First Prize, winning £100, goes to Samantha Weaver for her very powerful poem “Letters To Prison”.
Second Prize, of £25 and a Free Saturday Creative Writing Workshop worth £40, was won by “The Colours of Life” by Jenny Tunstall.
Third Prize, of a Free Saturday Creative Writing or Storytelling Workshop, was won by “The Wild Places” by Elizabeth Vallis.
We will be in touch shortly with the prize winners to discuss delivering their prizes to them.
The standard of entries overall was very high, and although there were only three prizes, we wanted to commend the following poems, which were also especially admired by the judges.
The Following Four Poems Were Highly Commended:
“Adelstrop Re-visited” by Philip Whitehead
“The Maid of Lissadel” by David Sampson
“Night of the Storm” by Sally Ann Nixon
“The Heart Speaks” by Elizabeth Vallis
Slipped through the bars of my cell the letter fell
settling with an echo longer than its fall.
That sound cut the ground of ten years’ silence,
sat me upright, kept me going,
keeps me going still as time filling was whipped away,
seconds heavier than seconds,
tugging at moments before always for moments after,
never to come. I held the letter to the nudge of sun
and saw a crowd of white inflated sails in a once sea of words,
all vying to move but going nowhere.
In that less than letter,
more than every other word deleted out,
those remaining hinterlands teetering,
at the edge of the abyss.
The blank spaces spoke,
bringing the huge nothing in pauses,
in breaths, out breaths and ever closer like the loud
inescapable silence after a great song.
Life cannot always be that
Berries-on-bushes, arm-chair, red-orange land
Of freedom, easy smiles, life-in-balance,
Rich fruit cake aroma;
Cannot always be so comfortably me-shaped,
Foot in a perfect shoe.
Yet neither is it always
Discordant cellos sobbing
To the cold, purple-black shadows,
A space carved out in futility and filled only
With the jagged scrape of Old Despair.
It is not always this crackling brittle ache
Of sour air.
Bring me the green-growth-of-spring times,
The windy vistas, aromatic salad,
Dry white wine feelings of adventure,
When I can make anything happen,
The silk-on-silk excitement
Of life's abundance;
Wheels on an open road,
The swooping gallop of Mozart
On a downhill, verdant rush
Of exquisitely placed harmonies.
Or let me have the dusk-time quiet,
Waves lapping on a tide-turning shore,
Chiff-chaffs dropping liquid song,
Piles of books waiting indulgently,
The soft, sweet scent of slumbering ground
And my love's thirst-quenching voice,
A hazy blue of safe-in-harbour sound.
Climb a quiet path
From Langford, rising steep
beside a stream from distant source,
splashing, rushing, bubbling down
dark and deep.
Trees clothed unwillingly with ivy
root deep in heavy soil
Briars and nettles,
woven in so tight with woodbine
trumpets pink and white
that sting and thorn
are muffled in the denseness
beneath the shade of spreading leaf-clad branches.
across a well-worn pathway
to cross a widening field upon
protruding grey and silver Mendip rock.
Dolebury, in May,
as you reach forward to enjoy the view
you are surprised, suddenly to find around your feet
dampened with dew, the greenest richest grass embracing
brightest yellow hues of cowslips in their hundreds growing wild.
They fill, they flourish, flaunt their light and colour as they tumble
down south facing hill
where once, the farmers of the Iron Age grazed their herds
and stitched their simple garments
in the setting sun.
Possibly in 1915 Edward Thomas, writer and poet, wrote the poem “Adelstrop”, one of Britain’s favourites: he joined the Artists’ Rifles and died at Arras on the Western Front in 1917.
If that express train hadn’t stopped
unwontedly that day in June
I would not now be here, atop
the pitted platform this hot afternoon.
If that express train hadn’t stopped,
And set my mind to wondering what
set poetry that day to seed and bloom
Right here amongst the listless crops
and tranquil rural solitude.
If that express train hadn’t stopped,
The nearby blackbird may have not
for sixty seconds piped its tune
A call to arms, direct from God?
To fight and lie beneath some foreign clod? Oh!
If that express train hadn’t stopped
A poem about two 16 year olds leaving care
They seemed to beam down out of the dark, the two boys,
Real riders on the storm,
Pedalling down the water-swamped sea front,
Soaked to the skin, hair plastered, knuckles white with cold.
