Judge’s Report by
(The poems were judged anonymously but we’ve added names here, and a selection of the short listed poems below)
Congratulations to all the entrants for managing, in this terrible year, to write such well-crafted, strong poems. I feel the standard has been exceptionally high and I found it difficult to limit the short list. There were several other poems – many others – that deserved a mention. I have no doubt that the authors’ achievements will be recognized elsewhere.
The winning poems and those on the short list are incredible. Such a richness of theme and craft. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read them.
by Roger Elkin
The opening of the poem is unusual. The poet begins by musing ‘Strange to think that …’ From that moment I was captured and entranced. The title itself begins the clever play on the sounds and meanings of words – terra, terra cotta, finisterre, terra firma.
There is a wealth of imagery. We are in another world, overwhelmed by the names of ancient places – Phoenicia, Sparta, Greece, the Levant, Carthage, Alexandria, Byzantium, Iberia, Gaul, Albion. There are ‘lashings of olive and grape, oil and wine’ and we are left with exotic ‘lapis lazuli seas,/and earth the colour of spilled blood.’
A superb poem and a very well-deserved winner.
Requiem for a Kayaker
by Clifford Liles
The structure of this outstanding poem where we have the juxtaposition of narrative with phrases from the Requiem for the Dead is perfect.
I have been thinking of the best way to describe the piece and have come to the conclusion that it is visionary. Although the theme is tragic, the death of a kayaker, there is no impression of tragedy or grief. Rather there is a sense is of reverence, of redemption, of a surrender that is willing, an acceptance of sacrifice. At the end we are led to ‘a bright encounter’.
The author of this poem has a real feeling and flair for language. Wonderful.
Museum Piece by Pat Childerhouse
This is an excellent dramatic monologue with subtle and sinister implications. I like the naming of characters. A clever, interesting poem.
Bridge by Pat Childerhouse
There is beautiful clarity and simplicity here. The image of the bridge made with old man’s beard and honeysuckle is beautiful and just right.
Pig Succour by Alan Bush
This poem made me shiver with the image of the ‘undressed light’ photographing ‘other-thoughts amongst the hogweed’. It is sinister and nightmarish and brilliantly written.
Unseen by Alan Bush
Another poem with sinister, dark, violent undertones. Deftly written with a perfect choice of words and images to create atmosphere.
You Let the Cat Out by Ion Corcos
This was a strong contender for a winning place. I really like the surrealism of it and the insistent repetition of the title line. An excellent poem.
Supplicating God by John Moody
The way the poet creates a sense of extreme heat is brilliant. I love the sonics of the first line ‘Burning earth beneath our surly struggle.’ Great use of long and short lines.
Dragonfly Thoughts for a Dried-Up Land by Camilla Lambert
Another strong contender. Some effective and imaginative juxtapositions of imagery and a perfect choice of words throughout. An unforgettable poem.
Shadows by Camilla Lambert
A terrific opening line and a shift of tone at the end. Strong images throughout especially the one about Lavender. Lovely poem.
Terra, terra by Roger Elkin
Strange to think that something
as transparently aquamarine and slicked
with turquoise as the Mediterranean
should be named, in part,
after the Latin for earth
but that was when this sea-cradle
was Rome’s lifeblood, its trade-routes
stolen from Phoenicia, Sparta, Greece
and the Levant; and its imperial money-mould
swapped hands in the markets of Carthage,
Alexandria, Byzantium, Iberia and Gaul –
reason enough for this stretch of treachery
at the centre of things to be called
the middle of the earth – that red earth
they fired to amphora, and pan-tile:
Italy’s terra cotta.
And yet, more certain, more contained,
this slippery sea than that terra incognita
where Visigoth and Hun – wolves
circling wolves – grew mean-eyed on envy
and waited patiently for erosions of will.
And not as indefinable, this sea, as that
where Iberia gave way to landless horizons
at the world’s end, so named it finisterre.
Or as divisive as Caesar’s Albion gamble,
that uncertain terra firma made secure
by history’s cliché – veni, vidi, vici –
and lashings of olive and grape, oil and wine
shipped in for centurion and legionnaire
skulking in draughty camps
and getting maudlin-drunk
on memories of warmer shores,
lipped by lapis lazuli seas,
and earth the colour of spilt blood.
