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Judges summary for 2013

(click here for winning poems)

Angela France

The standard of the entries was very high and I found it fascinating to read so many variations of 14 lines; the restriction of the form made for some powerful, layered distillations. Some poets stayed within the sonnet form requirements of meter and rhyme while others used only the line-count for form; both approaches worked well for me as a reader.

If I were to pick out one thing in common for the poems I finally selected, it would be that they all travelled beyond the 'box' of the 14 lines and beyond the surface theme through metaphors and imagery. The three poems which made their way to the top of the pile and the prizes, went further; they stayed with me and continued to unfold their layers after I had read them.

1st Prize 'Pigeon'. This poem focused tightly on one image, that of a dead baby pigeon fallen from a nest. There is surely very little as ugly as a baby pigeon (or squab, to give it a proper name) yet this poem manages to subtly celebrate that ugliness while also using the detail to expand into timelessness. The pigeon's appearance in death is given nobility through the choice of heraldic language and skilled rhyme while the coldness of the description leads us to the fossil comparison which ends the poem. As a reader, I was left with thoughts about where we have come from, where we all end up, and what is there under the decorative feathers of our lives.

2nd Prize 'Garden Wall'. I have to confess this poem took a while to rise through the rest, solely because of the double line spacing which disrupts the read, especially where there is enjambment. For anyone submitting to journals or competitions - please don't double space; it makes it difficult to feel the shape of the poem or line and breath. Having said that, this poem did rise in spite of the (for me) difficult spacing; it kept niggling at me and demanding another read because it holds so many concepts and questions. Again, the poem starts with a single image/event - that of a garden wall falling down - but opens up into questions of belief and resistance, of light and darkness, of duty and betrayal. In this poem, concrete, specific detail and abstract concepts are finely balanced through language and line.

3rd Prize 'Stone Skimming' - This is a gentle poem of memory which explores the act of stone skimming, and the speaker's inability to learn the knack. We are not told who it is demonstrating and teaching - father? brother? but it doesn't matter. The verbs, interplay of sounds, and concrete detail carry the poem, making it very visual so that the reader is on the shore with the speaker until the final couplet, where the sophistication and reach of 'transcendent' followed by the simple full rhyme on 'all' with 'fall' make it clear that this is an elegy.

Prize winning poems for the year 2013




First Ross Cogan Pigeon
Second Angela Carr Garden Wall
Third Miriam Patrick Stone skimming
Commended Sue Burge I'm not wearing Chanel for the radio
Commended Chloe Balcomb Shepherd's Pie
Commended A.C. Clarke Memorial*
Commended Jean Kreiling Winter Boats
Commended Jonathan Edwards The Boy with the Pump-action Water Pistol
Commended John Mason Turnings
Commended John Whitworth Stolen Kisses
Commended Rosie Garland Empty quarter
Commended Feber Jones Bog People
Commended Lois Elaine Heckman A Fair Trade
Sonnet or Not
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