Ethan Skinner

Ocean Blue


You are big, you are bold, you are beautiful and vast,
You are the constant in my many memories, provoking images that last.
Of a time when I was smaller, and sitting on the sand
Filling buckets, digging holes, pebbles in my hand.
How wonderous and blue you looked, how majestic, grand and brave,
How little I understood back then as I jumped each ebbing wave.

Plastic buckets, spades and flags,
Empty cans and plastic bags.
Picnic waste, bottles of glass,
Wave after wave of endless trash.

I’ve stood in awe and watched your powerful white horses ride,
Jumping, running, racing – on every passing tide.
Last year I went surfing, and stood amongst your sway
Waiting for my instructor to yell “Now! start paddling away!”
“don’t let the white horses catch you, race them to the shore”,
I raced your horses, I didn’t win, they swamped me with their roar.

Plastic buckets, spades and flags,
Empty cans and plastic bags.
Picnic waste, bottles of glass,
Wave after wave of endless trash.

At Christmas time, we visited you and stayed near Tamarin Beach,
An island full of paradise, a place I thought we’d never reach.
Man, you were beautiful there, your waves strong, but warm and clear,
Turquoise waters, fine white sand and friendships full of cheer.
For fourteen days we visited you, and played within your arms,
We surfed, we swam, we messed around – heaven truly had been found.

Plastic buckets, spades and flags,
Empty cans and plastic bags.
Picnic waste, bottles of glass,
Wave after wave of endless trash.

Hurricane! Hurricane! The warnings came,
Don’t go out – stay out of the rain.
For three days and nights, we were officially shut down,
When we were allowed out – your turquoise hue had turned brown.
You were dirty and dark, you were struggling to breathe,
You looked ill, and quite sick – but you were still there, and I was relieved.

Plastic buckets, spades and flags,
Empty cans and plastic bags.
Picnic waste, bottles of glass,
Wave after wave of endless trash.

Your vibrancy was shattered, ocean blue had been destroyed,
What was left was a mutated land of sand, I was angry and annoyed.
For all I could see was human rubbish, for mile after mile after mile,
Tyres, nets, cans and bottles, plastic waste amongst every pile.
A sight of pure horror – how had we let this be?
How had the human race been allowed to destroy the sea?

Plastic buckets, spades and flags,
Empty cans and plastic bags.
Picnic waste, bottles of glass,
Wave after wave of endless trash.

Our future must be different, it is time to say enough!
It is time to think about what we use and what we do with our old stuff.
The ocean isn’t our dustbin, it’s not ours to devastate,
But if we don’t change our behaviour, we shall obliterate
Our own future and that of millions of marine life forms in the sea,
And that is not the future I want for you or me.


This poem illustrated a brilliant grasp of form. I am jealous of the artfulness of those rhymes as well as the way each line sways with an ocean-like motion. Rhyming at this level is very difficult to do and that the lines have such a natural flow suggests an author who is confident in their use of the full range of poetic effects. Well done! Kayo Chingonyi, Orwell Youth Prize Judge

Ocean Blue is a junior Orwell Youth Prize 2020 Runner Up, responding to the theme ‘The Future We Want’.

What was the inspiration for your piece?

I’ve always loved water.  Being in it, being near it, being on it.  I was born in Devon and think there is a natural pull for me to be near the sea.  So many of my favourite family moments and memories are when we’ve been on family holidays by the sea or close to the beach.

Last year we went over to Mauritius to stay with some friends for Christmas.  They live not far from Tamarin Beach which is a beautiful part of Mauritius.  The sea there is so blue.  Like really turquoise.  It’s crystal clear, warm and just the most beautiful sea I’ve ever encountered.  The beach there is vast.  It stretches for miles and the sand is soft and white.  It really is the picture-perfect Mauritian beach.

While we were there we had a Cyclone.  It’s the first time I (or my family) have ever experienced such an event.  The winds were really strong and for 3 days the whole island was shut down and we were forced to stay inside with iron shutters down to keep us and our friends safe.  Whilst you are effectively locked inside it’s difficult to know what’s actually happening outside.  You can hear the winds, but you really don’t have any appreciation of what the strong winds are actually doing.

On the 4th day the winds had dropped down to a ‘strong storm’ level and we were allowed outside.  There was evidence of fallen branches and leaves everywhere which was actually really shocking.  We took a walk to the beach that morning and when we turned the corner to the part of the beach where we had been only 4 days before we were absolutely shocked.  The beach was totally devastated.  What was once soft white sand and crystal clear water was now a muddy brown colour and the beach was absolutely covered in natural and man-made waste.  There was rubbish everywhere.  It was so shocking and really left a mark on me.  I was so sad that a sea so blue and so beautiful was actually hiding such a hidden horror.  My family and I stayed to assist in a beach tidy up and I have attached some pictures which I took (including one with my brother and sister next to some of the rubbish we collected), so you can see just how shocking the before and after sight really was.    It was this experience that inspired me to write my poem Ocean Blue.


Why did you choose poetry as the form for your ideas?

To be honest I simply chose poetry because it is an easier medium for me.  I’ve always struggled a little with my English lessons at school.  I’m more of a maths and languages student.  However since the start of January this year we have been studying unseen poetry in English.  Poems such as Kamikaze by Beatrice Garland, Exposure by Wilfred Owen and The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Tennyson.  My English teacher, Mrs Pomeroy, has really opened my eyes to the world of poetry.  It is her enthusiasm which has helped to unlock an unknown liking for studying stories which flow through the use of words and rhymes rather than having to read pages and pages of narrative.

When I was writing my poem Ocean Blue I was trying to create the effect of the waves rushing onto the beach and then ebbing away. I tried to use a rhythm within the poem that created this effect.  I think using poetry is a great way to get into writing stories.  I think for anyone wanting to put down their thoughts quickly, without having to write too much, poetry is a really good way of doing this.  There are lots of modern storybooks for children, but not so many poetry books.  I hope my poem might inspire other young writers to want to consider using this method as a way of expressing themselves through words.