WINNING POEMS AND THEIR POETS
FIRST PRIZE – jointly to two poems by Alex Josephy
Baby Maria long-awaited, garlanded
in lace, enthroned and bawling
in a wide black pram.
Maria our Virgin of Humility gowned in blue,
settled on the ground with baby Jesus
in a car park full of angels.
Maria in the corner shop, cutting ham
into pink petals in the slicer.
Maria Lady of Succour,
who saved the town from invasion.
Wild Maria of the torrent
who lives on her own.
Terra cotta Maria in a niche
above the iron-work shop,
her calm, cracked smile runnelled with rain.
Crazy Maria, zucchini buds
in her hair.
Silent Maria in the shadows
of her shrine, offerings of dried grass,
cross-bow arrows, a jar
of wood anemones, a football scarf.
Scabby Maria sent home
for fighting in the playground.
Miraculous Maria of the Snowballs
Easter Maria in a back room
at the Commune, waiting for the electrician
to mend her fairy-light halo.
Maria named in a poster
on the wall by Sant’ Egidio,
departed this life last week, loved
and missed by her family, a photo
from the 1980s framed in black.
The Sister-Brother Treaty
The sun for you, the moon for me.
Easy. On the veranda we drew
our map of the universe, breathing
the vanilla scent of wooden slats
in sunshine. You laid claim to all the woods
in England; forests were mine, Ashbrook
to Transylvania. Viaducts went to you
and steam, steam in the engines
and the bathrooms and the boilings
of kettles. I took river bridges, fords,
surprised you with teapots. You threw in
eels, watercress beds, then snatched spiders
and the Suez Canal, lifted on the spur
of the moment from the buzz that teased
our ears, drifting out in waves
from the wireless on the dresser,
its two shiny knobs beyond
my reach. Signed, sealed, indelible
as the name-tapes sewn into the backs
of our Aertex shirts, while the adults mumbled,
rattled china, moved about their business
in the shadow-land indoors.
Alex Josephy lives in London and Italy, and works as an education adviser in the NHS. She particularly likes the way poetry springs up even when busy with work and family, her mind on other things. Her work has been published in The Rialto, Smiths Knoll, The Interpreter’s House and others, and awarded a second prize in the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine 2010.
SECOND PRIZE – to John Gallas
Foggy Identities in Paterau
I bought a bull in Paterau. Some bastard
tailed me home. I parked the pick-up quick.
the bandogs howled and twanged their chains. A Buick
bumped across the ‘aopu field. I hid
in Halberg’s Barn. A bashed Toyota truck
behind the Buick. Jeez. They stopped. The sun
burned through a scarf of mist. I got my gun.
They both got out. The dogs cringed down. I snuck
towards the hop-shed. Ssh! They waved their arms.
The tall one took two steps and something popped.
The fat one hunched and fell. The tall one dropped.
The echo thumped across the misty farms.
The police said, did you know them? I said, No.
They zipped them up. The fog turned into snow.
John Gallas is from New Zealand and lives in Markfield, Leicestershire. He has twelve books published by Carcanet, two by Agraphia Press, and 2 by Cold Hub. He’s presently working on The Alphabet of Ugly Animals and The Little Sublime Comedy, a 21st Century En Zed version of Dante.
THIRD PRIZE – to AGG
Light passes clean through
their sketchy wings
and cobweb legs
deflecting almost nothing.
they hatch from the worn-out earth,
delicate as ideas.
Adhering to the flowers
as lightly as their names
or floating in the air,
they are attracted to themselves
by a silent purpose.
They enter the house
as flaws travelling
in the soft yellow
mystery of lamplight.
With a strange
urgency they whisper
something we already knew
but cannot retrieve.
He cannot remember a time when he did not want to capture feelings with the written word but this is the first time he has submitted work which has been published.
He thinks he will carry on for a while longer and see what happens next.
COMMENDED POEMS AND THEIR POETS
Commendations to David Clarke, Steve Scholey, Jen Campbell and Ruth Wiggins
To the Harvesters of Ambergris
The ocean’s darkness rings thickest in the bell
of the whale’s stomach, a note swelled
and sluiced as the creature feeds on time,
winnows echoes of the drowned from brine
that coalesce as nodules in the vault of its back.
When the ocean shakes, these corms of black
softness are loosened like spores into fog,
bob up in the hard waves that tug
insistent at the shores and spumy headlands.
You coast-folk find that shit-smelling contraband –
rabbit-sized, tarry to the touch like the hull
of a flat-bottomed skiff. Secret. Full.
Then the wind comes on, these gifts are bleached
with grit and sun. Now scavenge the beach
for that denser resin. Scrape
it for your fearful incense, steeped
in oils. Mix it with cloves and camphor
to infuse earthenware amphoras,
before the thin-lipped customs men come
to cart the stash away. Some
say it goes to prick the god-love
in ravaged priests, some say to move
the melancholy sea-widows
finally to tears. But you know
what scent, or rhythm or song prevails
in seams, in skin, under fingernails.
David Clarke was born in Lincolnshire and now lives in Gloucestershire. He works as a teacher and researcher. His pamphlet, Gaud, was published in 2012 by Flarestack. He blogs at http://athingforpoetry.
Photo by Robin Gilbert.
