Winners of St Albans poetry competition have something to smile about

Augustine Cox, Noor Guttadauro and Darcey Jones, winners of the Grove House Smile poetry competition

Augustine Cox, Noor Guttadauro and Darcey Jones, winners of the Grove House Smile poetry competition - Credit: Archant

The winner of an exciting local poetry competition definitely has something to smile about – a family ticket to Warner Bros Studios’ Harry Potter tour.

St Albans Literary Festival teamed up with Grove House, the Herts Advertiser and Walker Books to invite the district’s schools and young people to celebrate the smile through verse in a poem of no more than 40 lines.

The winner of the under 7 category was six-year-old Darcey Jones, six, who is in Year 2 at SS Alban and Stephen Infant School and she lives in the Oakwood area of St Albans

The entries were judged by Terry Jones, chair of Ver Poets, who said: “Many poems in this age group were wonderful listings of the things that make the writer smile. What marked this poem out was a clear progression of thought about the things that do or do not make you smile. The exceptional element in this poem is the way that the idea of running a mile parallels (as well as rhyming with) the smile. A lovely twist at the end too. I like the way that the smile is seen not just as an expression of pleasure but a part of a friendship.”

Winning the 8-11 category was Augustine Cox, 10, from Harpenden, who attends St Dominic Catholic Primary School in Harpenden.

Terry said: “There were many excellent poems in this category. There was a clear sense of the poets linking with the contemporary world and dealing with difficult problems. These included illness and learning difficulties. The stand-out entry focussed on musicians playing in public. There are two different smiles in the poem: a smile of encouragement and a smile of relief and these contrasting smiles form the poem’s backbone.

“The poet creates simply and economically a dramatic situation at the start of the concert. She conjures up an entire orchestra in two simple phrases: ‘Bows held aloft; lips at the mouthpiece’ This is very skilled writing. Again a twist and flourish at the end of the poem (and the music).”

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Finally, the winner in the 11-plus category was Noor Guttadauro, 13, who is in Year 9 at Samuel Ryder Academy and lives in St Albans.

Terry said: “The smile in this deeply felt poem is a smile through the tears. It is a poem that talks about a hope that can triumph over the negativity in life. In its repeated refrain it is reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ which is also about triumphing over adversity. The poem uses four-line stanzas each consisting of rhyming couplets and this gives the poem a formal strength and authority.”

The overall winning poem was The Smile by Augustine Cox, who receives the Warner Bros family ticket.

Terry said: “In a few simple words and brilliant phrases she puts us side by side with the musicians. Hope ran it very close but The Smile does what great poems do. They do not tell you what to think but put you into a real situation and allow the reader to see and experience and feel. I was so anxious for those musicians with their eyes ‘darting across the music’.”

Grove House community fundraising manager Nicola Mackinnon added: “It has been really inspiring to read all the poems that have been sent in for this competition and I would like to thank everyone who entered. A lot of what we do at Grove House involves smiling and the winners really captured this.”

Smiling by Darcey Jones

When things make you happy you always have a smile

Even when you’re running a mile you have a smile

When you help a friend you make them smile

And your friend may then be be happy to run a mile with you

But when you are unkind to your friend they won’t have a smile

And they maybe won’t then run a mile

So say sorry and smile

And your friend will have a smile

And may run a mile.....with you

The Smile by Augustine Cox

We walk on to the stage in single file.

We take up our positions.

Bows held aloft; lips at the mouthpiece.

The conductor turns around and

gives us a smile;

a smile of encouragement to

keep us all going.

Four beats in and we all start playing;

focused, concentrating, eyes

darting across the music.

Finally we finish, we stand

to face the audience,

and we smile

with relief.

Hope by Noor Guttadauro

What is that thing that helps you in the darkest of nights?

That makes you stay and fight instead of take flight?

The thing that helps you walk the right path and never look back?

That makes you stop when you start to run and unpack?

It is the thing that makes you stop and face your fears,

That make you smile through the tears,

The thing that helps you come to life when you start to seem dead,

It is the thing that makes you hang on, even if your hanging from a thread.

When all demons surround you,

It shall be your angel, your saviour, your strength and help you from cracking in two,

It shall mend your heart when it shatters,

Because your life, in this world, matters.

When you are blinded by grief,

All it needs is your belief,

It is the thing that helps you see clearer,

It helps you take one more look and smile at the reflection in the mirror.

It is the thing that makes us stand and fight,

It is the thing that brightens the darkness with light,

It is the thing that makes us fight through the pain,

The thing that makes us smile, even when it starts to rain.

And when all seems lost, it is the thing that makes us rise,

The one thing that makes us stronger and wipe the tears from our eyes,

It makes us swim harder when we start to drown and fight to cope,

And when you’re engulfed and blinded by pain, do not fear, for this thing shall help, for it is called Hope.