Marvin Thompson, the Welsh-based poet and Newport high school teacher, has won the prestigious National Poetry Competition for his poem “The Fruit of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22)”.
The judges of the prize said, “What distinguishes Marvin Thompson’s ‘The Fruit of the Spirit is Love’ is how it operates on multiple, complex levels yet speaks in a voice that is fresh, honest and brave. Specific in its geography, natural in diction, this is a poem that asks many distinctly contemporary questions that make you feel as if it could only have been written here and now, in the 21st century. What is it to raise dual-heritage children in the UK, and specifically in Wales? How does black identity shape itself in a white environment, where allegiance to a predominantly hostile flag is the paradox of belonging? Will these children be loyal to Wu-Tang or sing hymns in the Welsh choir? Or, as the poem demonstrates, will they do all of these things at once, in a manner that is seemingly effortless. These are big questions, which, one might argue, only the best poetry is fit to answer. That Thompson does so with such concision and formal dexterity is a delight –– the terza rima is lightly held, and the poem’s Biblical intertextuality provides a historical and spiritual context that situates it as a work in conversation with the Caribbean and diaspora. That it includes the word cwtch can only be a bonus.”
The winning poem:
The Fruit of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22) by Marvin Thompson
Dusk reddened a Dual Heritage neck, hands
and a moustache – its ends curled with wax. Jason Lee?
I stood below his dreadlocks in woodland
and reached up to touch his feet. A whirring fan
greeted my waking eyes, the house sleepy.
I’d dreamt both Dali’s Christ and someone hanged.
“… a pineapple on his head…” sang football fans
and a comedian blacked up as Jason Lee,mocking Rastas.
Did Jason beg Jah:
“Please keep this from my kids.” Should I tell mine
I filled my lungs with ’90s minstrelsy
and sang, a teen lost in lads’ mag England?
Who taught me pro-Black talk was contraband?
The me who cwtched Dad whilst watching Spike Lees
was shoved down basement stairs, feettied to hands.
Embarrassed, should I play my kids Wu-Tang
and other rap that set my rebel free?
One day, when they walk their kids through woodland
will they sing calypsos or ‘Blood of the Lamb’?