Highly Commended: Vanessa Lampert, 'Student'

Highly Commended: Vanessa Lampert,


Vanessa Lampert’s poem ‘Student’ has been Highly Commended in the 2020 Newcastle Poetry Competition.




Two stray dogs in the town criss-cross winter streets,

but mostly skirt the shoreline, drawn like all of us

to the sea’s colossal glass pool.


You’ve started looking out for them

their tail-up trot behind strangers, the two inseparable,

never tiring of the search for someone to be with.


Renée says you must try harder to be a neutral observer

of island life. So you scissor your long dreadlocks, sever them

at the roots, blades hard on skin and it still feels like defiance.


The matted ropes fall around you one by one.

Now separated you give the afternoon a second chance,

open the letter that came yesterday


your name inked purple and green felt tip.

Swathes of vivid flowers circle the address,

longing, condensed to ink on paper,


the reverse a cloud of small pink birds in flight,

on the seal where she put her mouth and thought of you.

Come back, it whispers. Fly home to me.


You let the letter drop to your bed, to your fallen dead hair.

In the evening you leave the flat, cold sea air on your neck,

to buy strong cigarettes and cakes neatly packaged


in a white box. You walk down to the beach, light up,

inhale hard. The two dogs stand to greet you,

each one panting, eager for another chance to matter.


Vanessa Lampert holds an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University and Poetry School London. She has previously been highly commended in the Bridport and Troubadour prizes, came second in the 2019 Yeovil Prize and won the Café Writers Prize 2020. Vanessa lives in Wallingford where she works as an acupuncturist.