Rhymers' Poetry Competition Winners

1st prize: £50 goes to Ellis Lloyd for ‘If … Local Government’
2nd prize: £20 goes to
Anthony Watts for ‘The Poet on Form’

Runner-up prizes of £5 each go to:
Aidan Baker for ‘Acts of Resistance’
Adrian Brown for ‘Buck’s Fizz’
Terry Hopwood-Jackson for ‘Once Upon A Morning’
David King for ‘Here comes the dawn at midnight’
Anne Murphy for ‘Too Late Now For Unicorns’
Anthony Scott for ‘Gun Crime’
Les Wilkie for ‘Just Dust’


The Poems

If ... Local Government

 by Ellis Lloyd


If you can keep your seat when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can charm your leader not to doubt you 
But be prepared to sack him when time’s due;
If you can scent out victory, and snatch her,
Triumphant, from disaster’s very jaw;
If, when the roof leaks, you can be the Thatcher 
With only broken reeds and men of straw;

If you can use the press, not let them use you,
Can be discreet, but get your leak in first, 
Be principled if pressure groups abuse you, 
But spin a soft line when you come off worst;
If still you thirst for public recognition, 
But don’t take notoriety for fame, 
If you can learn to knife the opposition, 
But watch your colleagues’ daggers just the same;

If you can master estimate and budget, 
And learn to spout out jargon with the rest; 
If you can find a subtle way to fudge it, 
To have your cake and eat it, as is best; 
If you can hide your heart and court the voters, 
And say you’ll solve all problems in a trice, 
And stick your foot in doors and smile at floaters, 
And pat their filthy dogs and say, “How nice!”

If you can twist the unforgiving minute, 
To prove you always vote the people’s way, 
Yours is the ward and every voter in it 
(Except that few will turn out on the day).
If you can keep your family’s supper waiting
And hawk the Party’s message, door to door, 
You’ll get your fill of ridicule and hating, 
But never mind – you’ll be a Councillor!


© Glyn Roberts 2008




Acts of Resistance

by Aidan Baker


I will not invent weapons before one in the morning.
I will not go to war before I pray.
I will not mislead the House while sitting down.
And I will tell at least five truths a day.


© Aidan Baker 2008




Here comes the dawn at midnight

by David King


Tonight the stars are tired of being gazed at,

tonight the stars are just one inch too far away.

And beneath the talons of low branches,

my waiting minutes shrivel and decay.


Death soft September darkness drinks my lungs,

no candles bloom along the path I've chosen.

Stalking angels queue for my unsettled dust

and all my gravestone memories lie frozen.


But now she comes with lips like rain kissed roses,

she comes like moonlight spilled across the flood.

Her eyes are clear as sky when all the swifts have flown

and for these beyond price moments, I stand outside my blood.


© David King 2008




Just Dust

by  Les Wilkie




Speckles in the air dust



Gold dust

Crumpled bits of piecrust


Your bust

Our lust

Feathers under bed dust




Family coming must dust


I just


Ashes back to ashes dust


© Les Wilkie  2008




Too Late Now for Unicorns

by Anne Murphy


One balmy summer's night
Under the full moon's light
A maiden and a unicorn, they met
But come the light of dawn
The unicorn was gone
A hairy ass was next to her in bed

And this is what the hairy ass said

"You can only catch a unicorn once
That's what makes a unicorn unique
But now you've had your unicorn fun
Why not try to capture me?"

The maiden nearly screamed
And hid beneath the sheets
She said, "My lovely unicorn's a lie!
You're not a mythic beast
A pretty fallacy
Oh hairy ass, you took me for a ride!"

This is how the hairy ass replied  

"Well, if it's too late now for unicorns 
Why not try another horned beast?
You don't really need a unicorn
Now's your chance to ride on me."

The maiden sat and thought
About the beast she'd caught
Then looked at him in quite a different way
His back was broad and strong
His tail was really long
Yes, quite the cutest ass she'd seen all day

And then she heard the hairy ass say  

"I love the lusty smile that you're making
Makes me think I'll soon regain my horn 
So say you'll be my magic maiden
Let me be your unicorn."


