Segora Poetry competition 2016 winners
|First prize - Ruth Hanchett Endgame|
A relative newcomer to
writing poetry, I have been doing so for seven years. I am
constantly on a learning curve, benefiting greatly from membership
of poetry groups such as the Poetry Society Palmers Green Stanza
Group, facilitated by Katherine Gallagher, the Second Light Network
for women poets, The British Haiku Society, Enfield Poets and also
regular classes. I enjoy doing occasional readings, have been
published in magazines, for example Artemis and Blithe Spirit,
anthologies for example The Book of Love and Loss and on-line; I am
beginning to find myself placed in competitions.
Of the many poems centring
on ageing, old age, looking after elderly family members including
parents, and hospitalisation this poem stood out right from an
initial reading. The directness of the single word title is
complemented by the sentence brevity, which works incrementally to
create the fragile world of close relationships at time of crisis.
Of particular note in this 16-lined poem is the skilful use of the
objective correlative pivoting on the exact use of precise diction
mimetic of the ambiguities inherent in the position of hanging on to
the possibilities of life while simultaneously being aware of the
finality of the welcome release of death. There is hope and
hopelessness; help and helplessness here. There is also a sense of
numbness. Notice how the verbs, adjectives and adverbs in the first
seven lines underpin the conflict between positive openings -
"Walked by", "clung", "bring in" - and negative states - "Sunless",
"longed to let go", "closed", "struggle", "too far away". Similarly,
the portrayal of the two worlds - the external countryside of “your”
river, trees, clouds, café / the internal world of hospital ward,
windows, bed - is economically used to point the emotional tensions
behind the event. The description of the hospitalised patient is
sensitively drawn, full of feeling but without over-sentimentality.
And the exploration of the attempts to communicate are movingly
delineated in the image of ‘yeses’ as "baby birds", an image which,
despite the presence of adjectives, colours the concluding lines
with the suggestion of a return to caring dependency at a determined
stage of the endgame:
|Second prize - Carolyn King FALL AND RISE|
CAROLYN KING lives on the Isle of Wight, where two of her poems are cast in bronze. She has read winning poetry at venues from Edinburgh to Cornwall and as 1st-prize winner in the 2016 formal category of “Poetry on the Lake” is invited to Italy this autumn. She has had success in many competitions, with several 1st-prizes, and has two published collections. She was on the short-list of six for 2013’s Manchester Poetry Prize.
Fall and rise
A tin bath sparingly filled for the
bare feet blue on scullery stones, she shivers
when the telegram comes:
bleak words typed on slivers of paper
stuck to the page – tragic reminders
of her grandfather staggering home,
mud-caked puttees stuck fast
to his blood-caked shins;
war-torn: a collage of pain.
For this slip of a girl, the slip of paper
fluttering leaf-like from her shaking hands
is make-believe: a slip of the pen.
Can they be sure? – No where or when.
“ . . . regret to inform you . . . “ Just another
fallen flag this piteous autumn.
When the child is grown she’ll tell him his father
was true to the family tree: a fledgling soldier
(like those before him) - barely out of the nest.
On peace-filled harvest evenings we see them still:
rising above some Flanders field
like a murmuration of starlings.
As anticipated, the
centenary of the Battle of the Somme has produced many poems
touching on the horrific events and far-reaching consequences of
that conflict. This particular poem, albeit located during the
Second World War (in October 1944), records how the lessons of
the "war to end all wars" have not be learned. The writing is
visually focused, and successfully recreates both the world of
the "war torn" "grandfather staggering home" from the First
World War and that of his great grandson with his mother and the
receipt of the letter informing of her husband's war-death.
Throughout the description is finely honed - full of feeling
without being overwritten. Notice for example in stanza 3 the
verbal play through repetition on the word "slip"; and in the
closing lines the way in which the image of the "fledgling
soldier", "barely out of the nest" is skilfully worked into the
poem's haunting simile used to depict the waves of young
soldiers going over the top of the trenches:
|Third prize - Jane Lovell Blackbird|
Jane Lovell is the Poetry Society Stanza Rep for Warwickshire. She has had work published in a number of anthologies and journals including Agenda, Earthlines, Poetry Wales, Envoi, the North, Dark Mountain, Zoomorphic, Mslexia, New Welsh Review and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She won the Flambard Prize in 2015, and was recently shortlisted for the Basil Bunting Prize and the Wisehouse Poetry Award.
A conduit from sky to earth
he holds the perfect angle,
steals into his keyhole portal
bird-shaped pieces of anti-matter.
Planets course through,
constellations, that black stuff
that surrounds stars and goes on forever.
He tilts his beak - a final swish of laurel,
softwood echoes for his evening song -
then trucks along on twiggy legs
delicate and tough as hazel.
He owns this:
day, space, runway of path and lawn.
He is his own person:
dark thief, shaman practising the old ways
of the ouzel,
seduces worms with his rain dance,
stamps them up from secret crumbling halls,
holds them twisting and curling
in his tight yellow beak,
stores storm and midnight in his feathers,
hops them into drifts of dry leaves,
the globe of his eye capturing the whole world
in a quiet blink.
The natural world
of flora and fauna was much in evidence, but nowhere caught
so wonderfully and wittily as in this heart-warming poem.
Written in a mixture of unrhymed couplets and tercets, every
verse contains masterly insights into the blackbird and his
world. He is in turn, "A conduit from sky to earth", "his
own person”, “dark thief”, and “shaman practising the old
ways". Similar wealths are used to describe his behaviour:
"he holds the perfect angle", "steals into his keyhole
portal", and "trucks along on twiggy legs". Consider the
acute observation and the ingenious choice of verbs, and the
line- and stanza-breaks employed to build the expansive
imaginative power of these lines:
Judge: Roger Elkin
|This year saw a record entry for
the poetry competition. There was a very high standard of poems
submitted covering a wide range of subject matter as can be seen
from the titles of the selected poems and the contents of the
three very different prize-winning entries. Hopefully the
adjudication report (if read with the accompanying poems) will
give some guidance as to why and how these particular poems were
successful. Remember, this is my choice, so don’t be unduly
disheartened if your name does not appear in the list: other
adjudicators might well have come up with a different result. At
the last resort, poetry is very subjective: thankfully, unless
the competition is for a chosen form, there are no set criteria
– say, 3 metaphors, 22 lines, a set rhyme pattern with an
echoing chorus in iambic pentameters - which when applied result
in a “good” poem. Neither is there such a thing as a
“competition poem”. As to entry into other competitions – and
there are well over 150 annual open poetry competitions in the
UK alone – my advice would be to read poetry from a wide range
of practising poets (including that of the adjudicator if/when
available). Read, read, read – and then try to apply what you
have discovered in terms of fresh imagery, the choice of
finely-tuned diction, and the avoidance of over-writing. Keep
the poem clear, direct and honest. Make it move; make it grow.
Finally, to all competitors, many sincere thanks for letting me loose in your amazing worlds, your moving and spirit-lifting thoughts, your shared emotions. And sincere thanks to Gordon and Jocelyn Simms for their efficient and sensitive organisation, and their championship of the written word! Long may it continue.