YOUNG poets from Ripon Grammar School and Outwood Academy have been praised for their powerful and poignant use of language in a competition to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
The Rotary Club of Ripon launched a city-wide challenge for secondary school pupils aged 14-16 years, asking them to create poems of up to 18 lines giving their interpretations of the heroism, trauma and tragedy previous generations endured.
RGS winners Alice Ward and Rebecca Edwards confessed that, before undertaking the project, they felt detached from WW1 because it happened such a long time before they were born.
But both girls, who enjoy writing in their free time, said they were inspired by the symbolism of poppy displays in Ripon and by discussions they had in English lessons and with their families about the effects of war.
Alongside Evija Lielpetere and Katelyn Barry, who were the winning students from Outwood Academy, Alice, who lives in Sawley, and Rebecca, from Ripon, read their moving poems aloud to members of the Rotary Club in The Ripon Spa Hotel.
Alice’s poem ‘Our Tomorrow’ and Rebecca’s poem ‘The March’ were awarded first and second place out of more than 100 Ripon Grammar School entries, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 20.
Alice, 14, explained how initially she and her classmates felt disconnected from the war: “We were hearing stories about it and didn’t always understand it. Writing the poem helped me identify with what people were going through at that time.”
Rebecca, also 14, talked to her grandparents about their experiences during the Second World War to help her understand how the conflict affected families: “They lost brothers on both sides and were sad and depressed about what happened.”
David Wells, president of the Rotary Club of Ripon, said there were lots of excellent entries and judges found it difficult to pick the winners. He commented that the students followed in the footsteps of celebrated war poet Wilfred Owen, who lived in Ripon and wrote a number of his poems in the city.
*You can read our students' poems, below.
Picture captions: Top, Alice, left, and Rebecca, right, with David Wells. Above (l-r) Evija, Katelyn, David Wells, Alice and Rebecca at the awards ceremony in The Ripon Spa Hotel
The march of the brave, the march of the bold,
Soon become the march of the frayed, the march of the cold.
The march weakens to a limp, then a crawl, and soon behold, nothing at all.
Then, the march of nature, so pure and true,
The march of nature is coming through.
Sunlight trickles down the field, taking in what man has left behind –
Empty shells, empty minds, concerning men and machinery alike.
Tiny stems, coming through, small and strong through and through;
Petals delicate, pristine and soft,
Yet showing the colour of blood-soaked cloth.
Swarm the field in a matter of days,
Giving each man a worthy grave.
At least, nature thinks, for a while,
It will look far less hostile.
May we remember, on this hour,
This day, this month, this year, a flower.
One showing the lives of countless people
Who are buried without a steeple.
The wind still blows there, unaware of the sorrow.
That the soldiers fell yesterday, to give us our tomorrow.
The churning mud stops, and the grass begins to grow.
Hiding many graves, of soldiers we do not know.
The guns fall silent, and we will forget their sound.
But the bullets will lay forever with the soldier in the ground.
The years have gone by, and the wounds have healed.
But still the poppies grow in that old, empty field.
That distant war, that carved out our history.
Is unreal to us and feels like a mystery.
But we still wear a poppy, pinned on our chest.
To respect their sacrifice, so in peace they can rest.
Because although we don’t understand the choices they followed.
They gave their today, so we can have our tomorrow.