2014 Open Poetry Competition

Results Summary

1st Prize £250:‘Names’ by Margaret Gleave of Stockport
2nd Prize £100:‘Thinking Back’ by Ginna Wilkerson of Tampa, Florida
3rd Prize £75:– ‘Last of the many, last of the few’ by Alan Carter of Bute

Highly Commended £10:– ‘Cake trolley in the pavilion tea gardens’ by Virginia Monson of Brighton

Highly Commended £10:–  ‘Letter home from China Beach’ by Pat Borthwick of Kirkby Underdale

Commended:
‘Meringues’ by Hannah Brockbank of Billingshurst
‘Spectral white noise’ by Valerie Bridge of Sturminster Newton
‘Artist teaches himself to paint grief’ by Wendy Klein of Tidmarsh
‘The magi’ by Anthony Watts of Taunton
‘Queen Margaret Speaks to her falcon’ by Margaret Eddershaw of Nafplion, Greece
‘Poppies’ by Gill Terry of Isle of Sky
‘Showdown’ by Geraldine Clarkson of Leamington Spa
‘Noises off’ by Lynn Strugnell of Woodingdeam
‘Death’ by Donal O’Brien of Belfast (who is 10 years of age – well done!)
‘The Flowers of Bil’in’ J S Rafaeli of London

2014 Open Poetry Competition Results

Judge David Caddy’s Report and Adjudication

This Competition was a delight to adjudicate. I discovered a lot about obscure conflicts and memorials and the intricacies of the battle between the sexes. The ‘Conflict’ theme was interpreted widely and sometimes loosely. I enjoyed many of the entries that took a sideways look at the theme. There was a mixture of traditional, mainstream and experimental poems. My top fifty entries had representatives from these different approaches to the poem. I was looking for engaging and unpredictable poems that fully embraced the theme of conflict.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary definition of conflict as a noun consists of 1a ‘a state of opposition or hostilities’; 1b ‘a fight or struggle’; 2a ‘the clashing of opposed principles’; 2b ‘an instance of the clashing of opposed principles’; 3a ‘the opposition of incompatible wishes or needs in a person’; 3b ‘an instance of the opposition of incompatible wishes or needs in a person’; 3c ‘the distress resulting from this’.

Conflict is also a verb meaning 1 ‘to clash; be incompatible’; 2 ‘struggle or contend’ and 3 ‘contradictory’. Google simplifies the definition to noun ‘a serious disagreement or argument, typically between the sexes’ and verb to ‘be incompatible or at variance; clash’. I also checked my copy of the Chambers Dictionary for variation on the broad definition of the theme

Most of the 364 entries concerned conflict in some way. However there were some, despite reading, that I could not connect with the theme. Sadly, one or two of these were otherwise quite good. About one half of the entries took War as their them. These were often simply descriptions, questions or lists. Many avoided the two World Wars and selected much less well known nineteenth century hostilities and conflicts. Grim poems about bloody battles and memorials to massacres dominated. One disappointing feature was the relatively low number of poems that explored the psychology of conflict. In contrast, some entries attempted to explore the language of conflict and they were heartening to read. There were quirky historical poems, which grabbed my attention by selecting unusual angles. These tended to employ more poetic technique and demand subsequent readings. Almost a quarter of the entries revolved around the clash between the sexes. They were often more predicable than the war poems. The best were subtle, sometimes implied, and attempted to reveal the conflict in motion. These were selected for closer reading. A significant number of poems were short, pithy commentaries on an implied conflict. They all engaged my attention and stayed in the memory. There were a good number of poems that related to homecomings and the distress of loss. These poems were by and large less successful and much closer to narrative fiction than narrative poetry. They left no space for the reader through suggestion, implication or allusion. A small number of poems related to artistic creation, the conflict between artist and artistic production, and these stood out, as they were instances of either incompatibilities or clashes of interpretation. There were a few poems about spiritual rebirth that had the germ of an unusual take on the theme.

Stylistically most poems relied upon narrative description with content overrunning form and employed a minimum of poetic techniques. Some were closer to prose than poetry. Those entries that employed more technique often relied upon the description of an absence or loss as their central motif rather than a conflict and thus did less well overall in the competition. My instruction was to find poems that explored the theme as a central motif. Those that strove to show off their poetic techniques, implied rather than told, and employed conflict as a central motif mad the long list of fifty disparate poems.

The First Prize poem is ‘Names”

‘Names’ explores the conflict between words and things in flesh succulent language employing a wide range of poetic techniques. The internal, slant, half and full rhymes are entirely natural, surprising and matched by an understanding that poetry is reached through language rather than mere expression. The beauty and sound of words comes alive in the poem in a medium pitch modulation that stays in the memory. It is supremely balanced, measured and opens up the wider world of words and things. The poem explores the arbitrary nature of the signifier in terms of both the heart and head, without unnecessary ego or input. It is like no other poem in the competition and contained the fullest of textures. it is simple, clear and yet deeply profound in addressing a continuous conflict through implication and exploration of language.

