Lara Wong – ‘Men’s Shoes’

“In this witty poem, with smart spacing, the style and content work well together.” – Delia Jarrett-Macauley, novelist, academic and broadcaster, and Chair of the Orwell Youth Prize Judging Panel 2023.

Scroll to the end of the page for an interview between Lara and 2021 Orwell Youth Prize winner, Bella Rew.

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Men’s Shoes

We asked previous winners and runners up of the Orwell Youth Prize to interview the 2023 cohort about their Orwell Youth Prize writing. Below, 2021 winner, Bella Rew, interviews 2023 winner, Lara Wong, about poetic structure, the theme of identity, and the overlap between the political and personal:

Bella: The first thing that jumped out at me in this poem is the incredibly creative structure. What inspired that choice for this piece? (e.g. poets who use this technique, what it represents etc.)

Lara: One purpose behind the choice is to represent rebellion – in a literal, physical way. The defiance of expectations, demanding a second glance from onlookers. I think that there is a certain type of power in knowing who you are, unapologetically, even if external circumstances exert control. It’s a hope for freedom, but it’s also a type of freedom in itself.

Bella: Everyday things like shoes and hair might seem like an odd topic for political writing. Do you have any thoughts on the overlap between the political and the personal?

Lara: It’s strange how simple objects like shoes can become so entangled in society’s expectations around gender. It was partially frustration that propelled me to write the poem, when some choices in self-expression began to carry more weight. There is simultaneously the pressure of social norms on everyday choices as well as the consequential political power we have by making intentional decisions in personal matters.

Bella: One of the major themes in your poem seems to be shaping your own identity. Is this something especially important to our generation?

Lara: I think it’s harder for a generation raised in a world of growing disinformation to form individual opinions, especially on political topics that involve identity. In the context of writing to the theme ‘Who’s in control?’, there is a definite interplay between public influence and self-expression. I do hope that young people in the future will still have the power to consciously shape their own selfhood.

Lara Wong is a senior winner of The Orwell Youth Prize 2023.