Southport Writers’ Circle Annual Poetry Competition 2016 Results

Note from competition organiser:

This year was a good one for entries, with some very high quality poems throughout the entire batch and many which could be worthy of prizes. Each respective poet should be proud of the work they have hopefully cast into the world and we have been glad to read each and every one. This year, the most distant entry came from California and the closest from about two roads over from where the group meets. The most obscure topic for a poem was an odd ditty about slippers and the most common topic was (surprise) relationships. Another noteworthy fact about this year over others was the number of people who took advantage of the 4 for £10 offer, boosting the numbers of very good verse we had to peruse significantly. Overall, the standard as ever was excellent and we wish you all well for future competitions.

 Judge’s Report from Lindsey Holland

It’s been an honour to judge the SWC Annual International Poetry Competition. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the entries, many of which stood out to me for their moments of insight, precise images or overall poetic sensitivity.

I’ll begin with the humour prize.

Humour in poetry is hard to get right. I was looking for poems which didn’t depend on easy rhymes and which showed a love of language and detail rather than simply cracking a joke.

The winning poem stood out for its narrative and detail as well as for its imaginative subject matter. We’re lulled into a sense of everydayness, and although we sense that something unusual will happen, the twist is surprising.

The winner is Pamela Trudie Hodge for her poem ‘Be Careful Who You Pick Up’

The main prize entries impressed me for their variety of style and subject. I was looking for poems which demanded to be read and read again, which took an idea and did something new with it. I was also looking for poems with focus—I wanted to have a clear sense of what the poem was about—and which left me either with strong visual images or with a sense that I had experienced something powerful and authentic. It’s perhaps needless to say that I was also looking for poetic technique: control of rhythm, form, voice and language.

I’ve chosen to commend one poem. This poem stayed with me for the way it links two events, and for it’s precise use of language. The images are strong and when I thought back through all the poems I’d read, it was one I remembered each time.

Well done to Kitty Donnelly for her poem ‘Migration’.

My top three poems emerged quite early on but that’s not to say that my final decision was an easy one. Each of these poems truly is a winner. I see much to admire in all three of them. I’m excited to be able to bring them the attention they deserve.

My 3rd Prize goes to a poem which stood out for its confident voice and for the poet’s ability to add layer upon layer of detail. There’s a grittiness to the images but then they suddenly take off, using fantastical or mythological metaphor. Working class lives are made beautiful in this poem. It works on another level too, using a quotation to sensitively develop an idea, and threading this through the poem. The language is precise and steers clear of sentiment.

Well done to Peter Burgham for his poem ‘The Putter-Togetherers’.

2nd Prize goes to a poem which impressed me for the gentleness of its observation and keen eye for significant detail. There’s a curiosity in this poem and an unwillingness to accept its subject at face value. It’s an ekphrastic poem, and I think this is often an easy type of poem to write. this poem is successful because it doesn’t simply describe the painting, instead it brings it to life, questioning what goes on before and after the painted moment, looking for the real lives behind the canvas. Technically it’s a very adept poem: the language is spare but exact and the images are strong.

Well done to John Clarke for his poem ‘Pouring Milk for the Master’

My 1st prize and overall winner is a poem which haunted me. The voice is insistent and raw. It’s a brave poem in many ways, both in its subject and in the way it isn’t afraid to stumble, disagree with itself, loop back and forth. The poem questions itself and its subject and then questions again so that in a sense, the questioning is the essence of the poem. There’s something of Keat’s idea of negative capability here: life isn’t all about certainty. The voice of the poem conveys this so authentically—twisting and hesitating, repeating itself—that we could almost be listening to a person speak in the vernacular. But the poem is far more than this too. We’re given carefully chosen images which are surprising and precisely written, from the early stanzas to the final haunting line. The pain in this poem is so raw it’s palpable. There’s also love, fear, loss and determination in it. This poem would not leave me alone. I have great pleasure in announcing it as the winner.

Huge congratulations to Mary-Clare Newsham for her poem ‘Bed-Lined Corridor’

I’d like to thank you again for the honour of judging this competition, and also to congratulate you all for providing me with hours of reading wonderful poetry.


The local prize was pulled due to insufficient interest and those entries put in for the main prizes. If you entered specifically with the ‘L’ mark and you wish for a refund on your entry fee, please contact us.

Southport Writers' Circle