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2021 Winning Poem

The winning entry to the Eugene Lee-Hamilton Prize in 2021 was Reading by Tayiba Sulaiman of St Hilda’s College, Oxford.


Iqra! – her turn, a finger starts to trace
the clots of knotted thread across the row.
If all the seas were ink, but channeled slow
from smudged teen mouths, her reading would erase
all blots, would overtake the noontide race
and beautify all that she does not know.
I’d stutter, gasp. In flattened carpet snow
I scrawl my name in wayward lower case.

A hair slips from my scarf and seems to clutch
the paper’s edge. At break I wish she’d teach
me how to strike its line, split page, recite
by peering in between the seas which nudge
each other, never mix. Figures of speech
play hide and seek – they hopscotch and I write.

by Tayiba Sulaiman, St Hilda’s College, Oxford