We are pleased to announce the results of our December 2023 poetry competition.
First, winning the £100 prize, Theft by Catherine Edmunds
Runner up, Dorothy Inman (nee Shackleton) by Mark Connors
A good poem must have something to say that is worth saying and then tell it well: content and form, content being the more important. This must have impact. The winning poem scores on both, the runner up on the latter.
Theft – a very good title this because we have two thefts here: the imagined theft of the wife from the poet, and the poet’s theft of the shoe. The whole poem is told in the present tense for immediacy and therefore greater intensity of her emotion. For her own abrupt intrusion the poet uses the simple present tense, for the family the present continuous for their ongoing settled love. The details telling of the family’s domestic bliss are well chosen – the flapping washing lines, the wife’s watching him in that informal position. They have been established for some time – children not child. The shoe is both a needed part of him and part revenge. A full stop, not a comma, is required after ‘shoe’ and ‘bush’ but these two faults did not alter my choice of this fine poem which conveys so much in so few words with visual images and ending with the word ‘mine’ meaning we feel sure that the man was rightfully ‘mine’. Free verse is the perfect form for this poem’s subject since the poet’s life and emotions are chaotic. Rhyme would have been quite out of place here.
Dorothy Inman (nee Shackleton) by Mark Connors scores highly with its very fine descriptions of natural features. I particularly like ‘staves’ to describe the wires between telegraph poles for both the way they look and their connection with song. ‘Yaffle laughing, swallows’ has some lovely alliteration and assonance. ‘Quarter’ is a masterly choice of verb. The poet’s rich vocabulary is a joy. The rhymes’ being half-rhymes are suited to the subject which is pleasant but never hammered home.
I commend both.
Others had merit but failed on the grounds of having less or nothing to say or not saying it well. A retelling of a nursery rhyme was clever but pointless I thought. Using a powerful word from history does not give a weak poem gravitas whereas the leaving out of such a word often adds power to a strong one. Lack of rhythm is a common failing.
I look forward to reading submissions for the next competition which will be announced at the end of February.
Dorothy Pope
Theft by Catherine Edmunds
By the time I return, he’s in love
with someone else. They live
in a garden with clothes lines
flapping, the sound of children.
He sits there, sketching,
delicious slivers of drawing.
She leans on her elbows,
watching. They can’t see me.
I creep round the edges.
One of their children
has lost a blue shoe, I find it
under a rose bush, I pick it up,
it’s mine now. Mine.
Dorothy Inman (nee Shackleton) by Mark Connors
I envy your bench plaque at the top of the lane
where you sat on summer dawns, sun just up,
waiting for kestrels to rouse themselves
or a barn owl to quarter the tree-whipped slope
behind you, the blades of the wind turbine
on the hill behind Oakworth as still as a spooked fawn,
a yaffle laughing, swallows notes for song
on the staves of taut wires rising steeply from the beck,
a victory sign of geese heading west.
I envy your plaque at the top of the lane
where you watched the setting sun
melt its way across the sky above The Dene,
the woods below, the cinder toffee bracken
brittle even without frost. Did you spook
the roebuck when you walked to Teapot Dam
or were you light of foot like them?
Look. It’s snowing, Dorothy. I’ll head there now,
walk beside the shoe prints you have left.
Congratulations to both!