Unseen and Unspoken Poetry Competition Winners Announced!

On January 4th, 2017, in conjunction with the I am ABLE Campaign, the CYC and Reed Smith launched the Unseen and Unspoken Poetry Competition which seeks to raise awareness about the experience and lives of young people with disabilities across the Commonwealth. A unique feature of this competition was that format of the poem could be either written, an audio recording, a video recording of the poem in sign language and accompanied by subtitles.  The competition attracted 250 poems from all four regions of young people with and without disabilities.

Carolyn Pepper of Reed Smith, expressed why they decided to sponsor this poetry competition:

It’s a great programme. It is a really inspiring programme. It is great to have new voices heard and shared with other people. We are really proud to be part of it and we were honoured to be asked as well. Not everyone has the same opportunities to speak out and I am excited to see the great talent that will come out of it. Why not a future poet laureate? Or someone who takes up poetry as a career? It is often one single event that triggers something in someone and changes the direction of their life – this could be that one thing that triggers something in an entrant or perhaps a reader and they then become a brilliant poet. What better than that? I am looking forward to seeing the entries.

The adjudication panel consisted of published poets – young people with and without disabilities. They included Jonathan Andrews, Megan Beech, Jack Milne, Rawletta Barrow and Janitha Rukmal. Andrews, As a poet, it was a true pleasure to judge this competition and to experience the brilliant entries from across the Commonwealth. The best pieces combined technical and literary mastery with an ability to connect emotionally with a heartfelt or original take on disability and the wider theme of defining as disabled. Each was valid, but I couldn’t help but feel admiration most for those who were confident  enough to accept disability as part of their identity – and to recognise this made them no less of a person

The competition was divided into 2 categories based on age groups of below 18 and above 18:


Under 18

Flower by Marshall Peach

Over 18

I am able enough by Shannon Burns

Disability does not define me by Anna Zam


Under 18

The Myst of Myself by Sherin Mary Zacharia

Blind with Ambition by Chia Yee Wei

I’m not afraid anymore by Azri Arif Bin Mazlan

Over 18

Listen to the Roar of my Silence by Girish Pai

Whispers don’t Define me by Ruvini Katugaha

This is what people don't see by Evangeline Sim Jia En

Caribbeans & Americas

Under 18

Undefinable by Josina J. Forrester

Hidden Disorder by Lemicka Williams

Over 18

Stutter when I speak by Fidelis Obum Iwueke

Stagnant by Nicole Townsend

What I see by Tevona Prendagrast

Africa & Europe

Under 18

Did by Uchechi Princewill A

Silenced by Jena Woodroffe

Over 18

Beauty behind my tattered folds by Ruth Rotich

Disabled Red Ranger by David Over

So much more by Gemma Bryant