Poetry Space Competition – 2017
I am delighted to announce that our judge for the next competition will be Mike Di Placido.
The competition will open for entries on 20th November and remain open until the deadline of June 30th, 2017.
The competition is in its 8th year and there will be prizes of £250, £100 and £50 for the top 3, along with publication of the winning and commended poems (20 in all) in the prize winners’ anthology.
It is just £5, to enter a single poem on any theme. Friends of Poetry Space ( ie supporters who pay a small yearly subscription to support our work ) can enter 2 poems for £5. There is no limit on entry but no poet can win more than one cash prize.
Entries accepted from anywhere in the world. Poems must 40 lines or less and all poems must be previously unpublished.
No entry form required. Simply pay online by PayPal or send cheque ( payable to Poetry Space Ltd) . Or if you are in the UK I can take card payments over the telephone.
Then send your entries as a word attachment to email@example.com adding a cover sheet with all the poem titles and your full contact details: name, address, email address and telephone number. Please do not put names on the entries.
If you prefer to send poems by post the address is:
21 Davis Close
Mike Di Placido graduated with an MA in Poetry from Huddersfield University in 2000. He has since had two collections of poetry published: Theatre of Dreams (Smith/Doorstop, 2009) and A Sixty Watt Las Vegas (Valley Press, 2014). His work has appeared in The Rialto, Pennine Platform and The North (where he has also reviewed poetry), and anthologies by Templar Poetry, Valley Press and Live Canon’s recent 154 – a response by contemporary poets to Shakespeare’s sonnets. He has read at Manchester, Wakefield, Bridlington and Scarborough Literary Festivals, and a youtube clip of him reading his poem ‘Scarborough Castle’, at the launch of A Sixty Watt Las Vegas, can be viewed online.
Mike was shortlisted for The Bridport Prize, in 2010, and is among the current winners of The Poetry Business’s 2015 Yorkshire Poetry Prize, judged by Billy Collins. In 2010, he was the sole judge in The Poetry Business’s World Cup Poetry Competition. His poems have been broadcast on British and European Radio and translated into German and Romanian by the web magazine PoetryPF. His poems also feature in a CD entitled Scarborough in Verse (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Live Canon, 2014).
As well as working on a tribute to Ted Hughes, Mike is currently engaged on other projects, including a poem and film sequence on Scarborough’s literary, historical and cultural legacy; an expanded account of his ‘magical trial’ at Manchester United in 1970; and a verse play, centred on the malevolent dragon of Old Norse and Germanic myth, legend and literature, entitled: Delivering the Dragon Stone.
What will I be looking for in the poems entered for this year’s competition? Well, perversely, I’d like to approach the question in a slightly differently way and ask, instead, what will the outstanding poems activate in me? Same thing, perhaps, but this slant gives the energy and the power to what will prove to be the outstanding poems, I think. My attention will be held – whatever the poem’s length or form – and I will be taken with the freshness of the writing – the words, images and ideas – which will articulate something important to the writer, something they have needed to express and convey. There will be a unique-ness in the strongest poems and a fidelity to subject matter – whether humorous or serious – and a demand for them to be re-read. And re-read. They will stay with me.
Not all our attempts in writing our poems work as well as we would wish, of course, but I like to think we do our best with them before we send them out into the world – that we care about them and wish them well. They have a lot to do: transmitting their messages out there on their own.
I hope you enjoy the whole process of writing and drafting. Good luck with your submissions! I ‘m looking forward to reading them all.
Mike Di Placido
Poetry Space Competition 2016 – results
First of all a big thank you for Myra Schneider for spending a couple of weeks of her summer with her head in poems submitted to Poetry Space Competition, and a sincere thank you to everyone who submitted poems. We had 249 entries and Myra read them all. All the top twenty poems will be published in a prize winners’ anthology hopefully before Christmas.
PLEASE NOTE THAT COMMENDED POEMS ARE NOT IN ORDER OF MERIT. THE PREVIOUS NOTICE WAS MY MISTAKE.
1st prize Poppies – Isobel Thrilling
2nd prize Panther – Shirley Wright
3rd prize Open air opera – Caroline Price
Please scroll down below the commended poets to read the top three poems and find out a bit about the winners. The three will receive prizes of £250, £100 and £50 respectively.
