Shortlist: Matthew Adamo, John Baylis Post, Nicholas Catlin, Brian Charlton, Andria J Cooke, Ion Corcos, Maureen Cullen, Andy Eycott, Carol Frost, Georgia Gardner, R D Gardner, C Gillett, Elizabeth Heddwen Smith, Jack Howard, Christopher M James, Rona Laycock, Bill Lythgoe, Abigail Elizabeth Ottley, Alyson Rees, Nadia Saward, Derek Sellen, Jocelyn Simms, Ashley Lloyd Smith, Lizzie Smith, Rachael Street, Phil Vernon, Catherine Westwell
The poems, along a selection from other shortlisted authors, will be included in the winners' anthology to be published later this year. Our thanks to Mandy Pannett, who was our final round reader. Here are her comments, along with two poems to enjoy now, to give a flavour of the collection to come.
The Winner: Pathetic Fallacy by Christopher James
Judge's comments: This poem quickly reached the top of the pile of entries and stayed there. It is perfectly crafted, rich in quality. I love the syntax, the whole tone of it. Memorable lines are immediate: ‘goodbye slouching friend,/soothe my body to the junkyard gate...’, ‘Bystanders who stopped bystanding/when the world emptied of people’, ‘So, I plead/the ontology of objects in an era/of packaging.’ The last stanza, in particular, is stunning.
The Runner up: Underworld by Nadia Saward
Judge's comments: This is a chilling but beautiful journey poem – a journey to oneself or to an afterlife, whatever that may or not be. There are expectations here but one by one they are negated – the waterfall which is seen as a portal becomes a shroud, on the other side there is only ‘the dark and the cave.’ There is no greeting, no welcome, no voices, no company, ‘No moon, no stars. There was no light.’ The narrator is isolated in a realm of silence. Memories offer no consolation. The sun ‘is only a word.’ This is a terrific poem albeit grim and tragic.
Commendations: Guillemots and Oedipus by John Baylis Post | A Stone in my Shoe by Ion Corcos | Records by Rachael Street
Judge's comments: On Guillemots by John Baylis Post: There is a broken relationship here, the pain of it staved off by the ‘lingering recall’ of memories and a clever, linguistic game identifying metaphors. Neither work. In the last line the narrator confronts the reality: ‘I miss your voice.’ I love the central metaphor of the guillemots ‘allopreening’ – a loving act now missing in the narrator’s own life.
On A Stone in My Shoe by Ion Corcos: Here are connections and repetitions – an orange tree, water, a river, a mountain, earth, stone and the idea of home. In the end the links grow old, creak, turn to scars. This is a subtle hard-hitting poem that ends with an outstanding couplet: ‘an iceberg sinks into the winter sea/only a polar bear afloat in the dark’. On 'Oedipus' by John Baylis Post: The opening of this poem caught my interest at once: ‘Jocasta puked.’ A few lines later ‘palace kittens, necks in gold torques,/lapped at the vomit.’ A strong narrative poem with a great depiction of character, setting and mood.
On Records by Rachael Street: There are many depths here not only the layers of the artist’s ‘vision’ which merge and blend. I love the language of the whole poem, the way it begins ‘Consider this:’, the descriptions of shifting light, the movement of the pencil ‘almost engrained/In muscle memory.’ Beautiful writing.
A Stone in my Shoe by Ion Corcos
I follow the lines of bark on an orange tree, lines that trace the land, like a river.
Water does not throw itself away; it does not drown. It moves in the lay, troubles round rocks,
until it finds the middle way.
The orange tree does not fruit all year; the river bursts from the mountain only when snow melts
or clouds settle on the slopes, wet the earth.
I push a stone out of my shoe; an orangutan will die soon.
Moss, roots, fossils, leaves, shells and stones all belong to the river,
mark the way a mountain has grown old. Like a scar, or grey hair.
The river sweeps over itself, turns to river again and again, makes itself a home.
I look for my home while I move, find it in the cold air, the distant mountain,
an orange tree. I hear the earth creak under steel, trees speak to one another.
I push a stone out of my shoe;
an iceberg sinks into the winder sea, only a polar bear afloat in the dark.
Records by Rachael Street
Consider this: the artist who returns Time and again to the same view. At first it was a chance encounter: The beach empty, the light drifting In curious folds and the pencil meandering Across the chasm of a blank page - A faint sketch, a blurred uncertain line Soon abandoned. But something calls The artist back. Leafing through sketches, The spidery edges, the splintered shapes Trouble the creative spirit, need tidying - And so he returns, gives definition, Extends the nascent blur into full blown image. Meanwhile, the view alters, blossomed By time and unpicked by the stormy surge. Next visit the hand acknowledges those Subtle shifts, deviates a little from Familiar pathways, eyes feeling across each rise And fall, the movement almost engrained In muscle memory: a single route etched In the brain. And so, this place becomes His touchstone: impermanent permanence In a fluctuating world. When he dies, The artist's studio will reveal layers Of this one vision, each laid upon the other, Merging and blending: the perfect record Of a living fossil.