A varied and interesting selection as always, with many poems on the themes of relationships, the natural world, journeys and quests of all kinds.
I had no problem selecting the winning three poems or the Highly Commended (although both the latter were nudging hard to be included as main prize winners.) My problems were with several of the Commended poems, which could have been Highly Commended, and with a cluster of a dozen poems that, had space permitted, could easily have been chosen for the anthology. Among them are ‘Thistles’ ‘The Horse’ ‘Skull as Object’ and ‘Away in August’.
This was a most enjoyable task and I’m glad to have had the pleasure of reading so many fine poems.
1st MEN, THIS MORRIS DANCE – GRAHAM BURCHELL
This poem – so original – stood (or danced) out for me at the first reading. I was caught by the vigour of its opening line which continues from the title: ‘Men, this Morris Dance/ is dedicated to our butterflies – sorry.’ Who could resist that ‘sorry’? I couldn’t. A clever, perfectly crafted, attractive poem that is deservedly the winner.
2nd NIGHT BATTLES – THRYN H.
A sure hand was at work on this poem. I enjoyed the surrealism of its images, the technical skill but most of all the musicality of its language in lines such as these: ‘if I turned the whole lot over would the feathers/sprout from shoulders/where endless hours used to fit?/ Could I sweep the dusk from eyelids/when I stretch them, glorious, free ...’A hypnotic, compelling poem.
3rd MOUSETRAP – WF LANTRY
Ostensibly a poem about catching a mouse but there is so much more. It’s a poem about suffering, I think, suffering and existence and a reaching after peace in a precarious world. A subtle poem, moving from darkness to dawn, from noon to midnight, written with lyricism and a perfection of language. Take these lines for example: ‘I will need/benevolent new traps. At noon I drive /to look for something it will, caught, survive,/without new suffering laid on my head.’
WASPS – TED WALTER
A striking poem that considers the implications of destroying a wasps’ nest. I was immediately pulled in by the repeated phrase ‘And if I had?’ A poignant, thoughtful poem beautifully written.
CUERNCA, SPAIN – VALENTINE WILLIAMS
A simple, lyrical ‘relationship’ poem that builds on the repeated line ‘There was that night’ and uses the image of an owl in moonlight to evoke shadows, a void, loss. Lovely writing here.
MURCHISON – VALENTINE WILLIAMS
A lyrical journey/relationship poem that attracted me with its repetition of the place name ‘Murchison’ and the many small details that build up the picture such as ‘Cohen on the player, mournful,/and sandflies biting both our sandalled feet/along the river down to Murchison.’
CLAY-LADY – MARGARET WILMOT
An intriguing, visual poem that uses a device I particularly enjoy – the echoing and interweaving of words and images throughout the different sections.
LANDRANGER 205 – WILL DAUNT
Here the poet uses the ‘serrated trails’ and ‘contour –scars’ of a map to convey the image of a ‘last stamp-sized scrap of land’ where ‘half the country’s lost.’ Brilliantly crafted.
ALMOST HIBERNATING – VALERIE BRIDGE
I chose this poem for the beauty of its language – hypnotic, echoing lines such as ‘The bear must sleep. Must sleep./Back. Sleep. Softly blueberrying.’ An enchanting poem.
SOMEWHERE THERE USED TO BE LOVE – CLAIRE PANKHURST
An apparently straightforward narrative of an uninvited guest who realises she/he has made a mistake by turning up, counterpointed by the ‘broken’ phrase ‘and your hand curls round glass breaking.’ A clever, well handled technique that perfectly conveys the emotion behind the events and the sadness of ‘breaking.’