National Poetry Day yesterday was marked with the publication of the two winning Poems to Post! on postcards. Gillian Macdonald reports
At a time when the Higher English exam is being criticised for undervaluing creative writing, it is particularly pleasing that this year's Poems to Post! competition run by the Scottish Book Trust for National Poetry Day yesterday inspired a groundswell of entries from secondary students.
There is clearly a mass of talent out there, whether the Scottish Qualifications Authority requires to see it or not. More than 600 poems were submitted by primary and secondary pupils: from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Highland, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and the Scottish Borders, they poured in. It was the secondary writers who came away with the top awards in this year's contest, which is sponsored by the Royal Mail and supported by The TES Scotland.
The theme for 2003 was "transformation" and it prompted a wide range of interpretations; caterpillars turning into butterflies, day into night, water into ice. It was The Weather - one of the more popular topics - that clinched the top prize for 12-year-old Rick Smith of Kelso High, in the Borders.
Rick's poem is full of energy and has a lot of pace, say the judges. It has a tremendous start and is fun. It shows good use of literary devices - similes and personification - and is a concrete poem in the shape of a "wee tornado". It is also a good poem for reading aloud, playing with the Scots language.
"We all talk about the weather all the time, but he has managed to do something with it," they say.
A second prize is not normally awarded, but the judges made an exception this year for 14-year-old Stefan Ebmeier of James Gillespie's High in Edinburgh.
His poem, called Transformation, draws readers in immediately. It conveys excellently the idea of the big tough guy who is not so tough underneath, displaying a gentle transformation as it goes on.
"We know this character straight away; it's almost filmic, the way you see him," say the judges. This poem also has a good Scottish feel to it.
Both poems have been printed on 60,000 specially designed postcards and distributed throughout Scotland for National Poetry Day.
Kelso High has also won two days of poetry workshops led by Scottish writer Matthew Fitt. The first of these took place this week.
The runners-up were Anna Wallace, aged 14, of James Gillespie's High for Altered Mind; Ross Fleming, aged 18, from Doon Academy, East Ayshire, for I Wrote a Love Poem; and Callum Cowan, aged 10, of Roseburn Primary, Edinburgh, for Morning Madness. Each of the winners and runners-up receives a pound;25 book token.