Monthly Archives: April 2016

Prizewinning poems from our Open Competition 2016

First Prize:

Lunar by Patricia Wooldridge

I’m having one of my daisies –
hopscotch, throw and jump,
dive off the edge of a skullcap moon.

I can see what’s coming in the anteroom –
Are you the lady that wants to be
in the glasshouse?

Does she know about the telescope
in my ceiling? How all day the moon
crouches in the corner and I repeat:

I will not store my voice in a vase on the moon.

Did she catch me stealing the sea
shut tight in a tin with its crumble of rocks –
my beach on a dresser?

Open the lid and surf boils, shivers loose
on a wind-whip, flaking against my legs
and the land dissolves overnight on a tongue of sea.

Second Prize:

Fire in the Piano Warehouse by Owen Lewis

It is singing
As I always hoped
to make it sing

The woods give back their resins
to light and song and the metal
harps return to their basic elements
as if they themselves were composers.
The strings in high-note tension
ping back to their pure pitches.
The billows, the smoke, the firemen
ready their hoses but cannot douse
the inferno of this symphony
and the masters of the ghostly whirl
hold back the quenchers’ hands
and fill intoxicated lungs –

They can barely say:
We have never seen a piano burn
We have never seen a society
of pianos burning.

Third Prize:

Room One by Susan Utting

She tells herself: don’t listen to the judder and hum of something
switching on, the silence when it switches off; don’t try to guess
the reason for that bleached out patch of carpet, the choice
of gingham peplums, cut-plastic ceiling lights.

she’s in her own light – the mirror gives her back a clouded face,
mist-focussed features.  There is a touch of boutique in a tiny disc
of soap in tissue paper, sealed with a designer monogram, marked
best before November five years gone.

She tells herself: don’t think of windscreen wipers, taxidermy,
peep-holes, focus on the poppies on the coffee mugs, the way
they match the crimson painted walls, how delicate their stems:
forget the black of their daubed hearts.

She stares
at the fixed glass strip of a high window, too high to see
much out of, looks for the tops of trees, for any sort of sky.

Fourth Prizes:

The 22N Bus by Josh Ekroy

London rolls around bike superhighways
passes Festing Rd vultures waiting patiently
and I, finger-print withheld –
my future as thin as Parsons Green –
muster sleeping bag and iron rations.
Our tickets are from No More Bare Mountain,
top deck is a crowded dormitory of kicked
overcoats until the stairing of Big George
created seat space.  Now Edith Grove
is a speed-bump, asphalt-bone ride
on the deep road to intermittent.

Dave’s impervious newt eye catches
us all, before he turns over on the prized
back seat and passing rooms withhold
their curtain-chink.  My dream fevers
are vows made at Chelsea Old Town Hall;
unsleeping Uber evades the cold wind.
The no-beg zones are camera-crooned
along the Pont Street seats of dawn.
A cobalt wind lifts the world’s litter
as clouds patch our exodus.  Light draws
Corn Flakes; a shower back at the Centre.

Place Dauphine by Sandra Galton

For me there is a third person in this frame.  There always will be
an elderly couple shaking hands near to Le Palais de Justice, but
you were there, having got up early; you had gone out and caught
the morning light, the stillness – things you loved to record when
alone with your camera.  You had captured that special quality of
permanence you often felt there was – a rare magic.  In this square
old men would come out later to smoke, play petanque.  Another
day began then: the cafes, filled with people eating, lovers kissing
beneath the chestnut trees – you knew how it was once, the busy
life, being young.  You wished you could have frozen time there.

Life, being young – you wished you could have frozen time there
beneath the chestnut trees. You knew how it was once the busy
day began.  Then, the cafes filled with people eating, lovers kissing.
Old men would come out later to smoke, play petanque –  another
permanence.  You often felt there was a rare magic in this square.
Alone with your camera you had captured that special quality of
the morning light, the stillness – things you loved to record when
you were there.  Having got up early you had gone out and caught
an elderly couple shaking hands near to Le Palais de Justice – but
for me there is a third person in this frame.  There always will be.

