Young person with pink hair reading poem with microphone
©

Mirko Lux

5th poetry competition for school pupils with guest judge Kevin Mclean

The British Council and Haus für Poesie are collaborating to host the fifth poetry competition for students in grades 6-12 in Germany.

Congratulations to the winners of our poetry competition for school pupils 2024!

We are delighted to announce the winners of this year's poetry competition for school pupils. 

  • 1st Prize: Poems written in English – Miriam Radlinger, 16, A. B. von Stettensches Institut Augsburg
  • Joint 2nd Prize: Poems written in English – Sarah B, 16, Königin-Katharina-Stift Gymnasium, Stuttgart
  • Joint 2nd Prize: Poems written in English – Erfan, 16, Kaiser-Karl-Schule, Itzehoe
  • 1st Prize: Poems written in German – Lisa Thaler, 13, Gymnasium Markt Indersdorf Petershausen
  • Special mentions: Megan Menezes, 15, Braeside High School, Emilia Eppinger, 18, Max-Plank-Gymnasium Nürtingen and Kayleigh Walter, 15, Berlin Cosmopolitan School

The winning poems can be read below. Their translations will be published on the British Council and Haus für Poesie website in due course. All participants will receive personalised feedback on their poems. Many congratulations to all those who took part, and in particular to our winners!

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Participants can showcase their creative writing skills in English or German while engaging with contemporary English-language poetry. This year's theme is 'Otherness', with a special emphasis on the power of Spoken Word. The judging panel will include award-winning spoken word poet Kevin Mclean, the creative director of I Am Loud Productions and host of Scotland's inaugural spoken word night, 'Loud Poets'.

The task for students is to compose a poem in either English or German that references and responds to Kevin Mclean's work, 'The Game', which can be viewed as a video or read as a text below.

The task

  • Pupils write a poem in English or German that refers to and responds to the work 'The Game' by Kevin Mclean. The Game can be viewed as a video here and downloaded as a pdf below.
  • Poems must be submitted as text and can also be submitted as a video.

Submitted poems should:

  • Be written in English or German
  • Be a response or reaction to Kevin Mclean's poem 'The Game,' reflecting on the theme of 'Otherness'
  • Not exceed 50 lines
Kevin Mclean stands on stage with one hand raised up in the air
The jury: award-winning Spoken Word poet Kevin Mclean

1st prize, Poems written in English: Miriam Radlinger

Nature
the shade of her smile 
slightly changed
as she saw three silhouettes
coming closer
by 

moments ago she had witnessed
that this guileless silence within 
her
slightly had come to strengthen
again
wind blowing
slightly touched her inner rigid
and set it 
into movement. 

the calm of the sea
meant freedom to her
the scent of pine trees
their roots reaching
into the ground. she
had just
started again
to grow. 

Over the
marram grass
those three figures drew
closer. 

the shade of her smile 
slightly changed
her
her eyes losing a part of their 
glowing:
people out here
in this quietness
you
only could catch a moment of
if you are willed to 

