Listen to 2019 Poetry Winner, Isobel Shirlaw


Last year, Isobel Shirlaw won the poetry category in the Fresher Writing Competition for her touching poem, A Gift of Remembrance.

Poetry judge, Anthony Dunn, praised her work and labelled it a “remarkable, multi-layered and coherent piece” which was both moving and intriguing. 

Isobel has since joined us to record her winning poem and to share the inspiration behind it.


A Gift of Remembrance 

You give me a pencil today
From school
Dug up from your satchel
Green as an orchard of poisoned apples
Spotted with stickmen poppies
Behaving like good sports, all
Freewheeling or bouncing a tennis ball
That sort of thing
Off-duty fun and games
Anything to pass the time
Forget the names

And a rubber too
With a poppy on it

I was going to buy a pencil sharpener, you say
Solemn in your school coat
Hooded from the rain
But I thought I’d do something for someone else instead
And buy you a pencil with a proper lead
To write a story with
It was the same money that I had, you see

A story about war
And men who lie dead in poppy fields
And a rubber to rub out the wrongs
The mistakes, you explain – the mistakes of war

Thank you, I say, and with it I here write some words of
war and of peace
Of how we walk
Along shoulders of damp suburban pavements mushy and
yellow with unloved leaves
Of how we talk
Where the wrongs of peacetime and words ill-chosen
May be erased
Like marks of lead
From the past

And with this poppy pencil
This simple gift of remembrance
We may pin down what happened
The truth of this unremarkable afternoon
Like a crown of paper petals fixed in the lapel of a child’s
In order that we may rub it all out
Sharpen the point
Start again

Listen to A Gift of Remembrance


Interview with Isobel


Listen to more poetry from Isobel
The Laying on of Hands

We hope you enjoy listening to Isobel’s poem and we wish her the very best of luck in her future endeavours!