Sturm und Drang by Stephen Boyce

So much wind, all bluster and rampage,
the pummelling of fists on the roof,
rain that hisses and would pit the glass,
trees shouldered aside, birds hurled askew.

The fallen chestnut, some seasons down,
occupies the space beside the footpath
like a slaughtered rhino, its grey carcass
sinks imperceptibly into the ground.

This is what we’ll come to, catching
the storm in a net, emptying the ocean
with a shell, lying down to die among
fallen lumber with the sound of the wind

rushing, the sound of surf pounding,
and rain, teeming, thrashing, teeming.

The Inn of the Good Samaritan by Lydia Harris

Danny and his boys from Westray set up their Portaloo.
White walls, Italian tiles for the foot-baths?

Craigie drags two buckets of rubble from the fountain
and the others clear the room.

At night the lights make mirrors in the row of pitchers,
warm the iron cup you can dip.  We lift our faces to the woman
with a band of coins on her forehead, who holds a cloth
to wipe the rim and dab our lips.

A pilgrim coach pulls up.
The pilgrims kick off their shoes, file past the bookstall
with its framed photos of a winter sky.  He clave rocks
in the wilderness, gave them drink as out of the great depths.

We make mint tea in glasses, offer it round with sachets of sugar.
You’d think yards of parachute silk had come alive in the courtyard
whenever the crickets stretch their legs and shake the gold from their wings.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Competition Results


Anne-Marie Fyfe with Patricia Wooldridge and Susan Utting

On Tuesday, 19th. April, we celebrated the results of our annual Open Competition with Anne-Marie Fyfe,  who has chosen this year’s winners from over 1700 entries!  It was a lively and well-attended evening, as we listened to the prizewinning poems as well as Anne-Marie’s reading of her adjudication report, from which a lot can be learnt about developing our writing.  The second half was devoted to an excellent reading by Anne-Marie of her own poetry.

The poems will be published on the website soon – meanwhile, here are the prizewinners:

FIRST PRIZE:          LUNAR  by Patricia Wooldridge
SECOND:                   FIRE IN THE PIANO WAREHOUSE by Owen Lewis
THIRD:                      ROOM ONE  by Susan Utting
FOURTH:                  THE 22N BUS by Josh Ekroy
PLACE DAUPHINE by Sandra Galton
STURM UND DRANG  by Stephen Boyce

Congratulations to all our worthy winners, and many thanks to Anne-Marie for her thorough and varied selection of the excellent poetry, whose adjudication report follows here:

Kent & Sussex Judges’ Report 2016

 How wonderful to read 1731 good poems. And they were all good in the sense that they carried their makers’ mark and the poets’ desire to create something uniquely theirs, something authentic, something that relates to how they live life, perceive life, what treasures they’ve discovered in the world.

And to read them all twice actually. Before getting down to the 50 or 60 that you read many, many times, that stay with you over a number of weeks, not so much until you discard the unworthy (as none of them are that) but until you start to sense the ones that do their work that bit better, that just catch something extraordinary in each case.

One of the things that struck me was that these aren’t poems that have been sitting around for ages, as so many of them dealt with present concerns, not just Trump, for example, but Syria, refugees, the Mediterranean, even the First World War which is a current topic, and some of the poems were clearly inspired by the current wave of reflection on that period.

As for the rest: nature is there, placid or wild in equal measure, and travel, or rather holidays in many cases, and human frailty, fragility, illness, ageing – themes with which poetry has always sought to grapple. Plus the poetry of ‘things’. William Carlos Williams believed there were ‘no ideas but in things’ and many of our poets obviously take that to heart, both with everyday objects and artistic artefacts. And of course so many poems of love and loss, and longing, so many cherished – and original — memories, or familiar memories told with original flair.

