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2019 Winning Poems

Croquet, Fellows’ Garden

First Prize Winner

I know we should not be here after all.

We are but children playing make-believe;

We dance in darkness, leave the sun to grieve

And in so doing make its epic small.

In summer’s twilight armed with hoop and ball

We trespass and yet do not seek reprieve.

The secret garden opened, we relieve

Ourselves of duties. We, who had the gall


To climb an ivory tower: shall we think

That we can play around the beast’s domain

And come out knowing what we knew before?

As we grow old, we teeter near the brink.

We know that through the years we shall remain,

Though mourn this garden welcomes us no more.

by Katherine Knight, University College, Oxford.


Michal’s Complaint

Second Prize Winner

[Michal: the wife of King David in the Old Testament]

Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.’ (2 Samuel 6.14-16)

May all the plagues of Egypt fester you,

Pliant, pitiful fool! Your certainty,

In thinking bold familiarity

Endears you—to God or to the common few—

Tarnishes the crown and stains me, too.

What do you know of honour, shepherd?

Of leading armies with nobility?

My father was a stately oak; he grew

So high his crown was whittled by the Lord:

Your baseness is a sign you cannot thrive.

In youthful self-assurance I mistook

Our fancy for a unity of mind.

If sharing glances shook the tree of love,

I’ll cause the fruit to wither with a look.

by Bonnie Samuyiwa, Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge