Southport Writers’ Circle International Poetry Competition 2013
“I like to use simple words, but in a complicated way”. Carole Ann Duffy.
As Final Adjudicator I received over 130 poems, from a total entry of almost 400, safe in the knowledge that the initial readings had been carried out by a team of experienced and accomplished poets. So, firstly, I would like to thank Denise Randall, Karen Paling, Phil McNulty and Dave Williams for their hard work, for presenting me with a body of high quality poems and for making my task a very difficult one!
I believe that the best poetry provokes, confronts and challenges the reader in a way that other forms of literature does not and many of the poems submitted to this competition did just that. I also agree with Roger McGough in that poetry should be accessible and understandable, I see no future for poetry that is wilfully obscure or written to please a few people in high academia.
As to the adjudication process, I read each poem many times over a three week period reducing the number of contenders to a short list of 20. The poems I rejected all had merit and I’m sure many will go on to success in poetry magazines or anthologies but somehow they lacked the vital spark that all competition poems should have. From the short list of 20 the winners, highly commended and commended gradually emerged, each poem again having been read and re-read, often in different locations and at different times of the day, until I was satisfied that I had chosen the best work. Finally I would like to thank everyone who entered the competition and wish you all success in your future writing careers and remember keep sending work out because poets need to be heard!
1st Prize, Chimney-bird by Noel Williams
A poem which at first appears deceptively simple but on subsequent readings reveals deep layers; the poet makes excellent use of metaphor and rich imagery to convey a sense of confusion, denial and loss. The poem consistently shows without telling and we are drawn into a world where a difficult truth has to be confronted.
2nd Prize, Widower by Claudia Jessop
This poem explores the cathartic properties of grief told from a human and animal point of view. The scenario of a widower and his dogs could easily have slipped into over-blown sentimentality but by careful use of language the poet avoids this and gives us a powerful piece of writing.
3rd Prize, Words and mud by Anna Mills
A sparsely written piece that reveals to the reader a complicated personal relationship; the poet makes subtle use of ambiguity and leads us through the highs and lows of the subject matter before revealing an unexpected truth.
Highly Commended, Night-scented stock by Noel Williams
Commended, Bukes by Peter Branson
Letters From my Mother by Gwyneth Box
Local Prize, Mining by Lynn Sutton
A beautifully crafted exploration of dreams which, by the poets careful choice of words, leads the reader in an ominous direction until the last two lines end on an uplifting note.
Commended, Warning: Flashing Images by Glenna Thompson-Joannou
Old Photographs by Matthew Thompson
Humour Prize, My Dog Nearly Ate My Homework by James Woolf
A delightful poem which starts with a clichéd premise and then, by clever use of spiralling absurdity, gives the reader a convoluted explanation as to why a child has failed to hand in homework. I particularly liked the mixture of full and slant rhyme.
Highly Commended, Mushrooms by Kate Wise
Commended, Mamils by Mark Hodgson
Stephen Beattie, June 2013