Results 2019

1st PrizeCullercoats by John FogginPrize £150Read Judges Report
2nd PrizeNeighbourhood Watch by Finola HolidayPrize £100Read Judges Report
3rd PrizeWhen I Die, Bury Me in St Pancras Station by Karen MorashPrize £50Read Judges Report

West Sussex Winner

Is this a love poem, I suppose it is. By Lin Lundie

Special Mention. West Sussex Entries:

  • New Byzantium by Wendy Swarbrick
  • Self-portrait in Threes by Camilla Lambert
  • Two Boxes by David Slade
  • Written in the Sand by James Lee
  • The Porcelain Veteran by Miriam Patrick
  • Litter Picking in Vodka Alley by Miriam Patrick
  • Ellie Sings by LA Wilson
  • A Poem Comes to Me by Rose Bray
  • Cliches by Tony Wheatley
  • Silent Movie by Michael Sherman

Adjudicator’s Report

I was delighted to receive so many fine entries and fascinated to see the kind of themes that recur. There were poems about families, relationships, places, landscapes, seasons and festivals. Quite a number were about war of one kind or another, a few on social and political issues. If I’m naming one theme or mood that seemed to predominates, it was a sense of nostalgia, a yearning.

As always, it has been hard to choose just three winners from the Open part of the competition and one from the West Sussex entries. There were a great many contenders.

Many thanks to everyone who entered. I loved reading your poems.

These are the poems I’ve chosen as winners. They are stunning.

Ist prize. John Foggin. ‘Cullercoats’

There is an immediacy in the way this poem begins. It is as if we are midway through a conversation, as if the reader knows exactly the spot by the harbour where the boy is fishing and can picture the surroundings and situation. A skilful use of repetition sets the tone – the monkfish is an object, a ‘thing’ on the line, it is a ‘thing’ to appal, it has survived on scavenged, discarded ‘things’. In the last stanza the dilemma is ‘something’ beyond the boy.

I love the layering in this poem, the triggering of associations and allusions. Here the ‘dirty harbour water’ seems to branch into the mythical rivers of Acheron or Styx, those rivers of pain where the Ferryman leads the souls of the newly dead into the grey and ‘ashy’ Meadows of Asphodel where, without identity or purpose, they wander for eternity, making as little impact in death as they did in life.

‘Cullercoats’ is beautifully crafted, so subtle with its turns. Every word is chosen with care – the hooked fish is ‘all spine and mouth and under-jaw’, the line about the ‘languorous’ dead is brilliant in its long, slow, drowsy movement. Shifts between harbour and underworld are almost imperceptible.

And the ending? What is the something beyond the boy that won’t allow him to throw the fish back, to let it live? I felt a moment of recognition when I read this but I think the reader must find his/her own explanation. Or maybe there is no need for explanation. We need to leave the creature, neither alive nor dead but ‘turning slowly’, for infinity, ‘in the air’.

2nd prize. Finola Holiday. Neighbourhood Watch

This is a poem rich in shifts and turns. Even the title can be interpreted in two ways – Neighbourhood Watch, the care a small community takes of its own, alert to danger, watching out for signs of distress. Or, as may be the case here, the idea of ‘nosiness’ and the keeping up with news and gossip, the twitching of curtains to peep out un-detected. Here the narrator insists this is not the case, that he/she ‘can’t help seeing/what goes on’.

But it’s the voltas within the poem that caught me on the first reading and stayed. The poem begins in a factual tone, we are given details, observations, comments about the situation with the sick woman. Then the first stanza ends with the man ‘in black,’ the ‘stranger,’ who rings the bell ‘for a long time’. Undertaker? Death in person? Whatever, ‘they finally let him in.’

The tone of the second stanza shifts. I could almost hear the Irish Catholic voices singing out clearly. Brilliant writing only surpassed by the poem’s final stark and shocking lines.

3rd Prize. Karen Morash. When I Die, Bury Me in St Pancras Station

The poem begins with an eye-catching title and opening line: ‘When I die bury me in St Pancras Station/or at least my head.’

This freshness of writing and originality of theme is sustained. I particularly love the image of the brain cavity pointing towards the library – ‘beloved behemoth,/so that my cells can leak out/and return what was borrowed.’

There is humour in this poem and a richness of allusions – contemporary, historical, mythical, musical. Here is a poet who is confident in their craft. This memorable and imaginative poem is the proof.

West Sussex Winner: Lin Lundie. Is this a love poem I suppose it is

This is a finely crafted poem, original and effective in layout, apparently simple but multi-layered.
With the title/first line there is a sense of doubt and unease. The poet seems to need convincing that a long and loyal relationship is enough. Rites of passage – naming, weddings, burials –are listed as if in emphasis. This couple has always stood, almost in military formation, ‘shoulder to shoulder’. They are determined to be united. As one.

We are given a memory. Memories of parties in the early days. Lots of parties. Both partners withstood temptations of infidelity, left together, made a home and built a strong relationship. Is this enough, the poet implies. Is this love?

An interesting poem even up to this point. But it is the ‘turn’ in this poem that hooks me, the layering of allusions that makes this poem outstanding. Look at the placing of that one word ‘kindness’. This is death we are talking about, the end of physical love, an apparent conclusion. Or are we being offered an affirmation here, an endurance beyond the grave, a lasting unity?