they do not understand
they will
make her look 
so weird
so wild
so different 

cause there is that peace
they do not know of
but envy her for

Miriam Radlinger, 16 yrs old, A.B. v. Stettensches Institut Augsburg

1st prize, Poems written in German: Lisa Thaler

Die Gabe, die Belanglosigkeit zu sehen

Was sehen Leute, wenn sie mich auf einer Bank im Park sitzen sehen?
Sehen sie ein freundliches, fröhlich lachendes Mädchen?
Sehen sie ein Mädchen mit verlorenen Träumen und traurig glasigen Augen?
Sehen sie ein Mädchen, welches enthusiastisch mit seiner besten Freundin über ihr nächstes
Treffen plaudert?
Sehen sie ein Mädchen, das ungeduldig und enttäuscht dem Anrufbeantworter lauscht?
Oder sehen sie doch nur, dass ihre Jeans 5 cm zu kurz ist und ihre Haare unordentlich, in Eile in
einem messy bun zusammengebunden sind?
Was sehen meine Mitschüler, wenn sie mich in der Bibliothek lesen sehen?
Sehen sie ein wissbegieriges, schlaues Mädchen?
Sehen sie die Augenringe, die auf viel zu wenig Schlaf hinweisen?
Sehen sie mein Interesse am Lesen und meine Liebe zu Büchern?
Sehen sie mich alleine sitzen und fragen sich, ob ich Freunde habe?
Oder achten sie nur auf die etwas verschmierte Wimperntusche und die mit Kugelschreiber
geschriebenen Worte auf meiner Hand, welche mich an meine Mathehausaufgabe erinnern?
Sehen sie die Freude, die Leidenschaft, das Interesse, das Staunen, das mich morgens aus dem
Bett treibt?
Sehen sie meine Ziele, meine Geschichte, Träume und meine liebsten Momente?
Sehen sie meinen Schmerz, der mich Tag für Tag heimsucht, das Bedauern, die Chancen, die ich
verpasst habe, die Entscheidungen, welche auf mir lasten als wären sie tonnenschwer, für
welche ich alles tun würde, um sie rückgängig zu machen und jene, die ich nicht selbst treffen
konnte?
Oder sehen sie nur die Oberflächlichkeiten?
Achten sie auf nichts von Bedeutung, reduzieren mich auf das, was ich jedem erlaube zu
bemerken, etwas über das ich die Kontrolle habe?
Will nicht jeder für das gesehen werden, was ihn ausmacht?
Will nicht jeder verstanden werden?
Will nicht jeder für sein tiefstes Inneres gemocht werden und nicht für eine äußere Hülle, die mit
der Zeit verfällt?
Wenn wir eines Tages sterben, wollen wir doch für unsere Art zu denken, unsere Art zu lieben,
unsere Art zu trauern, unsere Art zu leben, unsere Art jeden Moment zu genießen auch mit
unserer Trauer und Wut erinnert werden?
Für uns!

Lisa Thaler, 13, Gymnasium Markt Indersdorf Petershausen

Joint 2nd prize, poems written in English: Sarah B

My version, my game

I’d also like to play the game
Except I’ll add one simple rule:
To know the person and the name
So let’s put aside the assumptions we made
And focus on a case where there’s no story to create
And this time it’s about me, a girl of sixteen
With a regular life and a usual routine
Named Sarah as a word for delight
Looking for a way, searching for light
A girl working hard to reach a goal
Taking care of my body and soul
Focusing on priorities to follow a plan
Standing straight, after falling again and again
Always walking around with a smile
Even though it could be hard, for a little while
All these things I certainly know about me
Nevertheless, it’s not what others see
All they see is the scarf covering my head
An oppressed, but on society a threat
A woman of color, black eyes, brown skin
Uneducated, looking for an easy win
An outsider, begging for a chance to live
Coming to get, with nothing to give
A woman futurely forced to be her man’s
In education she has no dream or chance
They barely ask about my real name
Nor do they consider, we might be the same
Always assuming creating a frame
They never ask me for my age
Deciding I don’t deserve an equal wage
It’s like judging a book without turning a page
Look, my outside doesn’t define who I am:
Neither does my outfit, nor my color and tan
If you ask me, I’ll tell you my story
It’s a ride through life, hard but glory
And for the end, some assumptions might be true,
And also, some features, do give a clue
But just make sure to question and ask
And you’ll see that appearance is just a mask

Sarah Bouguecha, 15, Königin-Katharina-Stift Gymnasium, Stuttgart

Joint 2nd prize, poems written in English: Erfan

Faces of the world 

In a crowded world, where many steps we take, 
A different game, with the same rules, we play. 
Seeing faces, all unique, with feelings awake, 
Otherness is what we see, in the light of the day. 

"Who are they?" we wonder, looking around, 
Imagining their lives, stories not yet told. 
In every heart, a secret can be found, 
In every soul, a story, merciful or cold.

Walking past, we see life has many sides, 
Each step, each face, a different story to tell. 
In the busy streets, where mystery hides, 
Every person has their own spell. 

