The refugee crisis that inspired our winning poet

 A perceptive and shocking account of the plight of refugees has won our annual poetry prize for young people.

Deep Waters by 12 year old Mayumi Singh is the winner of the Rydal Mount poetry prize , organised  – and judged – annually by Wiliam Wordsworth’s family.

It describes the terrifying and tragic journey of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean to safety.

One of the judges, Christopher Wordsworth, William’s great great great great grandson, said that Mayumi’s poem showed a deep concern for and understanding of the world around her. “It is very, very sad, but beautifully expressed,” he said.

Mayumi, sitting in Wordsworth's chair, reads her poem

Mayumi, sitting in Wordsworth’s chair, reads her poem

The competition, now in its sixth year, attracted nearly 200 entries this time. We invite entries from all Cumbrian schools, but even had one entry from further afield this year. Mayumi has won a trophy, a cash prize, and her poem will be framed and displayed in the house, alongside a portrait of Wordsworth, for all visitors to see.

Mayumi, a pupil at Windermere School, lives at Whitehaven and comes from an international background.

English teacher Mrs Lucy Baker said: “Mayumi is only Year 7 but she is a very serious thinker and has tremendous general knowledge. She is interested in international affairs and wrote the poem after hearing her father talk about the plight of the Syrian refugees.”

The theme of Deep Waters was chosen by the Wordsworth family, and attracted a wide range of interpretations. Along with Mayumi’s “overall winner” title, other awards went to:

  • Senior school winner: Harriet Rush – Windermere School
  • Senior school commended:
  • Shree Bhattacharjee – Bradford Grammar School
  • Libby Danby – Keswick School
  • Rowenna Hamilton – Windermere School
  • Juniors:
  • Winner: James Leech Sanders – Grasmere Primary
  • Commended:
  • Connor Little – Bewcastle Primary
  • Cecilia Kelly – Coniston Primary
  • Lily Lloyd – Flookburgh Primary
  • Seb Mason – Dean Primary
  • Woody Leece – Dean Primary
  • Holly Engleby – Ambleside Primary
  • Sam Arundale – Grasmere Primary
  • Thomas Metcalfe – Coniston Primary (the youngest, just six)


Deep Waters by Mayumi Singh

A boat. Waiting. 10pm. The sound of silence.

A line of people. Terrified. They get onto the boat. Some with lifejackets, others without.

They might not survive.

 But they want to escape from the place that was once filled with laughter and happiness,

that they once called ‘home’.


  The captain starts sailing. It’s pitch black. All is calm but all is not bright.

The children’s eyes are filled with desperation.

They remember the days when their dreams were filled with wonder.

All they can dream about now is their horrified mother screaming.

 The journey takes a turn for the worse. A storm is heading their way. The waves become bigger.

The tension rises. The captain tries to divert. The people are terrified.

They are clinging onto the helpless boat. The boat turtles, children scream, mothers cling onto their precious babies.

 They are in the middle of the empty Mediterranean Ocean.

No hope. They go in deeper into the water.

Deeper and deeper and deeper.

 Till all we can see is a little girl’s doll. Floating away.