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Poem about raising raise dual-heritage children in Wales wins National Poetry Competition

25 Mar 2021 2 minute read
Marvin Thompson

A poem about raising raise dual-heritage children in Wales and featuring the Welsh language word ‘cwtch’ has won the Poetry Society’s main yearly prize.

Marvin Thompson from Torfaen, who is an English school teacher at Lliswerry high school in Newport, won the National Poetry Competition prize with his poem The Fruit of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22).

The 43-year-old is of Jamaican heritage and said that the poem was about helping his children understand their dual heritage.

The poem asks whether his children will “will they sing calypsos or ‘Blood of the Lamb’” and mentions “The me who cwtched Dad whilst watching Spike Lees”.

“As with all my poems, it was written for my children, a gift to their future selves,” he told the Guardian.

“A poem to be read on nights when the weight of being a dual-heritage person in Britain feels too heavy to bear.”

He said that the Welsh word ‘cwtch’ was “sounds more comforting than the English words with the hard Ds and G.”

“My poem is for anyone who has felt discrimination,” he added, saying that his parents had faced discrimination after moving to London from Jamaica.

‘All at once’

One of the judges, Karen McCarthy Woolf, said: “What distinguishes The Fruit of the Spirit is Love is how it operates on multiple, complex levels yet speaks in a voice that is fresh, honest and brave.

“Specific in its geography, natural in diction, this is a poem that asks many distinctly contemporary questions that make you feel as if it could only have been written here and now, in 21st-century post-Brexit Britain.

“What is it to raise dual-heritage children in the UK, and specifically in Wales? How does black identity shape itself in a white environment, where allegiance to a predominantly hostile flag is the paradox of belonging? Will these children be loyal to Wu-Tang or sing hymns in the Welsh choir?

“Or, as the poem demonstrates, will they do all of these things at once?”

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