© Anne Murphy  2008

The Poet on Form

by Anthony Watts

The villanelle is villainous;

It's devious and Dylanous;

It's liable to spill on us

  Its repetitious rhyme.


The limerick is fiddlestick;

Its usage is impolitic

It's bound to make you choleric;

  It's not at all sublime.


The haiku has an IQ

Of about thirteen (just like you).

Now, I wonder, did it strike you

  That to write one is a crime?


The roundel and sestina –

Well, I don't know which is meaner.

We should issue a subpoena

  And abort them in their prime.


But the sonnet is a bonnet

with some fourteen ribbons on it.

You can sign it or 'Anon' it.

  You can sell it for a dime.


© Anthony Watts 2008




Buck's Fizz


The Ghosts of Marlow

by Adrian Brown


for Rhona


From Maidenhead to dreamy Marlow go
The winding roads that trace the river's course
Through dappled meadow-lands or wild hedgerow.
And here, in golden days, by coach and horse,

Came motley bands of literary men:
Bluff Izaak Walton with his angling rod,
Or Percy Shelley, with ecstatic pen
Contending some high argument with God;

While his poor Mary, cooped in Albion House,
Proof-read the galleys of her 'Frankenstein',
Then set decanters for a mad carouse,
As Leigh Hunt brought Lord Byron down to dine

(Or so we're told) with Peacock; whose renown
Sprang from his 'Nightmare Abbey, here composed;
When all their table-talk was jotted down
To ginger up the next book he proposed.

Perhaps they laughed about how, long before,
'Twas rumoured Good King Charles with romping Nell -
The Merry Monarch with his merrier whore -
Turned Marlow Place to love's sweet citadel.

While unaware that, in some later year,
When their bright lives were wasted to the bone,
The town would host a poet held their peer -
Tom Eliot in a wasteland all his own...

So, fired; 'How glorious to discard one's load,
And settle here, a troubadour, instead!"
I mused a while...then shrugged...and took the road
From dreamy Marlow back to Maidenhead.


© Adrian Brown  2008




Gun Crime

by Anthony Scott


You have to knock three weighted cans 
from a shelf with a pellet smaller than 
a fingernail. As if the game wasn’t already bent
(like the sights) and the barrel sent 
the other way, twisted. The first shot’s always
astray; your second’s a glancing ricochet.
By the third trigger-squeeze, you might 
hit something. But I don’t resent this outright
cheating, in fact I welcome it, and say:
all guns should be made this way.


© Anthony Scott  2008




Once Upon A Morning

by Terry Hopwood-Jackson


Once upon a morning
of a misty twisty day,
a Goblin woke from a dreamless sleep
and went along his way.
He shook hands with a foxglove
and rang a bluebell's door,
he rode upon a horse chestnut tree
and heard a dandelion roar.
He came to a fork in the road
and then a knife and spoon,
he took a drink from a buttercup
and saw a cowslip, then swoon.
As he bullrushed over
and helped her to her feet,
a dog rose barked at him
so he ran swiftly down the street.
He knocked and opened the jackdaw
of the Little Pixie's house,
but there wasn't mushroom at all for him
so he closed the dormouse.
He lentil at the window
and looked around inside,
"Ah, just the very person,"
the Little Pixie cried,
"I avocet of papers
I'd like forsythia you to sign,"
and he gave him a penguin and pointed
"there, on the dotted line.
Thank dewberry much,"
the Little Pixie, said,
he curlewed all the papers up
and then went off to bed.
"That's two good turnips I've done today,"
the goblin said, now yawning.
"I think I'll take a rest
and while away the morning."
He came to a bed of roses
and onto this he crept,
wondering what the fuchsia would bring
the Goblin gently slept.


