Competition Results

2018 Poetry Results

To read the winning poems, Click Here

Organiser Notes –

Another year, another set of difficult decisions. In the role of Chief Judge we were graced by the talented and prolific Alison Chisholm, whose opinion is very much respected in the world of poetry (and is also an ex-member of SWC!). The International part of the competition did not fail to surprise us again, with entries from France, Germany, and South Africa. The shortlisting was a hard process with so many excellent entries, but somehow we got it down to the final filter of twenty or so. The downside of an anonymous system also struck, as the 1st Prize winner also turned out to be the Humour Prize winner. I’m sure you will agree though, that both poems are worth of taking the prizes, as well as the 2nd 3rd and Commendeds. For those who did not make the final cut, we hope to see your work again next year, as in such a tight competition, anyone could swing it next time!

Judges Report from Alison Chisholm –

My big problem was with the humour section.  The hilarious pieces were badly crafted.  The beautifully crafted pieces weren’t funny.  I’ve ended up picking a poem that has some wry touches of humour among pretty dark layers, and is without doubt the best contender for a humour prize.  The results, then, are:

 

Humour

Your Call is Important to Us

by David Mark Williams

The repetition and delicious images work well, and while there is clear humour in the recognisable frustration of the repeated announcement, there are neat undercurrents to show this is not just a poem about an annoying phone call, but has a much deeper significance.

 

First Prize

Insomnia Soliloquy

By David Mark Williams

Anyone who has ever spent a sleepless night will identify with this poem.  It uses imagery with precision, and it’s an object lesson in how to craft a free verse poem in which slant rhyme and lineation are applied beautifully.

 

Second Prize

The Curse

By Elizabeth Horrocks

Another free verse poem, this takes an original subject and clothes it in finely crafted free verse.  The route from innocence to Mammon is charted perfectly.

 

Third Prize

Allowing the Light

By Sheila Aldous

This piece, written in response to a recent tragedy, can hardly fail to touch everyone who followed the story.

 

Highly Commended

Cold Egg

By Jenny West

This brilliant evocation of family life is image-rich and enormously appealing.  The only thing wrong with the poem is its lack of punctuation, which is such an important factor in the poem.

 

Commended

Edges of Autumn

By Lynne Taylor

 

On This Summer Day

By Sue Kauth

 

The Edge of Alderley

By Elizabeth Horrocks

 

Clacton 1967

Susi Clare

 

Short Story 2017 Results

For Winning Stories Click Here

Organisers Report

This year’s standard of entries was just as high as previous ones and our shortlisting team had real trouble filtering out the best for Joanne to peruse. The most common theme this year was ‘Divorce’ which was a new one for us, but the perennial ‘Ghost story’ showed its face more than a few times in the literary mix. Globally, entrants were fairly spread out, with France, Spain and New Zealand being represented this year and also a small story from the Isle of Skye.

Every entry though had a different idea as to what was a good story and many of them were exactly that, however, as ever, the massed ranks of creativity were whittled away to leave us with but a scant handful of winners. Well done to them and to everyone else who entered.

Those who did not make the cut, we encourage you to keep trying, as one day it could be you on that ethereal winner’s podium claiming a prize for your excellent writing.

 

Judges Report – Joanne Reardon

First Prize: Giving Him Back – Valerie Bowes

Understated and assured writing which pulls the reader into a world where nothing is quite as it seems.  Three children spending an unremarkable day at the beach building sandcastles and playing football are disturbed by a young child who has wandered into their space.  When the eldest child, Mara, tries to return him to his family she finds that this simple task is not as easy as she imagines.  This is a gentle ghost story just strange enough to undermine our expectations but familiar enough to imagine ourselves in the same predicament. It does what all good short stories do and captures a whole lifetime in an instant and although the reader has to work to get to the final twist in the story, the trouble is worth it. The writer creates an engaging and believable world full of longing and regret.

Second Prize: Hara-kiri       – Richard Stephenson                         

Another story where a familiar world becomes something completely unexpected and the reader is shaken out of complacency into a world altogether darker and more unsettling. The writer paces the narrative with care starting by establishing the familiar banality of office life where spreadsheets and data are analysed in detail and where one badly misjudged decision can bring down a corporation. So far, so familiar, but our sense of equilibrium is challenged by events in the story and the elegance of Japanese ritual combines with British stiff upper lip to take a dark turn, which lingers in the reader’s mind long after the story has ended.

Third Prize: Old – Marcia Woolf                                                                                       

This was a moving story where moment by moment emotions find themselves poised on a knife’s edge as though one wrong word or move could break the carefully wrought tension.  This matches the content and tone of the story which takes place in the aftermath of a funeral where long held secrets remain stubbornly unresolved. Despite the final confrontation between mother and son being a little too predictable which tends to lessen the tension overall, the story nevertheless has credibility and honesty which would easily connect with a reader.

Highly Commended: Stranger, Stranger – Robert Kibble                                          

Nothing is quite as it seems in this story where a parent’s worst nightmare is realised as a child disappears in the London Underground.  There are some good narrative decisions here – the first person narrative voice creates genuine warmth and honesty and the use of the immediate present holds the reader in the grip of the narrator’s fears. Bringing in a second first person narrative does slightly undermine the control of the narrative, it being hard to convince of two personal stories in such a short space of time, but genuine promise in the writing here all the same.

