A CWMBRAN teacher has won a national poetry competition with a "poem for my parents" and "anyone who has felt discrimination".

Marvin Thompson has been chosen as the winner of the prestigious National Poetry Competition, for his poem The Fruit of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22).

Out of more than 18,000 poems, from 7,452 poets in 95 countries, Mr Thompson's effort was chosen as the best.

It is a work spanning decades featuring multiple lives and histories, some literary and historical, some personal, some painful, some shameful, packed into its nineteen lines.

Mr Thompson’s win follows on from his applauded debut poetry collection, Road Trip, which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and selected as one of its five Black Lives Matter Inspiration books.

It was chosen by the Daily Telegraph as one of the Poetry Books of the Year for 2020, and described by The Guardian as an “invigorating journey through complexities of black British family life.”

Mr Thompson said of the win: “When I received the phone call confirming that I was the winner of the National Poetry Competition, I screamed. My Dual Heritage children stared at me, wondering what was going on.”

He added: “As with all my poems, ‘The Fruit of the Spirit is Love’ was written for my children. Like all my poems, it is a gift to their future selves.

"A poem to be read on nights when the weight of being a Dual Heritage person in Britain feels too heavy to bear.

“My poem is for my parents. When they were born in Jamaica, they were British by way of Empire. When they made their home in London, they encountered racism. And friendship. And love.

“My poem is for anyone who has felt discrimination pressing on their ribs, air being squeezed out of their lungs.

“My poem is for everyone, everywhere who lives their life seeking and believing in love.

“My home and my children’s home is Wales. As such, it feels vital that I add my voice to Wales’s rich literary culture. This is a culture in which, increasingly, diversity and difference are celebrated.

“In these challenging times, it is my hope that my poem inspires others to make poetry part of their everyday lives.”

Karen McCarthy Woolf, who judged the competition along with Neil Astley and Jonathan Edwards, said: “What distinguishes 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 21st century post-Brexit Britain.

"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.”


He wins £5,000 for his First Prize poem. Nine other winners were also named in the National Poetry Competition.

All the winning poems will be published on The Poetry Society’s website and the top three poems will be published in the Spring 2021 issue of The Poetry Society’s poetry journal, The Poetry Review.

This is Mr Thompson's winning poem in full:

The Fruit of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22)

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, feet tied 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’?