Congratulations to Isobel, Shirley and Caroline and to the poets below.
The Murder of Anne Cluysenaar by her Step-Son, November 2014 – Dilys Wood
High Wire Wedding – Jenna Plewes
To Cornwall – Lizzie Ballagher
Ruby of the Sky – Kate Dempsey
Three Piece Suite – Rachael Clyne
Seaside Soap – Di Coffey
Burrs – Tony Hendry
Technophobia – Tony Hendry
The Tsarina at Tobolsk December 1917 – Sheila Jacob
The Social Worker – Isobel Thrilling
To the Writers of Novels – Isobel Thrilling
Paris Church -Kate Foley
Matryoskhka Factory – Victoria Gatehouse
Bombweed -Victoria Gatehouse
Sky to Sea – Rachel Plummer
Frances Dreams Up The Fairies – Victoria Gatehouse
Life story in eight sentences – Diane Jackman
They have spread to the fence:
big, scarlet vanes like grounded
from thick, black pollen
earthed in the tough,
green nets of Essex grasses.
Gift from my father:
petals as big as my hand grow
a red to depth-charge
break open the psyche
of the light when he was dead.
Isobel Thrilling was born in Suffolk, and brought up in a mining village in the north-east of England; she read English at Hull University and spent many years as Head of Service for Teaching English as a Second Language in a London borough. She first started writing after eye-operations that saved her sight. She is married, with a son, a daughter and two grandchildren. She has been widely published in magazines and newspapers, and her work has been included in many anthologies from publishers such as O.U.P, Longman, Hodder Headline and Macmillan. Her poems have been broadcast on BBC Television, ITV; and BBC Radio 3 and 4.
Hearing this news was like a blast of sun on a grey, lumpy day, as if an evening primrose suddenly lit up the dark. I felt supported and my work appreciated. Thank you for all the work you put in to organising the competition.
He has sucked the light
from the stars,
swallowed day and night,
tucked the moon
into a velvet pelt
so thick I struggle to breathe.
Matt black has never felt
more like swimming in soot
fathoms deep as he
paces the lengthy of bars
there to protect me.
I would tear them down
If I could, replant
the Amazon and howl
like a baboon. But I can’t
conjure the jungle’s roar,
the covenant of wild and real.
Instead, I watch him circle,
take his photo, flinch as I feel
his glance graze my skin.
Shirley Wright is a regular member of Bristol’s Poetry Can and Random Women Poets and also The Bath Poetry Cafe. Her poems have appeared in various magazines and she has won prizes at. for example the Wells and Teigmouth Poetry Festivals. Her first poetry collection, The Last Green Field, came out in 2013 with Indigo Dreams Publishing and her second, Sticks and Stones will be published next year, also with IDP.
I shall have to think of something special to do with my prize money! And how lovely to be able to choose a book as well. I’ve had a look in your shop and rather fancy “Chester City Walls”, by Julia McGuiness. I’d like to say a big thanks to you for running this popular competition and to judge Myra Schneider for liking my poem enough to place it among the winners
Open air opera
This weather is a curtain
that can’t be pulled aside. The real leaves
shudder in the deluge, a stiff breeze whisks the voices
over topiaried lawns and out to sea.
The audience huddles knee to knee behind a shield
of splayed umbrellas while from a crack in the marquee
the conductor waves his baton like a high-speed
windscreen-wiper, water coursing freely down his sleeve
as rain beats a drum roll on the canvas, leaps
from roof and sides. The orchestra within
plays gamely through the din, the scream of aircraft
picked up by the hidden microphones, for them each scene
a still glimpsed as the wind tugs free
a pleat of tent: now a boy creeps down a slope
on stilts; now the chief fire-juggler struggles to keep
his brands alight, crouching
beneath a tree; now the hero, streaked
with greasepaint, pleads with the heavens from a dripping seat
which in an act of hopeless chivalry
he dabs at with a handkerchief as he awaits
his girl; now she, defiant in clinging sea-green drapes, her hair
unravelled weed, slips
in the mud and from her knees and in the teeth
of this English summer hits a perfectly pitched top C.
