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.
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
‘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’.
‘Bombs Don’t Fall’ by Scott Elder
‘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.
‘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.