© Terry Hopwood-Jackson  2008






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Rhymers' Competition Administrator's Report

There was a relatively large number of entries for this competition and they covered a huge range of styles and levels of sophistication. I infer from this that there are all kinds of writers out there who resent the apparent sidelining of rhyming poetry. We received a lot of poems about poets and poetry something which is often frowned upon in contemporary competitions; but this competition was set in response to a question about poets and poetry, so there was a reprieve for them this time. Anthony Watt's 'The Poet on Form' will stand for them in the winners' list. I personally had a great time reading this one and saying 'yeah!' over and over at the points so often groaned and argued over. How wonderful to dodge that infuriating word 'Dylanesque' and say instead the disreputable-sounding 'Dylanous'! Equally enjoyable but in a different vein was Adrian Brown's evocative 'Buck's Fizz'.

The large body of entries which were not only in classical form but also referred directly to particular well-known classical poems shows that our traditional heritage is still much used and referred to. Ellis Lloyd's 'If ... Local Government' will stand for these, and takes first prize because it is not only a capable pastiche of a classic but speaks loud and clear about a contemporary issue that concerns us all.

As this was developing into a convention-breaking list, there was another 'rule' we decided to dodge this time: Generally, poems which win national competitions have to be long and complicated in order to give enough bulk for the judges to chew on. Not so this time. Representing the short, snappy but memorable is Aidan Baker's 'Acts of Resistance' which remained in my head long after I read it.

There were a lot of comic rhymes. Some of them gave us a real belly laugh
but few really maintained a good enough rhythm or narrative to survive reading aloud or to warrant repeated reading. One of the best poets we have in the Earlyworks Press club regularly tugs the bell-rope to remind us that, once the arguments are done over rhythm, rhyme and form, choice of words and all the rest of it, the notion of having something to say must remain among the criteria for success. I don't know how that fits in when judging nonsense rhymes - they so often turn out to hold as much meaning for the reader as many which consciously offer grand philosophies. On top of that, although happy doggerel looks as if it should trip off the pen with ease it is actually very hard to do well. I think the most successful we came across was Terry Hopwood-Jackson's 'Once Upon A Morning'.

The Thorny Bit

Every competition attracts a number of entries from people who are clearly just starting out, or who have gone some way down the writing road without doing enough relevant reading. To them I say, I am sorry but unless you take some time to look at what is currently being published, you are wasting your time and your entry fees. This Rhymers' competition attracted quite a lot of these kinds of entries and I suspect I can see why. I think there are people who have rejected contemporary poetry because they believe the main point about poetry is that it rhymes. They have not noticed the craft that goes into the best of the 'free form' work - the attention to rhythm and flow, the careful choice of words to make patterns of sound and connotation. People who produce poems that do nothing but rhyme
and sometimes torture the natural word-order to achieve it - are not going to win any competitions worth winning.

When we at Earlyworks Press run competitions, we have an eye out for material for future anthologies and so I always ask our readers to have the phrase 'publishable quality' in mind. I know it is confusing these days as all sorts of things are being published in all sorts of ways but what I mean by this is that we want to publish real books
books that will reward a publisher's decision to invest the time and money that a real-world print-run and marketing effort involve; books that a reader will consider worth paying the cover-price for. To the writer, this means you need to produce something that is rich enough to be read and re-read. Poems that are entertaining at first glance may find a place in a magazine or on a website and poems at all sorts of standards may appear in anthologies that are only produced for the 'benefit' of the writers but a book that has to stand on its own two feet on the shelves of bookshops and libraries must contain work that is really worth the reader's time and effort.

I can quite understand why some people are finding it difficult to develop their judgment amid the maelstrom of work that's out there these days. If you are feeling like this, I suggest you join a writers' group and talk to some of the published writers there, or try a course or a guidebook that has a good reputation. Blood Axe do some good books for people learning the art of poetry. A good place to start is 'Writing Poems' by Peter Sansom (Blood Axe ISBN 9781852242046)

The Rosy Bit

When we had read the 'long shortlist' of Rhymers' entries to a small group of poetry lovers and so pinned down the ones we all agreed worked the best, we had an interesting crop of work in front of us - more than the number we had places for on the winners' list. As a result, I now have a dozen or so new authors who I will be contacting next year in the hope of finding material for next year's poetry anthologies, and we have learned beyond all doubt that there is still a lot of interest in rhyming poetry and there are still people out there doing interesting and original things with it. Thank you, one and all, and good luck with your future projects.


Kay Green October 2008

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