We think about the smiles, the tears they've had, 
The quiet hopes, the shouts of joy. 
Some stories happy, some stories sad, 
Every grown-up, every girl and boy. 

Like Mclean, we watch, we guess, we dream, 
But remember, every face we see, 
Is more than just a part of the stream— 
A world, a story, just like you and me. 
Otherness is what we see.

Erfan, 16, Kaiser-Karl-Schule, Itzehoe

Special mention, poems written in English: Megan Menezes

Beneath the surface 

There’s a phrase I absolutely hate, ‘Don’t blame the players, blame the game.’
I’d rather blame the people who chose to play a game full of blame,
Who throw guesses at who I am based on things I can never change,
Who think they know me after one fleeting exchange,
I’d tear off my flesh if I could, set it aflame, so that all you see are the flames engulfing me and not; the smile on my face,

I walk with my head down, staring at my shoes,
The thing about scars is that they stay, tell a story, I should cover mine up with tattoos,
Until then I wear heavy jackets, as the sun scorches what little skin I leave exposed,
I see strangers walking by and wonder if I let myself bleed in the open, would they still be so composed?
Thoughts are supposed to stay in your head though - so they’ll never hear the pain
that simmers and leaves burns in my throat

This game that people play is often wrong - it does more harm than good,
It’s scarier that they might reveal what should be hidden in my childhood,
The players hold more power in their hands than they know,
They do not understand how hard I try to lie low,
For people who play the game have little fear and even
Less to hide

There are two types of people stuck in this game,
Ones who play to give a face a name and ones who hide their own in shame,
People who look in the mirror to hide their flaws and fix up imperfections,
People who avoid the foreign face in the reflections,
These marks that dance on my face taunting me because the word can’t
See beneath my skin

Yes, my scars tell stories I cannot deny,
That’s why I don’t let anyone see them - or at least I try,
I am not the girl I was when they were engraved into me forever,
Back when I had unblemished skin and bonds with people I’d never sever,
Back when I was fearless but now, I’m not I can’t be because
I’ve learnt better,

If you saw those ugly gnashes, the screaming purple at the surface of my skin,
Maybe you’d say I’m a fighter for taking all of that on the chin,
But if you dove beneath the surface, you’d find out I’m nothing but a coward,
Because my lips are sealed shut another little girl somewhere is overpowered,
I cannot bring myself to tell the truth so I’ll keep it all tucked away or at least
Hidden from your watchful eyes.

There’s this phrase I absolutely hate, ‘Don’t blame the players, blame the game.’
Because I myself am playing a game, a game of shame,
I can’t hate the situation - if I am not to blame then who is?
Maybe if you give me a name, you’ll find out his,
Keep playing your game just as I’m playing mine, but remember it’s better not to dive
Beneath the surface

Megan Menezes, 15, Braeside High School

Special mention, poems written in English: Kayleigh Walter

Through my window

People rush, walk, talk
Look for their key to the lock.
I can only Imagine their every thought
I can’t help but live through
A non-existent world vicariously.
Through someone else, in which
I leave everything I love behind
To fantasize
an imaginary world
to numb a temporary pain, I may find. 

Eventually,
I get stuck. 

Outside the window a little to the left by the old shopping cart that had been there for weeks:
“I see a girl with rushing eyes,
She had just come from a date,
perhaps gotten a surprise.
How nice it must be to live a life,
Of excitement,
events
People of different places.
Must be fine. 

Somethings wrong with my brain,
I can’t see through my own eyes,
Can only fantasize to live,
To leave my world behind.” 

In the apartment on the second floor, a little to the right, away from the shopping cart from the store down the street.

She looks very nice,
What a glamorous life
Surrounded by those,
That know how to live,
Know how to love,
Know how to deal with an inconvenience,
Where I would snap like a twig.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me,
Why I can only see my life as her 

I can’t seem to think for myself
When someone else’s mind
Runs through mine.
By the time, the fifth lap is done
I realize
I tend to get stuck. 

Both people don’t understand that both of them don’t exist.         
Both minds are making up lies.
Both thoughts emptied of their own. 

Overdone, and oneself slowly flows down the drain to the loss of individual thoughts.

To be like the other
When to another
They are the other.

Kayleigh Walter, 15, Berlin Cosmopolitan School

Special mention, poems written in German: Emilia Eppinger

Jedermanns Leid teilt andersartig Gespür

So leer der Blick wie die Pulle in die ich blick
Das Leid dass ich verspür so bedrückend
Ich suche nach dem Grünen was doch irgendwo versteckt mag,
doch sehen kann ich’s nicht
ich will leben und fühlen und leben
Aber mein Leid dass ich verspür, drückt mich weit weg
Weg von dem was ich sein will
Weit weg, dorthin wo ich nicht sein will
Das Grüne, du bist zum Greifen nah
Ich will steigen so hoch ins Reich
Dorthin wo ich meines Selbst sein kann
Denn hier unten trage ich die Visage eines anderen
Die, die ich nicht bin und nicht sein will und nicht sein kann
Ich bin gefangen
Gefangen in den Fesseln
Fesseln die ich nicht ablegen kann
Sie ziehen mich hinein
In die Fänge des Grauen Daseins
Des lediglichen existieren
Ich existiere
Aber Leben, das Verwirklichen
Dass scheint mir unbekannt

Emilia Eppinger, 18, Max-Plank-Gymnasium Nürtingen

About the 2024 competition

By taking part in our poetry competition, you have the chance to win tickets for the poesiefestival berlin 2024 (July 4 to 21), secure a place in a poetry workshop at the renowned Haus für Poesie in Berlin and take part in an exclusive poetry workshop with your class!

The theme of "Otherness" is the focus of this year's competition. Award-winning spoken word poet Kevin Mclean and Karla Montasser from Haus der Poesie will judge the poems. 

Poems must be a maximum of 50 lines long. Students must be in grades 6-12 at the time of writing.

 

Eligibility and rules

  • You must be a pupil at a school in Germany
  • You must be grade 6-12 at the time of writing your poem
  • Your poem can be written in English or in German
  • Your poem must be a response to Kevin Mclean's poem 'The Game' (PDF worksheet to download below)
  • Your poem should be no longer than 50 lines long

To apply

Email your poem to mitmachen@haus-fuer-poesie.org with the subject line: "British Council Competition 2024". In your email, please include your name, age, address, gender (m/f/d), the name of your school and your class.

Closing date for entries: May 10, 2024, 6 p.m.

Announcement of the winners: June 7, 2024

If you have any questions about eligibility, please send an email to Karla Montasser (mitmachen@haus-fuer-poesie.org) or call +49 (0) 30 4852 4536.

Prizes

Four poems will be selected as winners: a 1st and 2nd prize for poems in English and a 1st and 2nd prize for poems in German

  • All winners will have the opportunity to read their poem at the 2024 Poesiefestival and meet Kevin Mclean in person at a prize-giving ceremony on 12 July in Berlin.
  • All winning entries will be translated into German or English by a professional translator
  • All winning entries will be published in English and German on the website and social media channels of the British Council in Germany and the House of Poetry
  • Two winners will win a poetry writing workshop with their class with Kevin Mclean
  • All winners will win tickets to the 2024 Poetry Festival at Haus für Poesie, Berlin, which takes place from July 4-21
  • All winners will also win a place in the annual poetry workshop "Weiter im Text" or the "young poems" at Haus für Poesie.
  • Each entry submitted will receive personalised feedback on their writing.

This year's judge: Kevin Mclean

Kevin Mclean is an award-winning spoken word poet, the Creative Director of I Am Loud Productions, and the host of Scotland's premier Spoken Word night ‘Loud Poets’ (2023 Saboteur Award for Best Regular Spoken Word Night).

He has directed, produced, and performed work at the Brighton, Edinburgh, and Prague Fringe festivals, Glastonbury Festival, StAnza Poetry Festival, and Edinburgh International Book Festival. His poetry has been highlighted in media through STV’s The Late Show, and BBC Radio Scotland’s Culture Show, and The Scotsman Sessions.

More about Kevin Mclean and I Am Loud Productions can be found here.