Category Archives: Competition

Competition winners 2014



First Prize                              Andrew Soye             Kigali

Second                                   Grevel Lindop            Cigar

Third                                       Jo Bell                           Shibboleth

Fourth  =                                Lindsay Fursland     Pinochet’s Orphan

                                                   Caroline Carver        blue whale

                                                   Daisy Behagg              Night and the Song of the Light

                                                                                              on  the River

and                                           Claudine Toutoungi Piano Lessons for Adults

The poems will be posted on the website after the presentation of the prizes in April, and available in the society’s Poetry Folio at a cost of £3 in July.

Leave a comment

Filed under Competition, Uncategorized

Prizewinning poems from our 2013 Poetry Competition


Cheryl, Martyn, Daljit and Judy

First Prize:  Judy Brown     This Is Not a Garden

‘This garden, in fact, may not even be entered’      (from ‘A Guide to the Gardens of Kyoto’ by Mark Treib / Ron Herman)

This is not a yard, this is a garden:
new decking slatted over a tumble of roaches.
This is a yard full of potted tropical flora,
the lotus swimming in its own pool,
mosquito-eating fish guarding its stem.

I can’t know whether this is a yard
or a garden, though we ate out here last night,
the iPod snicking in its dock, soft lighting
making silhouettes behind the trellis.
This is not a garden, this outdoor, hosable sofa

or this bed where we never both sleep well.
It is a sort of park, public in places, this marriage
where amusements are scheduled and planned.
This garden, this marriage, is divided into rooms.
In some, others are welcome, like yourself.

This yard, this marriage, this bed, should be
like a garden – so many topics victim
to the secateurs. It should pass like a wave
through the seasons, appearing to be young
or else gnarled, wholly taken by age.

This man made this garden for me, whether
I liked it or not. After I had gone, he let it
go wild, to armoured holly and hawthorn,
the small beer of thugweeds, but in time
it will settle, a wiry daisy meadow, well-fenced.

Second prize:  Cheryl Moskowitz     In a Dallas Laundry

My man’s a hit at the Laundromat
Who’d have thought you could teach a boy
to fold that way, what a star! Cuffs
and creases in all the right places,

It’s the way the stripes line up just
right that gets them, every time. All
the ladies crowd around, woo-hooing,
He reminds me of mine says one

You should have seen him in his uniform
she’s full faced and bright cheeked
like they are from the New World.
I recall she says, taking her socks

from the drier and putting another
quarter in for the rest, Just after they
fired the rifles, and the boy with the bugle
Oh she practically swayed

remembering it, the seven starched
men on the lawn not a button or seam
undone. How they pulled the cloth tight
between them. Like making up a hospital

bed she said. Cotton stars at one end,
red and white stripes at the other –
corner turned  upon corner till all
nine feet of it’s a single triangle of blue

Now that’s what I call presentation My husband
tucks away the final sleeve and the ladies
watch in admiration. We never use an iron
in our house, it’s true Don’t you lose that man

they tell me and fix us both with a stare
but their minds have drifted to another
place elsewhere to fallen sons and folded flags
I take the Daz and my husband holds his shirts

to his breast and salutes the women as we go.

Third Prize:  Martyn Crucefix          The lovely disciplines

See Ginny’s son and Ginny’s daughter-in-law
rest useless hands on the raised bed-rail

stare down to where Ginny writhes and squirms
her slender left arm reaching O so high

while her bare right calf lies crooked across
the cold retaining bar as lucky Jane all day

scuts with her bird-like legs folded under
to clear the turning wheels of her chair

while she roams the ward her working shoulders
pump each shove as if she’d tear herself clear

of the purple seat while Michaela’s throat
goes sucking great holes in the hospital air

and rubs itself raw till she’s like a bull-seal
honking on a distant shore she may have once

defended open-eyed though no-one here
believes Michaela will stir—no brighter hope

any more for Linda where she settles quiet
in her purple dressing-gown beside her bed

neat as a serviette her eyes fixed on a man
from her V of hands while he stares at her

from his V of hands the woman who he moved for years
coterminous with who now prefers

distance and darkness and being dumb . . .
O no more those lovely disciplines

we reassure ourselves it’s human to pursue
and no more those sweet acts of will

we treasure briefly or we take for granted
consoling ourselves that we will be spared

the horror of long blue rooms like these—
the slack and supine and all the twaddle

of decay and we persuade ourselves
that the truth need not be so bleak

as it seems for these who hold the floor today
who turn barely more than one leaf turns

in being blown to the gutter who seem
as nothing to themselves if more to others

who come with names they cannot let go
murmuring Ginny Michaela darling Linda Jane

Fourth prizes:

Patricia Ace     Tiny, in all that immortal air

From the fifth floor power-suited women in heels and helmets
balance briefcases on scooters as they race the lights on Diagonal.