Commended:

If Walls Could Talk – Pamela Trudie Hodge,

Parka Billy – Juliet Hill

Poetry 2017 Results

Note From Organiser

Another busy year for our little international poetry competition, and it was truly international with many entries from France, Germany, Australia and other parts of the globe.

The standard as ever was exemplary and the skim down to the shortlist was difficult with well over 300 fine examples of poetry pouring in. This time round Romance was NOT the common theme, instead a wide array of themes, tones and styles graced our eyes and moved our emotions; there really are some talented people out there.

In the end though, this years judge Carole Baldock had the final say and her report is below.

CLICK HERE TO READ WINNING ENTRIES

SWC Annual International Poetry Competition 2017 Judges Report

According to some people, there is a difference between competition poems and those submitted to a magazine – can’t see it myself, because in both instances, the focus is on the best work. As to what is best, that’s always subjective. As is humour, which is where we’ll start.

I have been known to point out that all too often, Orbis seems to be full of doom and gloom so the light-hearted is greeted with open arms, and publication. That said, humour is a tricky thing to master but what’s interesting is that it’s invariably in rhyme, and as some of you may know, Orbis is one of the few magazines which continue to publish such work – I love a good rhyme.

Incidentally, once you’re down to a shortlist, most submissions unfortunately rule themselves out through the tiniest of details – or maybe it’s a case of choosing a judge who tends somewhat towards nit-picking…But like they say: shame to spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar, in particular when it’s a little something which can easily be remedied, such as spelling; grammar; inconsistent layout etc – yes, the dreaded semicolon, or omission thereof, should be in that list.

For example, the poem I found the most amusing was not labelled with ‘H’ but even though technically disqualified, it deserves an Honorary Mention.

‘Trumpery, Trumpety-Trump’ by Grahame Lloyd

Runner-up: the vast majority of humorous poems use rhyme because it adds punch. This used partial rhyme, which I am not generally a fan of since it can be jarring but it works well here. And such a daft idea, with an incongruous twist.

‘The Man in the Red Sombrero’ by J Gorman

The winner of the Humour prize could not really be faulted, except that the poem deserved a more interesting title. But it sauntered along jauntily so there was no sense of the poet desperately seeking for words which sound the same instead of focusing on imagery and language – let alone being humorous. A clever comment on Society, all the more so for not preaching, and the message was conveyed with a great deal of wit, and puns: eg, ‘down at heel’; ‘poor old soul’. And a clever twist at the end.

‘Peggotty-Sue’ by A K S Shaw

****

Main Prizes

Honourable Mention

‘A Blue Time’ by Judy Drazin

A very personal poem, extremely moving. It dealt with a difficult subject with memorable delicacy. And you could argue that the often seemingly indiscriminate line breaks making it a somewhat disjointed read were appropriate, given the theme. Nonetheless, it may have had more impact with less of a distraction if the rhyme scheme had been consistent and line endings were more logical and effective, used to add focus with stronger words rather than ‘a’ or ‘my’.

3rd

‘Bombs Don’t Fall’ by Scott Elder

2nd

‘Baby Sheep’ by Leo Holloway

One, richly painted, the other, plain speaking; the former, on fairly familiar territory; the other portraying a surreal landscape – no, I did not quite get the latter but there again, one of my favourite pieces of advice about poetry: you don’t have to understand a poem to appreciate it. It also had a stronger – stranger – conclusion; the former, again, may have worked better with some lines the other way round.

In both cases, I could complain about the use of dashes: seemed to be used mainly to replace punctuation rather than reserved to add emphasis/drama; because 1 of them seemed superfluous, the other had less of an effect. And one misplaced capital letter in the former but with both, I could not fault the line endings nor the use of language – marvellous metaphors in the former: ‘lambs scuttling on salad-server legs’; stark comments in the latter: ‘The wind was ever from the north’. Both, in their own way, were heart-felt, and so beautifully crafted, they have the same effect on the reader.

1st

‘I will buy a trunk’ by Cathy Whittaker

So what was I looking for? Originality: ideas, imagery and language, and the winning poem caught my attention right from the start – although maybe an unfair advantage since I happen to know Whitehaven. But still, pretty flawless, even transcending a full stop which should have been a comma. And there were a couple of line endings I could quibble about, while a couple of stanzas may have been more effective swapped around.

Nevertheless, it was written with considerable authority and verve, successfully transforming the everyday (garage full of tools) into the extraordinary with some striking metaphors: ‘nightmares squared like maps’. Based, sort of, on ‘pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag’, it effortlessly manages to avoid reading like a list, conjuring up memories, good and bad, being full of vivid imagery and ideas, often very wittily: ‘I’ll think of a number which is not my birthday’. Above all, it is that very rare thing: a happy poem.

As I was taught, many years ago, studying for a degree in Librarianship, one of the golden rules of business is getting it right the first time, every time, although, fair enough, that’s extremely, perhaps impossibly, stringent. And should never, ever be applied to computers of course.

But the finalists can rest assured, they passed this text with flying colours. And authority; work which has been a labour of love but in being expertly crafted, read effortlessly: entertaining and often educational. And something which it would be a pleasure to consider for publication in Orbis.