Caroline Price is a violinist and teacher living and working in Kent. She has published
three collections of poetry, most recently ‘Wishbone’ (Shoestring Press),
and is currently working on a fourth. She has also published short stories
and in 2015 was runner-up in the Society of Authors’ Tom-Gallon Award for
I was absolutely delighted to receive your phone call yesterday. As I said, once you’ve entered a competition you tend to put it out of your mind, and so news like that always comes as a wonderful surprise. And one of the most satisfying things about winning a prize is the knowledge that something you’ve written has communicated itself to someone else… It’s very encouraging!
Myra Schneider’s most recent collections are What Women Want (Second Light Publications 2012) and The Door to Colour (Enitharmon 2014) Other publications include fiction for young people and books about personal writing – in particular Writing My Way Through Cancer, a fleshed-out journal with poems (Jessica Kingsley 2003) and the resource book Writing Your Self with John Killick (Continuum 2009). She is a tutor for The Poetry School in London and consultant to the Second Light Network for women poets. She has co-edited anthologies of work by contemporary women poets, most recently the acclaimed Her Wings of Glass (Second Light Publications 2014) She was shortlisted for a Forward prize in 2007.
From the 249 poems entered for the competition I put aside just over sixty to consider carefully. From these I produced a short list of 35 before making a final selection of 20 poems. During this process I reluctantly ruled out several poems with lively, poignant or thoughtful material in them which either hadn’t been fully transformed into poetry or else had dense detail which wasn’t taking the poem forward. By the time I’d picked out 20 poems I was very aware of the three which are the prize winners. Each of these poems is exceptional for the way it is shaped and the use of language.
Poetry Space Competition 2015 – FULL RESULTS
I am pleased to announce the winners and commended poets in this year’s competition, selected by John Siddique. There were 322 entries and John read them all and send his thanks to everyone. Prizes of £250, £100 and £50 will go to the top three poets. All winners and commended poets will receive a copy of the prizewinners’s anthology which will comprise the top 23 poems chosen by John.
1st Prize : After the Storm. Ama Bolton (UK)
2nd Prize: Weeding. Corin Greaves (UK)
3rd Prize: I Know The Moon In All Her Phases. Victoria Gatehouse (UK)
Ghosts. Susan Castillo (UK)
Storm Wren. Lizzie Ballagher (UK)
My Grandmother’s Angels. Victoria Gatehouse (UK)
Fingernails. Gail Dendy(South Africa)
The Challenge. Wendy Stern (UK)
Bramble Picking. David Mark Williams (UK)
Next Time I Will Smudge The Painted Sky. Jeanne Ellin (UK)
View From A High Window. Lizzie Ballagher (UK)
Struck. Helen Ford (UK)
Nocturnal. Joanne Key (UK)
Pieces of Suffering. Wendy Stern( UK)
Rainbow, Eleni Cay (UK)
Garden Birds. Gail Underwood (Cumbria, UK)
When I Think Of You. Michaela Ridgway (East Sussex, UK)
Flower Power. Sue Kindon (France)
I Never Trusted The Light Again. Beverley Ferguson (Bath, UK)
This Place. Eileen Harrison (The Netherlands)
In A Good Place. Pat Edwards (Wales, UK)
Early Morning Swim. Caroline Carver (Cornwall, UK)
Jesse Garon. Susan Castillo
Poetry Space will be publishing a prize-winners’ anthology in the late Autumn. In the meantime please scroll down to read the top three poems and find out a bit more about the poets.
After the Storm
sunshine on late roses,
a queue of swallows on the wire,
the sky washed clean and spread to dry:
she finds his gloves in the hall-table drawer:
leather moulded to the curl of his palms.
The smell of him,
Left, right, she draws them on.
Key deep in one pocket, jar in the other,
she gathers boots, lead, walking stick.
The spaniel dances at the door.
On the hill the wind shakes leaves
and jackdaws out of the sycamores.
Her coat flaps flightless wings.
She climbs until the sea
rises into sight, a flake of silver.
The dog bounces through heather.
Clouds hurry into the east.
Her gloved hands unscrew the lid
and tilt the jar. The last of his dust
streams out on the wind.
