When I First Bled – Commended Winner in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2021

I’m so excited to share this news with you… My poem ‘When I First Bled’ is a commended winner in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2021!

I can’t believe my poem about menarche was one of 10 chosen from over 16,700 poems by 7000+ poets from 100 different countries. This is the first time I’ve ever entered this competition too. I’m still pinching myself!

Huge thanks to the judges, Fiona Benson, Rachel Long and David Constantine, and to Judith, Julia and Ben at The Poetry Society for organising a fantastic in-person awards ceremony and for being so supportive and encouraging throughout.

Here’s my winning poem – I hope you enjoy it!

Screenshot 2022-04-02 at 11.31.28

between my legs it was Hallowe’en
and I was dressed as a Playboy bunny

with black and white velvet ears atop my eleven-year-old head,
one ear folded just so, but if only it had been a full moon that night

then we would have had a neat explanation for my disordered moods
(it would’ve been cool to be able to say – with truth – that my madnesses

were simply lunar-induced and not caused by trauma or poverty or abuse
or excessive worrying or head injuries or bad genes or being too good)

but no, the sky was dull and my belly felt heavy even though it was emptying itself
into my wadded knickers, and my sister’s Cosmopolitan magazine had made me

fearful of my redness making visible brown blots on the frills of my white ruffled
ra-ra-tutu-sexy-princess skirt – the totally embarrassing, unforgiveable social

shame from which a woman can never recover – but I had to be brave and meet
my girlfriends, none of whom had had the painters in yet, and I really wanted to

tell them that I’d bled because I couldn’t tell my mother or my sister or anyone except
the security guard who had caught me earlier that day stealing pads in the pharmacy,

so I went to the party feeling wise and unsanitary and pretty and grown-up
and silly and I kissed a boy who was in the year above me and it was exactly like Nikki

(the older girl who bought me cigarettes before school) said it would be, his tongue
going round and round my mouth like a washing machine, all salivary

and then all of the girls were talking about me – not
because I was bleeding – because they were jealous

of me, the bunny who had pulled a hottie and,
most importantly, kept her skirt clean.


Screenshot 2022-04-02 at 11.30.50

You can read the rest of the top 10 winning poems, including the incredible 1st prize poem ‘Fricatives’ by Eric Yip here.


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