The Second Prize poem is ‘Thinking Back’

‘Thinking Back’ is an extraordinary illustration of ‘the opposition of incompatible wishes or needs in a person’. Here the reader is presented with a woman narrator in the heart of psychological conflict. The unpredictable retrospective first person narrative produces a loop of event that implies the narrator is stuck in a continuing struggle caused by a skin disease. The physical and mental scars are effectively and simply contrasted with the mundane aspects of ordinary life in order to show the extraordinary nature and impact of the disease. The reader becomes increasingly aware of the daily psychological struggles that the narrator has to contend with in terms of gradual disintegration from extreme anxiety. It is all implied and revealed in a matter of fact manner that works to force the reader to reread and reconsider the content.

The Third Prize poem is ‘Last Of The Many, Last Of The Few’

‘Last Of The Many, Last Of The Few’ relates the impact of bereavement on the wife of a soldier killed in The Great War. The poem focuses on her difficulties in knowing how to cope. It is a deceptively simple third person narrative poem. It has great period understanding, lightness of touch, and packs an emotional punch. The double narrative works by precise and authentic detail of the soldier at the front, the advances and loss of trenches. The deep love and loss of the wife are implied and revealed piecemeal. It shows the way loss is reinforced in the wife’s memory and how she cannot escape his loss until she joins him.

‘The Cake Trolley In The Pavilion Tea Gardens’ is Highly Commended

This poem perfectly evokes the conflict of wanting something from the cake trolley with all the baggage that comes behind that. It is sufficiently implied, employs succulent language and shows the temptation as ‘a gathering glow’. It made me smile with its sensual undertow and had universal appeal.

‘Letter Home from China Beach, Vietnam’ is also Highly Commended

This poem, in the form of an epistle, shows the growing psychological impact and disturbance on a soldier writing to his mom. it has a convincing authenticity by mixing mundane facts of weather, observation of people and place with the matter of fact details of warfare and family at home.

I would like to commend the flowing entries:

‘Meringues’ by Hannah Brockbank of Billingshurst
‘Spectral white noise’ by Valerie Bridge of Sturminster Newton
‘Artist teaches himself to paint grief’ by Wendy Klein of Tidmarsh
‘The magi’ by Anthony Watts of Taunton
‘Queen Margaret Speaks to her falcon’ by Margaret Eddershaw of Nafplion, Greece
‘Poppies’ by Gill Terry of Isle of Sky
‘Showdown’ by Geraldine Clarkson of Leamington Spa
‘Noises off’ by Lynn Strugnell of Woodingdeam
‘Death’ by Donal O’Brien of Belfast (who is 10 years of age – well done!)
‘The Flowers of Bil’in’ J S Rafaeli of London

1st Place - Margaret Gleave of Southport


Names


Though I know sardines
are oily fish full of Omega 3,
Sardines is a game we played,
all crammed close in a cupboard
of old tweed and mothballs; and jam
has nothing to do with conserve.

Though the heart I wear on my sleeve,
and the one chiselled on the ash tree
with an arrow and initials JSB = MEP
is nothing like the sheep’s heart Mrs Hughes dissected in biology,
its chambers and tubes open to the eye, still and purple,
no longer pumping bright red out, and darker in,
I know a purple heart is a medal for bravery, or speed.

Though I name
cuckoo, coot, bustard, shag, shrike, twite, throstle
I’m not thinking of birds.
And when I name pis-en-lit, lad’s love, wormwood,
monkshood, lady’s slipper, love-lies-bleeding, baby’s-breath,
I’m not thinking of flowers.

2nd Place - Ginna Wilkerson of Tampa, Florida

Thinking Back

 

My dinner date was standing as I sat on a stool at the bar.

He saw something on the top of my head and tried to rub it away.

It wouldn’t come off, so I reached up and felt staples in my scalp –

the kind that come from a staple gun – straight and heavy.

I began to pull them out – there must have been at least a hundred.

My companion said let’s go have some French food.

I kept pulling staples as we walked up the stairs to the restaurant,

all the while worried that one metal point would do damage

to my brain. But nothing really happened except a bit less pain.

 

Earlier, I had been in a support group for women with a certain

skin disease. It caused extra pigment to the facial skin: pink,

orange, yellow, and eventually – black. The nurse showed us

a photo of an advanced case; the woman’s face was entirely black.

Not dark – jet black. Most of the group had to look away,

and a few cried. I only have small pink and orange lines now –

it almost looks like make-up, except that I didn’t choose it,

and I can’t take it off. I hate checking the mirror each day.

The nurse came over to hug me, but I kissed her instead.

 

Earlier, I had to take an exam in business law. I realized as she

passed out the exam paper that I knew very little about the subject,

even though I had been in the class all term. There wasn’t enough

paper, either – and I couldn’t find a pen. I couldn’t seem to spell

my name right, or decide what name to call myself. A French girl

tried to help me with a part written in French – she wasn’t really

helpful, just annoying. I read French anyway. The last part of the hour

is a blur – I think I tried to draw my answers on a chalkboard. But

the answers didn’t make sense and instantly faded away. So I left.

I had to get to my group, and then meet Bruce for dinner.