am I?
Lonesome child of broken bridges and shallow waters, Waiting through leach filled lakes,
Bugs and birds that gnaw at my bone. Until the whiteness shows.
So who am I?
Rosebud son of wounded parents, Who never find a home,
In Berlin apartments,
We want to be free. So who I am,
Is the child of my mother, A broken youngling,
In my mothers caring hands.



Second runner-up

Jedediah Sandeman-Shakespeare: Security Question to Cauterize My Sanity

What is your name?
Jedediah Sandeman-Shakespeare.

Why do you proscrastinate? Unanswered.

Do you believe in a god, deity, or heavenly being? I didn't know this was confession.

How do you fuel your passion?
With the salt of my sweat and the words of my mentors.

What instrument do you play? The Uni-ball I-Fine.

What weapon do you brandish? My writing hand.

Authentication test failed. Good.


Respect the Mic Anthology

Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School is available here.