Oriet is riding on his friend’s bike, with his eyes shut and his hands lightly resting on the handle bars. Summoning up his courage he lifts his hands off the handle bars and rolls along for a brief moment. But then a dog runs out, he breaks sharply …!
This is one brief moment in childhood that was buried in the memory of Oriet until he drew it up, inspired by a poetry class at Gheez Rite Supplementary School run by Paul Lyalls, a former poet-in-residence at the Roald Dahl Museum.
That moment evoked memories of play and freedom and Oriet constructed a short poem called Riding My Bike With My Eyes Closed. The poem went into a competition and won a place in a book. Oriet was pleased. But it was only later it became clear that his poem had won entry into the book against thousands of other young people who had entered the Betjeman Prize – named after the former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman.
“I tried my best when I was writing my poem and when Paul told me that it was loads and loads and thousands of people who entered their poem into the Betjeman poetry prize I was shocked,” says Oriet, who has always enjoyed writing.
“In a way [writing] makes me feel like I’m free and I can speak how I want to speak … for example one of my hobbies, football, I go to Westway and I play football there and I like to write about sports, write about my hobbies, things that happen in my life.”
Clearly inspired by his success, Oriet has added poetry to his list of hobbies and is interested in making it his career, a feeling confirmed when he was also invited on a poetry residential weekend outside of London as part of his award: “I was really nervous because it was the first time I’ve been somewhere without my parents and I didn’t know anybody … when I got there it was great. I was still nervous but I got to know some of the people more, and they are more like me, trying to be great poets, and trying to learn more,” he says. “We just got good friends and I didn’t wanna leave at the end so it was really good.”
Oriet is still in touch with some of the other young people he met on the residential and has had lots of opportunities to read his poem out: “My parents are really proud of me and … so they wanted me to read it out to loads of their friends, people that came over to our house, my aunties and uncles, cousins…”
Oriet also had the opportunity to read out the poem at the Supplementary Schools Awards organised by Westway Trust, and the book, This Is Me, has been published. It has left him with a desire for more poetry experience: “I had an interest for poetry but I didn’t know that I wanted to make it like a career and a hobby but when I got nominated for the Betjeman poetry prize it made me feel like, yeah, this could be for me.”