First Prize: Nonesuch by Mike Barlow

First Prize in our 2023 Open Poetry Competition was awarded to Nonesuch, by Mike Barlow. This is what our judge Jonathan Edwards said about it.

Like many poets, I came to writing as a frustrated musician, and I love poems which explore the musical potential of language. This poem differentiates itself by its distinctive music, and the way it rattles and ramshackles along, together with its setting, put me in mind of MacNeice. I love how its rhythms and repetitions are not incidental to its subject, but perfectly enact the spirit of its heroine, who pushes her ‘pram full of scrap’ towards the High Street. The poem is full of glorious moments, such as the ‘fishmonger’s row of dead eyes,’ is alive with the vernacular, and wonderfully evokes childhood and a particular period of time. I love the bargaining away of the pram at the end, and the shift in focus to the grandfather. This is a wonderful love song for a completely unforgettable grandmother.

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