Ama Bolton is a member of the Wells Fountain Poets. Her work has appeared in Magma, Obsessed with Pipework and Blithe Spirit and in several anthologies, and on-line at The Stare’s Nest.
What can I say? I’m surprised, thrilled, sopra la luna! I wrote this poem while walking in the Quantocks on a windy autumn day, and am delighted that it has found a home with Poetry Space.
This poem is poignant and truthful. I love the images in it, the key in the pocket, the flapping coat. As soon as I read this poem I knew it was a winner. This is a poem that will stay with me, for all the best reasons. I feel like I met the people in this poem, and its story is delivered with grace and love.
i used to feed the weeds
in our garden as a child
the difference between
one petal and another
for the same reason
i picked her bony stem
and if we were ever to marry
i would lay fistful, upon fistful
of dandelions at the altar
and weeds would have their day
Corin is currently studying History and Philosophy at Bath Spa University. Once she graduates she hopes to teach. She has always had a passion for poetry, particularly the work of e e cummings and Anne Sexton, but only recently started seeing her own poems through to completion. Interested in writing intimate and honest poetry, this is the first poem Corin has shared and entered into a competition.
I am absolutely over the moon, especially because I don’t usually consider my poems worth finishing, let alone sharing. This has been a great confidence boost and I definitely intend to write more!
I love simple clear writing, and I love humanity. This poem is full of both, as well as innocence, vulnerability and hope.; the things that are actually the real strengths of being human. This poem made me dance with joy.
I Know The Moon In All Her Phases
Tonight, there’s a dressing taped to my breast.
I draw curtains and she’s there, scalpel-thin
behind glass, the shadowed part invisible
to the naked eye. Tomorrow, someone
in a white coat will stain and mount my cells,
adjust the focus on the microscope, sip tea
from the machine, discuss last night’s soaps,
search for an expanded nucleus, a distorted edge.
ii Stage IIB
The doctors are teaching me a new language –
invasive and nodes and metastases,
words I never needed to know before this
and I’m rolling them around my mouth,
their aftertaste of sickness and fear and now
she’s bloated up, her steroid-face taking over
the window as I open the fridge, the next dose
here between the Marmite and the Dairylee.
iii The Field
The earth is warm beneath my back;
behind closed lids, the rage and permanence
of the sun. If I opened them there would be
a plump-cheeked child threading daisy chains,
a man with a prayer in his eyes and the moon
hanging on the edge of this daytime sky;
I sense her slow spin, know her
to be part blown, like a dandelion clock.
Victoria Gatehouse lives in West Yorkshire. Her poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Mslexia, Magma, The Rialto, Poetry News, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Furies and Her Wings of Glass. Competition placements include Ilkley, Mslexia, Poetry News Members’ Competition, Prole Laureate and The Interpreter’s House. Victoria is a member of the Hebden Bridge Bookcase Poets.
Poetry Space is a great platform for both new and established poets so I was thrilled to hear that two poems of mine had been placed in this competition. As an admirer of John Siddique’s work, it was incredibly self-affirming that he selected these poems. Looking forward to seeing the anthology!
I love the narrative of this poem, which takes us through an experience which other lesser poets would have bludgeoned the reader with. The short line music brings an insistence to the images. From a nucleus through the language of cancer, through death and back to the everyday; this poem is an incredible journey, which I am thankful for.
John’s feedback on the commended poems will be published in the prize winners ‘ anthology. All that is left to say is a BIG THANK YOU from Poetry Space to everyone who entered the competition. All profits help Poetry Space to widen participation in poetry and bring more poets to recognition.
Described ‘as one of the best poets of our generation’ by novelist Bina Shah, John Siddique grew up in a household without books, however his discovery of his local library as a child began a lifelong love affair with words and literature. He started writing poetry in 1991 after reading the work of ee cummings, Walt Whitman and DH Lawrence.
John’s poems, essays and articles have appeared in Granta, The Guardian, Poetry Review, The Rialto and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. His poetry collections for adults include the critically acclaimed Recital (2009) and Full Blood (2011) and a book for children, Don’t Wear It On Your Head was shortlisted for the CLPE poetry award in 2007. Awards include a Hawthornden Fellowship, Honorary Creative Writing Fellow (Leicester University) and Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts.