The vendors saunter along the beach at Barcelonetta chanting
their mantra– cola, aqua, cervesa. The Asian girls offer tattoos or massage.

In the dark passages of The Born crones garbed in magician’s black
push cardboard signs towards tourists while their hands scour pockets.

The homeless, the alcoholic, the crazy veer from the shadows
like zombies. They seek out the flesh of those fresh from abroad.

Yet up here our host grows lemons on his terrace, the Palace so close
you could lean out and touch it. Cable cars coast over Mont Juique.

From the balcony, I watch my daughter walk towards the metro. I won’t
see her until Christmas; her blonde head blinks where it catches the sun.

From this height the city splays out like a ravenous dragon, chewing
up people, spitting them out. I watch until she becomes a dot, a speck.

 Pnina Shinebourne     Incendio

Sand pours down his eyelashes,
grains grit in his mouth   ears   nose,
sandwaves lick his feet –  two million
five hundred forty-two thousand three
hundred , my father, eight years old,
is counting sand (a myriad, he writes
in his arithmetic homework).
Slow-down-time, glare , dazzle –
incendio!  he tries the fire-making
spell, a broken mirror   catch the sun
Bits of his memory have drifted apart,
buried in sand, yet still breathing

His shoulders hunched over the table,
father and I are putting a jigsaw together.
Father studies the edges, carefully.
His mind a puzzle – how many ways
to fit fourteen pieces into a square?
how much peel to cover an orange?

But the formula is lost, his homework
sheets blown in the sandstorms
by prayers for marriage, blessings, repentance.
If father could read the traces
of  another  life
peering from underneath,
I guess he’d say –
     give me a place to stand
                    and I will move the world.


Sarah is doing something she has wanted
to do since she was 14. She has strolled
through Golden Gate Park, where she saw
a fire engine on its way to or from a 911,
red & gold & gleaming; she is sure those
muscular young men must take such a pride
in their work, and she understands Lily
Hitchcock Coit’s fascination with hoses
& all the other paraphernalia of fire engines.

Then as she turns to cross the Panhandle
& go up Shrader, a genuine Hell’s Angel
putters past at no more than 20 mph,
his hair is long enough to escape his helmet,
his black beard is a flag in the breeze but
this is not Sonny Barger or Terry The Tramp;
did he notice her in his dentist’s mirror
while he psyched out Toyota drivers?

But the next vehicle that catches her eye
is a wheelchair piloted with careless expertise
by a grizzled amputee sporting a tattoo
tagging him as 51st Airborne Division,
a Vietnam vet she realises is her dad’s age.
He is overweight, his hair is greasy,
his clothes are stained, his eyes are red.

A bus stops, the man reverses his chair,
a ramp is lowered with deliberate speed,
he is neither helped nor hindered.
Haight St. is a Camden Lock clone complete
with street peoples’ Spare change mantra.
Time to call a Vets Cab to North Beach.

Kathy Miles     Gardening With Deer

And now you know for yourself how it is.
The ragged hours’ breathing,
long nights and longer days.
Watching her shift in her sleep,
as the moon turns and skies alter
and the ghost-trees of early morning
are heavy with frosted leaves
like a fruit of hanging doves.

A lifetime of gardening with deer,
their rough noses huffing
over the fence, nipping at the roses.
Apple and dogwood, linden and birch.
Fraying the bark of saplings
to remove the velvet, their heads
laid against the trunks. The stag
whipping the branches with his antlers.

All this is remembered in a still room
where the spirit of the white deer
with an arrow in his heart
walks through her dreamtime,
and the sweet musky sigh of roebuck
in the back of her throat
rises with every breath.
You hold her hand,
anxious, yet dreading her waking.

Leave a comment

Filed under Competition

Adjudication Report for the 2012 Open Poetry Competition

Kent & Sussex Poetry Competition April 2012

Our 2012 First Prize Winner, Jemma Borg.


Adjudication Report – Mimi Khalvati


It was a pleasure to judge the Kent & Sussex Poetry Competition again this year – I was a judge many years ago, and have always been impressed by the standard of poetry achieved by members of the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society. Although this was an open competition, I think the overall high level of entries reflects the Society’s reputation and the years of serious work that have produced so many good poets.

I was surprised by the number of formal poems submitted, including a few ghazals – this might be because I write in these schemes myself – and found this encouraging, as for many years formal poetry has been less in favour and has laboured under misapprehensions.  But it seems the tide has turned and poets are increasingly turning back to forms, inventing new ones, or reinvigorating the old.  However, all the prizewinning and runners-up poems this year were in free verse, which seems to prove how very difficult it is to write well in rhyme and metre, particularly metre.

