Cork teen pens poem on homelessness

A transition year student from Cork has scooped the top award in a competition which asked secondary school students to write about their experiences with homelessness.

Fifteen-year-old Caitlin Canavan O’Driscoll who attends Mount Saint Michael in Rosscarbery, Co Cork, won the Young Writers Award - #WriteForHome competition for her poem ‘Music is the medicine of the mind’, in which she spoke about using music to help her get through her family’s struggles with homelessness.

Run by Cork Simon Community in partnership with the Irish Examiner, submissions for the competition included more than 200 short stories, poems, essays and diary entries from students attending 40 secondary schools across Cork and Kerry.

Caitlin received the first prize of a laptop at a ceremony in the Aula Maxima in UCC attended by shortlisted students, teachers, family members and three members of the competition’s judging panel, Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Mary Shields and local writers Kathy D’Arcy and Tadhg Coakley.

In her poem, the teenager speaks about listening to the Ariana Grande song ‘7 Rings’ while hearing her parents argue over “unpaid bills and adult things” and how “cold nights in the street aren’t just in my dreams”.

Caitlin had her winning poem read aloud by Cork author and Irish Examiner columnist Louise O’Neill at last the ceremony, and will also have the poem printed in the paper

The first runner-up prize went to Olivia Payne from Cork Learning Support Services for her short story ‘Angie’s Diary’, while the second runner-up prize was given to Christopher Forrest from Douglas Community School for his entry ‘Heavy Red Door’. Merits were also awarded to Caragh Cifone and Amy O’Toole, both from Schull Community College.

Commenting on the competition, Paul Sheehan, Cork Simon campaigns and communications manager, said it most surprising that three of the five winners were poems.

“The judges were really impressed with the quality of the writing on display, and the writers’ understanding of the effects of homelessness and living in emergency accommodation," he added.

‘Music is the medicine of the mind’

By Caitlin Canavan O’Driscoll, Transition Year, Mount St. Michael, Rosscarbery

I like to sing along to 7 Rings,

When Mom and Dad are crying downstairs,

Over unpaid bills and adult things.

I ignore how only one of my earphones blares.

The other is frayed and silent.

I can feel the bitter chill when the oil runs out

And I can hear when the landlord comes by and things get violent,

The slam of his scrunched fists on the table and the scariness of his shout.

“Lashes and diamonds, ATM machines,”

I wish I could pretend I knew what she meant,

Since cold nights on the street aren’t just in my dreams.

We have no home because we couldn’t pay rent.

Now I don’t want to be a millionaire.

I just want my home back, so I don’t have to be scared.

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