Why do birds sing? There are likely many reasons, and I can’t say that I know them all. But one of the reasons is, no doubt, to charm. In other words, to persuade others, through the beauty of their song, that they are worthy of some consideration.

So it’s no surprise that Godsend, one of the poems featured in our latest theme, Persuasion, would evoke the early bird that catches the worm as a reason to rise early, and that another, Contemporary Dilemmas, would consider the song of larks and nightingales as one of life’s few constants.

This is a very special Five One theme, featuring five original poems by young authors awarded recognition in the 2017 edition of ASIBA’s school poetry competition. ASIBA is a non-profit organisation that supports the British version of the Option Internationale du Baccalauréat, a bilingual French-English secondary school diploma. The winners go to school in Lille, Paris, Brussels and Aix-en-Provence.

Regular readers may remember that around this time last year we featured five poems that had been distinguished in the 2016 edition of this same competition. Those texts explored the theme ‘Bridges’ – you can find it here.

The collaboration between ASIBA and Five One resumes this year.

Poetry as a form of persuasion was a favourite motif of the metaphysical poets of the 17th century – a loose grouping of English poets who often used verse to make an argument. The poems here featured have a similar objective. There is Velvet Jacket, in which a jacket attempts to seduce a prospective wearer into choosing it over other clothes. There is The Conman and Contemporary Dilemmas, which seek to persuade us to turn away from some of the most noxious aspects of contemporary life, and there is Godsend, which wishes to convey the joys of an early rise.

And then there is Four Days, in which the author endeavours to persuade not her readers, but herself, that she has taken the right decision in a matter of the heart.

As always, each poem will be accompanied by a song and a work of visual art. For this theme, each text will be presented alongside a painting of a bird by the great French-American ornithologist John James Audubon, as well as a piece of jazz – to bring to life the mood indigo evoked in Four Days. Jazz, too, can be charming.

But enough from me. Time to let these young authors sing, and persuade us, above all else, of poetry’s enduring worth.

Olivier Holmey
London, 4 December 2017

Our selection of poetry, music and visual art for all five weeks of our latest theme is available by clicking on the tabs above or through the links below:

I. Poem / Music / Image
II. Poem / Music / Image
III. Poem / Music / Image
IV. Poem / Music / Image
V. Poem / Music / Image

To find out more about Five One, please see here.

Poem • MusicImage

Velvet Jacket

Choose Me. I hang here among overfull rails
Wires my forest, waiting for you to
Draw close.
Hold Me. Run your fingers on my silken velvet.
Sculpting you, I, you, precisely fit.
Don’t let go! And I’ll forever be
Yours, truly.
Own Me. Etch your name on the fabric of my shell,
With a waft of perfume, and the weight of your hands in
My pockets.
Dress Me Up. Undo my buttons and slip
A satin square on my heart,
Your favourite colour, and mine.
Choose Me.
Take me now,
And I solemnly avow,
I shall remain,
Devoted to You.

Lauren Rose Davies
Collège-Lycée International Balzac, Paris
First Prize Junior

Poem • MusicImage

Four Days

My shirt still smells the faint and yet specific smell
Of your morning coffee, black, strong, bitter coffee.
To be honest, the bitterness might come from me.
Anyway, there are plenty of coffee shops here.

It has been one day and I have done the right thing.

There is that old song playing on the radio,
Do you ever get that jazzy mood indigo?
I personally like things to be black or white,
I could not keep drowning in the grey of your eyes.

It has been two days and I have done the right thing.

I am stuck in that sticky traffic jam again,
And all I can think about is our desert street.
I miss the peacefulness but the hush was deadly.
Silence was deafening in the land of nothing.

It has been three days and I have done the right thing.

A yellow letter was delivered late today,
Only your envelopes are of that lame pale shade.
I smiled a little but then I read, then I knew,
That it was a mistake, not to me, not from you.

It has been four days, well, have I done the right thing?

Lola Velly
Lycée International Montebello, Lille
First Prize senior

Poem • MusicImage

The Conman

Look what I’ve got here! I’ve bought myself
A brand-new wig, a beautiful blonde thing it is too;
Look how its fair hair falls so thick and true;
I think it really brings out my healthy orange hue!
It’s great, truly great. Just like he said!
Like who said? Why, my friend the shopkeeper of course!
He’s the one who sold me this wig, you know.
He’s a very clever fellow; he explained to me,
With his alternative facts, just why the blonde wigs
Are so much better than the blacks. He showed me
How my barbed blonde curtains could wall out
The voices my poor ears could not bear to hear. He said
“Do not fear. The problems we have, it’s because of
Those who aren’t from around here.”
He said he’d do me half price on my wig (the Mexicans
would pay for the rest). He said that the problems we face as a nation
Really just have the face of an Asian –or a Mexican.
I hate Mexicans.
I rather like my new shopkeeper though.

Sebastian Porter
Lycée français Jean Monnet, Brussels
Runner-up senior

Poem • MusicImage


Early birds catch the worm they say,
The earlier up the longer the day,
You can feel the light morning breeze,
This golden chance is yours to seize.
Now that you’re up, you’re in the game,
And your dreams are not so far away,
It’s time for pro-action,
Start the production.
The others are still sleeping,
When they arise they’ll be mourning
The morning that slipped through,
Thinking about the things to do.
So before you put the alarm on snooze,
Think about all the things you lose,
For being early more or less,
Is the only key to success.
Have I succeeded in persuading you
That waking up is what to do?
If I have, good for you my friend,
I guess this poem is a godsend.

Pauline Vitet
Lycée Georges Duby, Aix-en-Provence
Runner-up junior

Poem • MusicImage

Contemporary Dilemmas

As long as the moon around us keeps spinning
And the larks and nightingales take turns singing,
As long as the bee stings and the dogs bite,
Whatever you do, they won’t think it’s right.

Adverts on the subway, flashing in your face,
Hanging on the walls all over the place,
Persuasive images and convincing slogans
Beating you down like bullets from guns.

Should you go bathing under the sun?
Or get yourself a voluptuous bum?
Spend a night in a Victorian castle?
Probably not, it’s too much of a hastle.

But surely, don’t you think that you’re ugly?
That you should work out and tone that fat body?
Your diet should only consist of zuchini,
If you want to look good in that yellow bikini.

Hush now – don’t listen to them,
They’re only pouring lies into your brain
For you should know that all in all,
Ads are the poison that’ll cause your fall.

Jade Jemmett
Collège-Lycée International Balzac, Paris
Finalist junior