He has been a resident poet in a variety of venues including Manchester Art Gallery, HMYOI Wetherby and Los Angeles for the British Council. He is currently Royal Literary Fund Fellow at York St John University.
This was John’s address to poets when the competition was opened:
I’m really looking forward to receiving your poems for the 2015 Poetry Space Competition. I welcome your entries with an open heart and mind. It might be interesting if you would for a minute put yourself in your correspondent’s shoes, imagine you had been asked to judge this competition, what kind of poems would you want to see? One of the greatest mistakes I make with my writing at times, is where I lose sight of the reader. I’m not saying we should try and write to please that person, but perhaps we should write to please our own inner reader, not our writer. I have never thought of myself as a poet or writer, those are given titles, I am only a reader who occasionally finds himself thinking or feeling, ‘I’d love to read a book or a poem on…’ Yet on looking, it is as if there is a gap on the shelf, and no one has written the book I want to read. I take that always as a message from the universe or the muses telling me that it is my job then to write what needs to be written. So please send those poems, the ones that only you could write – essential and without cliché.
I’ll be honest with you, after being a reader and being on the planet as long as I have been I am not interested nor am likely to choose poetry that’s been designed to win a competition, there are many tricks poets have up their sleeves to make an impression, but I’m just John and I tend to be moved by literature which ascribes to human values and experience, that deals with our dignity and openness. Send me some real poetry that changes the world and life of the reader because it speaks of something essential about life, poetry that only you can bring to the page through your words, music and art, something that is a spark of life that will find a home in the heart of the reader.
I remember chatting with my friend, the late and sorely missed Glyn Hughes, about poems that become your friends. He would often discuss the dangers of coming from an ego place in our writing, and how his can manifest in so many ways, so that we don’t create something essential. Glyn would also talk about how the poems he loved were always with him; he could rely on them. If you have something you feel is like that up your sleeve, I’d love to see it. If you want to know more about my own writing ethos there is an artistic statement at www.johnsiddique.co.uk that pretty much tells you all you need to know, but I want to see your poems, your moments of life, written so that the spark still lives between the words and syllables.
Poetry Space Competition 2014 – FULL RESULTS
Poetry Space Competition closed this year (its fifth) with 223 entries and these included submissions from across the UK and Ireland, South Africa, Canada, Australia, USA, France and Greece.
The winning poems were selected by Alison Brackenbury (photo right) who has provided a detailed report on her choices. (scroll down for this). We really appreciate Alison doing this. She did a fabulous job and in the sweltering summer heat as you’ll see from her report…
I would like to say a sincere thank you to everyone who entered and warm congratulations to the winners, the highly commended poets and the runners up. Twenty poems in all from nineteen poets will feature in the new anthology. For want of a better title I have decided to call this For want of a better word, the title of Glen Wilson’s winning poem.
Thanks are due too, to Johanna Boal who did a sterling job promoting the competition for Poetry Space and the growing number of friends of poetry space who handed out flyers and told their friends.
The top three winners are:
1st: Glen Wilson – For Want of a better word
2nd: Robin Muers – He’s settled in quite well
3rd: Angie Butler ‘Son, you’re 42’
Seven highly commended poems:
Margaret Eddershaw: Scattering
Martin Fuller: Bullet Points
Claire Williamson: She thought her father was a butcher
Patrick Lodge: C’an Freixa
Susan Latimer: Tea Time Truce
Kay Cotton: The Mason
Gail Dendy: The edge of the world
Ten more for publication:
Di Coffey: Hands
Elaine Taylor: Uncle Ruby
Derek Stanley: Out Patience
Jo Waterworth: Widdershins
Roger Caldwell: Going to Coventry
David Lukens: A Circular Life
Anthony Watts: The Bright Room
Denni Turp: Can You Hear Me? Are You Still There?
Ama Bolton: Unfairy Tale
Ama Bolton: Brown Sugar
Glen Wilson, the winner of Poetry Space Competition had this to say:
I was thrilled when I got the phone call to say that I had won the Poetry Space Competition. It is always great to hear that your work has been enjoyed by another and judged worthy of winning a prize (my first!) as well has made it incredibly encouraging. I am also looking forward to seeing the anthology come out in the future as well. Thanks Poetry Space!