Among the over 800 entries, there was much to like and to admire, but for a prizewinning poem, everything needs to come together at the same time: tone, idiom, syntax; emotional and intellectual power, imaginative freedom and control.  Many otherwise strong contenders slipped away – perhaps the lineation was inert, the closure too pat, the research too apparent, the linguistic interest over-reliant on high jinks or betraying strain at some point.

But my shortlist was in fact quite a long list: it proved extremely difficult to whittle it down to seven, so many deserving a place, and so little to choose between them.  The final prizewinning poems were all immediately arresting, assured, surprising in the revelatory way that good poems are, and in their own ways unusual.

Jemma Borg’s ‘The Way of the Cross’ and ‘Drawing the Ladder’ won joint first prize. They are stunning poems and I loved them both.  For sheer musicality, ‘The Way of the Cross’, sang out from its very first lines. It is a poem about song, sound becoming song, song becoming landscape, landscape yielding a spiritual, almost religious experience.  And as such, the poem enacts its subject and transforms it finally into silence. Reading it, I knew without a doubt that I was in the presence of a singular poet, one who takes risks, who has immaculate control in timing and shaping the verse, who can think intelligently in poetry and express imaginative awe.

‘Drawing the Ladder’, a much shorter poem, is as substantial.  The precision of the sensory images and observation, the metaphorical power, the classical diction and emotional honesty, all struck me with force.  Many congratulations to Jemma, for these two beautiful poems.

‘Lunette’ by Jenny Lewis won second prize, and was close on the heels of Jemma’s poems.  I loved the conceit of this poem – using dictionary definitions of the title word and expounding on them in three short parts, but this is a conceit that could have gone horribly wrong.  Instead, the way each part circles back on itself while also interconnecting with the other elements, as if by accident and not design, is remarkable.  There is both richness in the language and restraint. The syntax is wonderfully supple and allows the train of thought and association to bend every which way.  And best of all, the poem transcends its own conceit and seems to rise on a vertical axis towards that transcendence. This is also a poem that shows an intense and informed love of language and its own diction is both scintillating and plain. Congratulations to Jenny on such an original and achieved conception.

‘Turkish Delight’ by Paul Stephenson is the third prizewinner.  The conceit of this poem is built on the use of anaphora, the repetition of the phrase “What you do” at several points of the poem, beautifully judged.  At the outset, we know that the poem is about the imminent last days or hours of someone close to the speaker, perhaps a father, but the extremity of the situation is dealt with consummate tact.  Whereas a poem like Sharon Old’s ‘The Race’, dealing with a similar situation, is explicit in its tension and drama, this is a much quieter poem, full of emotional undercurrents, but understated, dwelling instead on all the material objects the eye or mind falls on during the journey to get there in time, the waiting and helplessness.  The anaphora here performs a vital function as it embodies the inner panic, the sense of urgency, driving the poem to its conclusion.  And it is a marvellous, unexpected gasp of a closure.  Congratulations to Paul on a sensitive, honest and moving poem.

And many congratulations to the four runners-up.  Edward Doegar’s love poem ‘As if from the Sanskrit’ I found totally fresh and delightful, inflected by another culture as it is, and bringing into the language these delicate approaches to the lyric we are in danger of losing.  Kim Moore’s ‘Hartley Street Spiritualist Church’ made me laugh every time I read it.  The matter-of-fact tone and deceptively casual diction are very clever and the poem is perfectly shaped and controlled, the lineation heightening both the momentum and local effects. Kay Syrad’s ‘Sister’s Lament’ is possibly the strangest of all the poems, and a little more experimental.  But I also found it poignant and memorable, and admired its daring.  Lydia Fulleylove’s ‘At the Top of the House’ is one of those poems that work almost by the sheer verve of its syntax alone.  What a wonderfully spiralling mimetic staircase of a sentence it is, the poem never losing its footing, while retaining a sense of mystery and suspense. Many congratulations to all the runners-up and to everyone who entered the competition with so many enjoyable poems.  And my warm thanks to the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society for the pleasure of judging this year’s competition.

Leave a comment

Filed under Competition

2012 Open Competition Results

The results of the Kent and Sussex Poetry Society 2012 Open Competition are as follows:
Judge:  Mimi Khalvati
1st Prize:                      Jemma Borg    
                                                  Drawing the Ladder and The Way of the Cross

2nd Prize:                     Jenny Lewis  
3rd Prize:                      Paul Stephenson
                                                    Turkish Delight

4 x Runners-up       
                                    Edward Doegar   As if from the Sanskrit
                                    Kim Moore           Hartley Street Spiritualist Church

                                    Kay Syrad              Sister’s Lament
                                    Lydia Fulleylove  At the Top of the House

A very big thank you to all who entered. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Competition