The four ‘fourths’

The 22N Bus: this poem managed to create something surreal from a London night bus trip which not only details the places passed but seems to invest them with all sorts of meaning. We don’t have to know the places or even understand what’s meant, to go with the journey. Places like Parson’s Green and Edith Grove seem to have a Victorian sensibility, but who knows what Festing Road might mean (clearly there are vultures waiting)? And the poem contrasts that sedate place-naming with the world of Uber, speed bumps, no-beg zones, and Corn Flakes: all slightly scary, but fascinating.

Place Dauphine: this poem does something seemingly familiar which is to give us a Paris park, seen, in this case, through the eyes of a photographer. Not one of the classic black-&-white mid-20c famous Paris photographers, but the friend, partner maybe, to whom the poem’s addressed, and who’s ‘in the frame’, in the poet’s mind, every time they look at that shot. It’s a mirror poem, and like a good mirror poem, does the rewind with sufficient punctuation difference to change the emphasis or logic of just about every idea in the first half – giving a sense of something remembered slightly askew.

Sturm und Drang: this is a vivid, noisy poem that catches the essence of a pounding, driving storm and can’t decide whether the storm is all bluster and noise or genuinely frightening. The chestnut tree lying like a dead rhino is so extraordinary a simile as to be totally credible, and there’s an anthropomorphic sense of ‘storm’ as an evil force, using words like hisses, hurled, fists pummelling, to evoke the idea of angry forces.

The Inn of the Good Samaritan: the title suggests a biblical location, though Danny and Craigie from Westray, would seem to be far from home. And why are they setting up Portaloos with Italian tiles? You feel you’ve got to go totally with the moment, and the mint tea and the yards of parachute silk… It’s a totally experiential poem in that nothing quite adds up to form a coherent picture but each odd element is somehow credible, and conjured up vividly.

Third, second & first

Room One: this is a classic poem of isolation, the condition of someone ending up in rooms that aren’t their own: Room One certainly suggests a small hotel or b&b. There’s a certain courage needed to ignore things that might otherwise cause anxiety.  But the positives that the poem offers, the poppies on the mugs and the crimson walls, still feel dated. And you mustn’t dwell on the poppies’ black hearts, a hint of Baudelairean fleurs du mal. Worse, it’s an attic room, so you can’t even see that there’s a world out there. A real evocation of a lonely, transitory moment, or just a lonely life.

Fire in the Piano Warehouse: a poem that starts with a distinctly troubling short stanza, ‘It is singing/As I always hoped/ to make it sing’. So we’re not sure whether the voice in the poem is delighting in the fact that the pianos are singing, at last, when he or she could never make them sing, or whether he or she actually started the fire. But it’s the ‘symphony’ of the fire itself that gives the poem its sheer exuberance, a kind of malevolent gleeful exuberance, though, and it ends with a kind of awe, a kind of collective sigh, and a wonderful collective noun for burning pianos.

Lunar: the poem I’ve chosen for first place is a compact, economical, sixteen-line evocation of some kind of altered state, a controlled explosion of wilful, self-knowing otherness that is oddly comfortable in itself. The full moon, which affects tides, was always thought to have odd effects on the mind. We appear to be in an alienating location – words like anteroom and glasshouse – and there are people seemingly interfering, people you hope don’t catch you ‘stealing the sea’. Apparently the person in this strange room has shut the sea in a tin, which one opens at one’s peril. Strange images, a subtle kind of surrealism, a crazily believable world.

Anne-Marie Fyfe

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Competition Results and Anne-Marie Fyfe



On Tuesday 19th April the prize winners from our 2016 Open Poetry competition will be announced. You can hear the poems and enjoy a reading by the judge, Anne-Marie Fyfe at the Camden Centre in Tunbridge Wells – the meeting begins as usual at 8pm.

Anne-Marie Fyfe is a welcome returner to the Kent and Sussex.  She was born in Ireland, County Antrim, and now lives in West London,  where she  is well known as organiser and host of the Troubadour meetings.

Anne-Marie Fyfe has five collections of poetry.  She is also a tutor and prize winner and comes to us straight from a reading tour of the United States.

Come along and help us celebrate this special feast of poetry!


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized