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Three Doha College students succeed in the EMC poetry competition

Three of our Year 12 students shone in a recent international competition, organised by the “English and Media Centre,” a development centre for secondary and further education teachers and students of English and Media Studies. The competition started with an invitation to write a poem inspired by one of the “Forward” shortlisted poets. This invitation provoked superbly crafted poems and commentaries that showed an impressive depth of engagement with the original poems.

Maryam Haddad, runner up

Maryam was one of the two runners up of the competition. She wrote a poem titled ‘Olive Oil Blood,’ in response to Mohammed El-Kurd’s ‘Bulldozers Undoing God.’  Here is an extract of the reflective commentary that accompanied her poem (tap to red her poem and full commentary).

"The poet creates a sense of desperation that Palestinians have to keep their land, which is shown through the elderly woman “clinging onto the tree trunk”. This made me ponder the ways in which I “cling” to my identity and culture, as it can be hard to keep these alive in the diaspora. I chose to write about things from my heritage that are kept alive in my life away, such as keffiyeh, Knafeh, and olive oil. I also drew parallels to other lines in his poem, such as “In Jerusalem every footstep is a grave”, by writing about my footsteps away from my homeland and what that means to me. Additionally, I played on his use of “roots stitched into the land”, by comparing all Palestinians to a traditional embroidery, in that we are all connected through our love of Palestine, regardless of location."

Hafsa Ahmed, highly commended

Hafsa was highly commended for her entry. Her poem ‘nine.’ was written in response to Kaveh Akbar's ‘Reza’s Restaurant, Chicago, 1997.' Below is an excerpt of her reflective commentary (you can read the full commentary here, along with Hafsa’s poem).

"What I enjoyed most about Kaveh Akbar’s poem is the exploration of the relationship between the speaker and his father. The portrayal of his father is something deeply personal and yet remains touching to anyone who reads the poem, especially with phrases such as ‘my father my father my father built the world’. I used this for inspiration, drawing upon my own core memories and writing about my family.

Another part of Akbar’s poem I loved was the theme of food — even in the very title of the poem, ‘Reza’s Restaurant. In Akbar’s poem, food seems to be a way for him to link to his Persian identity (‘sumac’, ‘gheimeh’, etc) — something I can relate to and chose to use in my own poem, using the food we eat to reflect my Pakistani heritage, linking my identity with my ethnicity."

Aleena Ghaffar, commended

Aleena wrote in response to Padraig Regan's 'The Snail,’ and her poem is titled ‘The Trail of the Snail’. She explains the theme in the original creation that inspired her to write her own (tap to read her poem and her full commentary.)

“In the poem ‘A Snail’, Regan speaks of the trails snails leave around the house and the meaning behind them. A notion I analysed from this poem was the idea that the ‘chalky leaving’ the snails paint wherever they go can easily be erased: ‘I scrub it off & watch the water (...) evaporate’. This implies that snails leave behind memories - to an extent - but those memories are only temporary and can be forgotten. This contrasts humans who often want to leave behind their past but struggle to do so, giving the reader of this poem a sense of time (past, present and future), thus inspiring my poem to have a semantic field of fortune-telling.”

Moniza Alvi, adjudicator

Moniza Alvi is a Pakistani-British poet who has won several well-known prizes for. Her poems "Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan" and "An Unknown Girl" from her awarded book "Peacock Luggage" have featured on England's GCSE syllabus. She was particularly impressed with Maryam's entry, and here is what she said about it: 

“The memorably titled ‘My Olive Oil Blood’ takies as its central preoccupation the idea of ‘clinging’ to a cultural identity, keeping it alive. The poem emphasises what the original homeland means regardless of a life lived within the diaspora, a belonging as integral as being part of the traditional embroidery: ‘But we will always be part of the land // woven and stitched into her tatreez’, / The intertwining roots and threads holding our beings together’. The open-ended stanzas carry a strong momentum in this eloquent, explorative poem.”

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