“Hi. We’re here.” As if I could miss them. “We thought you
There they stood, drenched and smiling,
Pretending the rain didn’t matter,
as they had pretended rejection and abandonment didn’t matter.
Pretending they were warm and the world good.
Tall and lost, both these children.
Flotsam of the welfare state, washed up on the soaking beach.
Childhood gone before it started, stashed in hostels and lodgings.
Still, they celebrate their youth in the crash of the sea and the howl of the gale.
“We’re staying out all night to watch it Miss.
But we’re cold. Can you get us something hot to eat, Miss?”
No mums or carers here.
So I made sandwiches, tea, gathered crisps and cake
To see them through the freezing night.
They took the plastic bags, “We’re off to the Old Pier.” I called
They just laughed and I drove home, the car bumping in the wind.
I worried. Still they had hot tea and when the cold finally defeated them,
They would not go hungry to their uncertain beds.
The house at Lisadell, the windows classically framed
Look over lawns and gardens to the bay;
The poet who has published much, already famed,
Prepares to sharpen wits, cross swords, debate and stay,
Among the Irish great and good, another guest
To grace the stark, grey house among the trees,
From London, Dublin, in the wild, windswept West.
Half-stumbles on the maid, whose scrubbing on her knees;
She turns and looks up at that famous face,
He takes in Titian curls and spectacles like those he wears,
A chance encounter at the foot of marble stairs, a place
To hesitate and pause, before he finds a way to free
Ideas to chime and ring and signify the times
Where blood and violence mark the birth pangs of their country
And the moment seems too much for all his lines and rhymes.
The maid, interrupted in her work, returns to scrub
Away the scuffs and marks, as if they were some sin;
Escaping to her thoughts as well for everyone can rub
The genie’s lamp, release the wishes held within:
A house that’s snug, a good man steady in his ways,
Not possible in Ireland, so her thoughts lie far away across the sea;
Four generations lie ahead for her and nothing if she stays,
She must take risks to find some small security.
I doubt he gave her more than that brief glance
And would she think of him again in exile,
Where the roots of Ireland lived in song, in dance,
In love of company and ready smile.
Not in his troubled poems of advancing age,
Not in his heights of passion and of rage.
In a fraught world little turns out as it seems,
So, heed the poet, “lightly step on other peoples’ dreams.”
There’s no doubt about it I’m neat
Compact, smartly formed and complete
Myocardial strength o’er my width and my length
I’m superbly designed just……to beat.
I’m proud of my vital importance
My figure, panache, my sheer elegance
My role and control of the physical whole
The pulse beat of my regular dance.
The four rooms that comprise me as heart
Show design, Architecture, sheer Art
The two to the right, using Pulmonary might
Push blood to each lung, the rest is far flung
Via Aorta ascending, descending, dividing
Transporting nutrients and oxygen providing
At pulsating speed to address body need.
Each swoosh and push of ventricular contraction
Propels blood through vessels resting just a mere fraction
Whilst I pace my activity, and stressful life trials
As daily, blood circulates sixty thousand odd miles.
I make my own pulse with impressive precision
Sino atrial node starts electrical ignition
Which tickles and trembles my nerve cell transmission
To this bundle of Hiss in my septum division.
A presence of Potassium of correct concentration
Ensures that initiated muscular intention
Completes by contraction my purpose and action.
For increased energy, determination to win,
For terror, disaster, protection of kin,
Urgent work deadlines or crisis within
Heart muscle for stress gains adrenaline.
Cram into a tube train travelling maximum velocity
Hurtling under London packed to capacity
Hold responsibility, face crime and atrocity
I’ll meet pulsing need with beat, strength and tenacity.
Climb mountain height, survive fight and flight
Pirouette with disaster or in Passion delight
Plumb ocean depths, travel through outer space
I’ll accommodate need, pulse beating the pace.
Ply your strength in wilderness, north or south pole
Against wicked sub temperatures’ chill freezing the soul
Cross hostile arid desert, canoe-paddle the Atlantic
I’ll adjust beat to body’s freeze, fry and frantic.
But please balance those trials with silence and somnolence
With rest, recuperation, relaxation in abundance
Happy times laced with healthiest sustenance
To ensure beating strength maintains its resilience.
I am Heart Physical, Chemical, Electrical
Living tissue inscrutable, specialised, economical
Forty million beats per year strong and stoical
Excitable, emotional, admirable, living-vehicle.