For want of a better word
I wrote only one note today;
it said remember to pick up some milk.
The Smiths always forget the milk.
They hold then use me roughly,
though I suppose I can’t complain
I do have regular employment.
I don’t work for a calligrapher, dancing
elegantly on certificates or a screenwriter
creating Oscar winning scripts.
Those pens have their own velvet homes
while I have been known to be abandoned
in untold places like a common pencil,
wedged behind his wax leaking ear,
my end chewed by her cherry
red lips as she looks at the crossword.
I remember the year spent lost
down the back of the sofa, ink tears
staining loose change and dust.
Eventually they found me again
as Mrs Smith scribbled a phone number down
and smiling handed it to the milkman.
Later I watch Mr Smith pick up another pen
(a biro!) scribble out a letter and leave
it on the bedside table.
All I can see from the dresser are the words
trust and goodbye. She cries as she reads
these words and all the words between.
I hope that someday she might use me
to pour out her thoughts, because every pen
wants to leave an epigram before it dries.
Glen Wilson lives in Portadown, Co Armagh with his wife Rhonda and children Sian and Cain. He works as a Civil Servant in Belfast in Statistics and Research.
Glen was part of the Millennium Court Arts Centre Writing group in Portadown for 5 years. His work has been published in Black Mountain Review, Iota, A New Ulster and The Interpreters House. In 2007 He was short listed for the Strokestown Poetry Festival’s Satire Prize. His influences include Leonard Cohen, Seamus Heaney, George Szirtes, Pablo Neruda, and his Christian faith.
He is currently working on his first collection of poetry.
When told of his prize Robin Muers had this to say:
Really pleased, especially so because this particular poem had been through very many previous versions and major alterations.
He’s settled-in quite well,
they’d like to think. Today requires
a sun hat, wise ones say. I’m placed
beside a healthy drink, then left
to find my own excitement, like:
a crocodile stalks the patio table,
grabs a wine glass in its teeth.
(My finger’s arthritically bent
to make the light for croc’s bright eye.)
Let’s have some other guests! A bunch
of terracotta frogs in Afro wigs
– seductive scent deployed! (Official
description: pots of petunia.)
Why these games? Because it’s far
too ‘sensible’ in here: the hand brake
must be ‘on’ both sides of chairs
– all that. I’ve had enough. But look:
above our Silver-Safe Community
a gang of swifts tears round the sky.
They’re calling me to pass the ball
through fading light. I leave with them.
Robin Muers studied history at university and subsequently qualified as a solicitor. He worked in various jobs in local government and the public sector before retiring some years ago. Although always interested in contemporary poetry, he did not make many attempts to write his own until the current century was well under way. If he wants a poetry book to take on a train journey, a John Burnside collection is most likely to be picked off the shelf. Robin enters a number of poetry competitions – partly because that gives an incentive to ‘finish and polish’.
Angie Butler had this to say:
Finding Poetryspace has made a huge difference to my life.
The daily time to write for the Photo and Poetry Competition allowed me to voice every emotion and to fend off depression and access acceptance and healing.
I would write and rewrite my emotions. I would have hope that my voice might be heard by an uninvolved stranger. I was inspired to run a competition for other writers to feel the comfort and joy I myself had received.
Son, you’re 42
The chocolate licked off.
The conquest done.
Now on to another.
A different one.
To woo, to ravage.
To make my own.
Go home alone.
Angie Butler is a teacher who has always written. Published in several books and magazines, she has researched Land Girls in WW2 and created books and cards to support her work. A founder member of The Penzance Literary Festival, she holds workshops for all ages and abilities. Her story ‘Bodelva’ was performed by the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra and 600 children, celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Eden Project in Cornwall. She was honoured as Citizen of the Year 2012 and Cornish Woman of the Year 2014 in Penzance, for her help in community projects.
Copyright of all poems printed here remains with their authors – please don’t reproduce without permission.
Competition Report for the Poetry Space Competition, 2014
Poems must be convincing. I do not believe that they always need to be honest. But I think that an account of judging them should be. It is possible to develop rather grand theories about judging poetry. (I have one or two myself!) But here is an honest account of how my chosen twenty poems shook themselves free from the invitingly fat pile of entries for the Poetry Space Competition, in the summer of 2014.