Requiem for a Kayaker
by Clifford Liles
Behold, this loud altar, a cataract
all draped in thunder; this throng of hushed ferns
and rushes. In the shallows, a kayak.
Did strength leave him? What left his boat upturned?
This man, who but for neoprene is naked,
Drifts by beeches hewn from time as soaring pillars.
A nave of Nature, still as roots and mud,
where man’s survival turns on strength and skill.
Past timeless trees, flowing ever downwards;
his paddle’s gone, surrendered to the rapids.
Torrents crash. This surge slicks darkly seawards.
It passes empty scrubland, wild and arid.
A clearing opens in the wilderness;
a bright salvation, where he comes to rest.
A selection of the shortlist
by Pat Childerhouse
In which the puppet-master gives a talk about his craft
Here’s Mr Punch – hook nose, hump back, crimson tunic.
Very popular. Yes Madam, I do know he’s a violent fellow,
I spent many summer days in a booth with him.
Children loved it. Some sneaked in round the back.
I let them stay, the quiet ones.
I’ll press on. These have strings and moving joints.
Here’s Bluebeard, and the sweet girl whose brothers did for him.
Yes, I made her – stitched her silk dress and lacy underthings.
We played lots of different shows, had a kind of magic,
Pulled people in.
Some characters are missing. Columbina’s gone.
What with all the travelling I don’t remember when she went.
I was fond of her. This is Mephistopheles – black velvet, scarlet trim.
You can touch the soft material. Faust’s here with him,
Always looking sad.
That’s Raven. Yes she has a piercing gaze. I’ll put her away now,
Don’t want those glossy feathers to fade. Yes, I do miss them Sir,
Miss those times. The puppets will be on show again next year.
I heard that! I suppose I am an exhibit too. Out-dated.
Things were different then.
by Alan Bush
I find a dream-part
under a hedge
on the sleeve of a discarded box:
some pigs, freed by a Road Traffic
at street furniture, a concrete culvert
the tarmac beneath their feet:
‘none of the pigs were harmed
in either the crash or the capture
process’ we must be told…
as the undressed light photographs
other-thoughts amongst the hogweed
as we will forget the empty snail-shells
in the grass-dark
that are clustered bright as steel.
by J H Moody
From Paul Gauguin’s painting ‘Vision of the Sermon’
Burning earth beneath our surly struggle.
A cow looks on in extinction-dread
by awkward pink and angular feet scrabbling
for purchase in dry, red-orange sand.
Coughing on seventy kilograms
of methane in her bovine burps and farts,
she poisons the golden winged angel who
me for a firmer grip, throwing me
to baking terra firma.
I’m losing this desperate fight
with everything, a world, at stake.
If she grasps and then grips harder
I’m scuffled to the earth.
The cremating sun to consume us all
was the final message from her sermon.
Supplicating an absent God.
That’s the sanctimonious plea
of the praying, watching women
not accepting they share my fate.
They shake their chalky bonnets
flapping limply in enervating heat.
No protection from the
I weaken in a Seraph’s clutch.
Dragonfly Thoughts for a Dried-Up Land
by Camilla Lambert
Passing what once were ponds, all cracked
like potters’ bowls fired too hot, we follow
narrow paths where reeds struggle up from black
marsh-sludge. They whisper, brittle, hollowed.
In these edge-lands insect bodies, sucked dry
of life, pile up, compressed. Frail gauzy wings
that soared are now inert; we are denied
the glinting fly-dance of summer evenings.
Were we to cloak these remains with sheets
of green dragonflies, might memories of dash
and dart last into the arid time? Could fleets
of wayward thoughts and challenges flash
out brave new ideas to lift off in rapid flight
above darkening water, be couriers of light?
NB There are no plans for an anthology from Earlyworks Press this year but if/when we’re in a position to plan one next year, the authors listed above will be invited to place their works.
NB 2 The poets, of course, presented their poems with evenly spaced stanza breaks. If/when I can work out how to make this blog-editor thing do that, the stanza breaks here will be even. Sorry!