SpLD Poetry competition

Student writing

As part of UWE Bristol’s Disability Awareness Month, students were given a brief to write a poem about Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD.

Entrants could draw on personal experiences of having an SpLD, or the impact of having a friend or family member with an SpLD.

From 16 entries, the judges awarded a first, second and third prize, as well as one commended poem. The winners were presented with their prizes at the Disability Awareness Month closing celebration which took place on Thursday 28 April 2016.

Listen to the poems being performed below by students Blake Seers, Ben Martin and Rhys Glover:

Winners and runners up

First prize:

Dyslexia, by Erin Dooley

Words and symbols
Strobe and flow
Liquid paper
Churning slow
Never end
I pretend.

Second prize:

If Only I Had Known Before, by Jessica Conway

Used to Baffle mE
knowiNg I had the information
             In my
Squeezing my head, trying to shoot words out of my eyes
To        sense order
     Make               understand
It was like two magnets
Positive to
                        Pushing apart
Tears of confusion, I knew I knew how
Why wouldn’t my hands do what my brain wanted them to do?
Years of: Could do better
                 Has potential
                Written doesn’t reflect verbal ability
And then...
Assessment, diagnosis
40 years old, dyspraxic, discalculus
                                        And I met you!
Study support, my life made sense, my grades jumped up
Confidence blossomed
No more tears 
No more lost in isolated fear 
I am normal, just different too

Third prize:

Fireworks, by Stephanie Wilson

Upon this mound is a perpetual display of fireworks
That captivates my attention from everything beyond it.
The intensity makes me rush,
And I’m torn between which dazzling array
Is most deserving of my attention.

Each new eruption is beautiful,
And distinctly different from the rest;
Chaotic bursts of colour that dissipate
Before I have the chance to fully analyse them.

After twenty, thirty, forty bangs,
They become overwhelming
And I curl up in a ball,
Praying for the show to be over.
But still I hear each explosion
As clear as a glass of moonshine,
The burning lights keeping me warm in the darkness.

Too warm.
Suddenly a wave of frustration flows over me
And I fidget in the sticky heat,
My heart rate rapidly pounding in my chest
As every flash and pop becomes more frequent.

A voice calls from below,
So I peer down to see you standing there
And curiously, I am calm once again,
Elated by your presence.
I ask you what you’re doing,
And your laugh bounces through the air
As you inform me that once again
I have failed to recollect.

As your lips begin to move
Another burst of glitter floats through the sky
And I am hypnotised.
I begin to wonder what glitter is made from,
And who first proclaimed its existence,
When I notice your mouth hiss.
I’ve done it again.

Please don’t hate me
As much as I hate myself sometimes
I realise how exasperating it is
To try and decipher my erratic mind.
Believe me I’ve been sat here for years
Wishing that one day I could walk with you
Without a flicker of distraction.

And It’s not that I don’t listen, I hear every word.
It’s just so hard to focus when the world’s ablaze.

You try to convince me that it isn’t real
So I dare you to climb upon the hill,
To see for yourself how the rockets
Tear through the sky.

Tantalized by the concept, you crawl through the dense grass
But when you arrive by my side you realise you’re missing something:
The lens required to perceive this parade,
That the vendor on the ridge forgot to gift you with.

As you see my eyes darting around the desolate night,
Completely oblivious to how possessed I look,
You try to decide whether or not this is of good fortune.

Eventually you come to a conclusion,
That you are content with your peaceful evening,
And you tell me that I should appreciate mine too.

Because with every quality that I despise
Comes a silent blessing.
And the contingency of my whirring mind
Brings a sparkle that makes me unique.

I just hadn’t stopped racing around to realise that yet.

Commended poem:

Mr Lighthouse Keeper, by Charlie Lovegrove

Hello mister light keeper
With the eye of a minister
Attempting to captivate
Can you anticipate
Or guess my next move
Think you know everything
With your lamp shining so bright
But you’ve a lot to learn yet
Try riding the waves of isolation
Or taste these waters
You can admire the tides
The waters crashing on the rocks
Forgetting the calm sea shore
And the roundness of the pebbles
All you see is the
The oil spills and the chop
How? there’s no telling
If the tide will rise
Or if the chaos will stop
It’s easy to see the waves crash
But forget a wave’s gentle retreat
It’s observed by all
And judged by most
For mr light keeper
You will never understand
How it feels to be this misunderstood tide.

Download the complete set of winning poems.

Student stories

Judging panel

  • Robert Fannin and Craig Snelling from the Faculty of Arts and Cultural Industries
  • Sandie Hargreaves, Dyslexia/SpLD Adviser and member of UWE Bristol’s Disabled Staff Network.

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