Throughout a couple of blazing weeks in July, sustained by blinds, choc ices, and two supportive cats, I read all of the poems, several times. I pored over my ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘Maybe?’ files repeatedly. But the poems which first captivated, and moved me the most, continued to do so. My affection for them did not waver with the blinds, or melt with the ice cream.
What did I most admire, about this competition’s three (very varied) prizewinners? All of these poems had depth. Glen Wilson’s winning poem, ‘For want of a better word’, has a story which enthralled me. I will not reveal its twists! After clever flirtations with humour and cliché, this poem swiftly turns into an account of love, with an ending of real pathos.
Many poems in competitions tackle the subject of age. But the winner of the second prize, Robin Muers’s ‘He’s settled in quite well,’ is one of the best and most surprising I have ever read on this theme. Its speaker, ‘placed […] then left’ in a wheelchair, is mentally as quick as the swifts in the summer skies above him.
It takes courage to enter a very short poem for a competition. I am delighted that Angie Butler did so. ‘Son, you’re 42!’, the third prizewinner, has only nine lines. But it places the weight of a whole lifetime’s mistakes behind its closing rhyme.
Was it difficult to thin out the remaining pile into seven Highly Commended, and ten poems for the competition anthology? Honestly, yes. Many poems were re-read, then put back with a sigh.
I felt that all the Commended poems had exceptional force, in very different ways. Margaret Eddershaw’s ‘Scattering’ arrested me by its final line. Martin Fuller’s ‘Bullet Points’ was both absorbing and surprising. Physical vividness and emotional mystery marked Claire Williamson’s ‘She thought her father was a butcher’. ‘C’an Freixa’, by Patrick Lodge, achieved descriptions of irresistible beauty. I found ‘Tea Time Truce’, by Susan Latimer, uncompromisingly moving. Kay Cotton’s ‘The mason’ carefully deepened into primitive power. ‘The edge of the world’, by Gail Dendy, set the whole force of its length behind a bravely expansive ending.
From my selection of poems for the anthology, I admire the haunting scents of Di Coffey’s poem ‘Hands’, and the often disturbing detail of Elaine Taylor’s ‘Uncle Ruby’. I think many readers will recognise the quiet rhythmic truth of Derek Stanley’s ‘Out Patience’, and the child-like sensuality of Jo Waterworth’s ‘Widdershins’. I am haunted by the unfolding sadness of Roger Caldwell’s ‘Going to Coventry’, shocked and impressed by the tough heroine of David Lukens’ ‘A circular life’. Virtual life is vivid in Anthony Watts’ The Bright Room’; an intricate music in Denni Turp’s sestina, ‘Can You Hear Me? Are You Still There?’ Finally, I greatly relished the crisp couplets of ‘Unfairy Tale’, and the deft humour of ‘Brown Sugar’. The judging was, of course, completely anonymous. When I learnt that both poems were by Ama Bolton, I still felt that these two skilful poems deserved their placing on their own, very different merits.
Why did some poems not escape from my ‘Maybe?’ folder. There were poems, excellent in parts, which showed flaws which I often see in my own writing. Some poems started strongly, then tailed off. Others had arresting diction, yet a lack of rhythmic lift, like a beautiful skin with no muscles to make it move. But there were many poems which did work well, and which I would very much have liked to smuggle into my ‘Yes!’ folder.
I have had the privilege of judging many competitions, both national and local. I think that Poetry Space is one of the most generous I have encountered. Many contests have only a few winning poems, which do not appear in print. Poetry Space has ten winners, including the Highly Commended, and publishes twenty of its entries. Statistically, you have an exceptionally good chance of being rewarded for entering this competition!
The standard of entries was high this year, and a significant number of the unplaced poems might well have been favoured by a different judge. (Poetry judging is not an exact science.) So, to all who entered, my thanks for letting me read your varied and thought-provoking poems. And please do enter again. Honestly,
2015 could be the year you win the Poetry Space Competition!
The top three will receive prizes of £250, £100 and £50 respectively and complimentary copies of the anthology.
Twenty poems in all will be published in the prizewinner’s anthology.