Two Bangladeshi migrant workers and an Indonesian domestic worker nabbed the top three prizes at the finals of the Migrant Worker Poetry Competition held at the National Library on Sunday.
38-year-old Zakir Hossain Khokon won the top spot, an honour he had also received in 2014 at the inaugural Migrant Worker Poetry Competition. His poem, entitled “I am sorry”, dealt with the often-invisible emotions of a migrant worker leaving his home and his family to work in a foreign land.
Themes of isolation and longing emerged in several of the 14 poems recited by the finalists. Runner-up Mohor Khan’s poem “Lamp Post” dealt with the pain of being distant from his family in Bangladesh while working on construction sites in Singapore.
“Day after day I labour / Layers of this city are infused / With the salty smell of my sweat,” he recited in Bengali to a packed room, going on to lament the opportunity to witness his son’s childhood years.
The third prize went to Sharasyamsi Yahya, who wowed the room with a powerful performance of her poem “You” in Bahasa Indonesia.