The peculiar rhythms of cross-country skiing
(in Finnish, rytmit murtomaahiihto)
are conducive, I’ve found, to random musing.
For instance: in English, there is no word I know
to satisfyingly describe
the sound of a ski-pole pushing into snow.
The rhythm, I should note, depends on the slope or grade:
a steady beat where the trail is flat –
lunge – push – s-l-i-d-e, lunge – push – g-l-i-d-e;
uphill, step and thrust faster, more staccato – to beat the lack of grip,
lift the skis from the tracks, turn out the tips, dig in the inner edges and rush
at it, without the slide – the slap
of the skis a counterpoint; down (a different kind of rush),
relax the thighs, thrust with both arms together
to intersperse the effervescent hiss
as skis caress the guiding grooves of ice; even steeper,
it’s effortless – enough to remain upright,
to take in the passing forest –kuusikkö,
a stand of spruce, with perhaps a smattering of birch (though not
so close as to result in flagellation
before the sauna). I lurch to a stop.
Deep in endless woods I peel back my hood and listen
to the pin-sharp sound of snow-boughed trees, blanketed ground,
sheeted sky, the whole of this world. Nothing.
Enough: step-thrust-hiss, lunge-thrust-swish; bring back the now-familiar sound
of ski-poles, which, on warmer days (minus maybe
two or three degrees) is muted, I’ve found,
by freshly-fallen snow – the breakfast munch of muesli
saturated in jogurtti (my preference,
without any doubt, is lingonberry);
at ten below, a crisper cornflake crunch;
and at an icy-moustached minus twenty-eight
(the most bitter I’ve yet to experience)
it grates upon the ear as pole-tips meet
more crystalline resistance – is rendered as a raven’s shriek,
the yowl of a reindeer, a squealing elk.
And so, though Artto suggests narina, meaning ‘creak’,
Jari, narske – ‘crunch’ or ‘scrunch’ would be the translation –
I prefer kirkuna: ‘cry, mew, squawk or screech’.
Steve Scholey’s early fascination with rocks, preferably with shiny bits in them, led him into close encounters with trolls in Sweden and with leopards, landmines and AK47s in Zimbabwe. Since discarding his geological hammer in favour of a pen, he has been making his mark as a poet in the Winchester area.
When we throw our arms out, we billow. Near the ground the boys bray. Their elephant heads and misfit trousers swallow our lungs. The birds cook. I long for rooms. For rocks.
My blindfolded mouth. They cannot see the half of me.
They say that if the horse’s head was tilted we could be violins. Melted faces against the sky, and we would stamp against the windowed spirits.
To see taste. It would be in white dresses. All the shades of it. My pinprick head. My flammable legs. Them, tearing at my shoes and hoping for animal noises. My senses flown. My eyes chandeliers and them below, stuffing me back into myself.
Jen Campbell, 26, grew up near Newcastle and now lives in London. Her poetry pamphlet The Hungry Ghost Festival was published by the Rialto in 2012. She’s also the author of the bestselling Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops series (Constable & Robinson). www.jen-campbell.co.uk
Confession: I’ve been crumbling anti-histamines into your food all week
The brick belly of the house is fat with
She wants flowers? Well, let’s see.
She pushes the bowing front door into that’s odd,
push again, into the strange geometry of a corridor
of cherry. Traps of blossom spool across her feet,
the stairwell of their two-up-two-down newly solid
with three dimensions of pink.
Their living room bounces with rose attar, Fantin Latour.
Progress through to the kitchen heavenly, but slow.
Picked out in damask, bourbon and moss, the ghosts
of their fathers deal card tricks, argue the toss,
on the old sofa they’d dragged here
from who knows where. Nearly killed them; maybe did,
how hard they collapsed into it. And how the neighbours
lined the street as lorry after lorry delivered its load.
His mother busy with a thermos of tea; men wrestling
with tarpaulin. One tarp, bolshie
with sycamore, lurched across the street. Each seed
pirouette twisting with other ideas. Nearly took two men
with it. Upstairs, on a bed of promises and catkin,
he shows her his blueprint for an annexe of ragwort
and whitebeam. Sketches a cellar,
to be carpeted and lit: wellies, footballs, all newly minted
in the modest glow-worm light of lily of the valley.
He places several handheld, battery-driven fans, to stir
their bower of dandelion seed. Spheres bouncing
off eyelids, noses, toes.
The kids windmilling in, to spectacular effect. The small
miracle of not a single sneeze. By evening, each of their
waist-height boys is an anther. His ribs, hers, strip-lights
of gold. Bathing, a nonsense. Their one-in, one-out,
one-in of a bathroom, now green
with water hawthorn, miniature bog bean. Great-crested
newts run between the taps, making virtues of crumbling
washers: drip-drip darting, drip-drip splash. Outside,
the whole thing seeds itself up the street. Early outbreaks
of lovage, sweet briar, vetch.
Ruth Wiggins lives in East London. Her poetry has appeared in Brittle Star, Smiths Knoll, and anthologies including: Poetry on the Lake, MEA (Emma Press), and Peloton (forthcoming, Templar). She’s also been a guest reader for tall-lighthouse and the Shuffle. Ruth enjoys hiking and photography, and is a member of Forest and Tideway Poets.