Wake, by Amal Garnham

First prize in our Members’ Competition this year went to Canterbury poet Amal Garnham for her Villanelle, ‘Wake’.


Your love lived buried under what you drank
I learnt that change always lay out your reach
My desire to get close to you soon shrank

We spoke and my mind always drew a blank
The bottle seemed deadly like a leech
Your love lived buried under what you drank

The liquor meant your breath normally stank
After being with you I’d run home, screech
My desire to get close to you soon shrank

Beneath the heartbreak I hopelessly sank
You struggled playing schools, letting me teach
Your love lived buried under what you drank

Bad memories consume an entire tank
The tension made me feel I was besieged
My desire to get close to you soon shrank

All burdens aside I need to quietly thank
You dad for caring, erase hurtful speech
I know you loved me even when you drank
You died, and my laments dissolved and shrank

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2022 Folio Winners

In addition to our annual Open Poetry Competition, we also run an annual competition for our members. This year it was judged by well-known writer, poet and editor David Caddy, who this week announced the following winners:


1st place Wake by Amal Garnham

2nd place Snow Monkey Goes to Heaven by Jess Mookherjee

3rd place Doppelgänger by Clive Eastwood

Highly commended

Gap Year – Caroline Franklyn

Love in the Time of Corona – Marion Hobday

When She Smiled – Mara Bergman

Miss Evans Takes on the World – Jill Munro

Driving Past Things I Might have Missed – Sarah Salway

Congratulations to all. Their poems, alongside another 16 commended poems from Society members, will in due course be published in our printed Folio, along with the winning poems from this year’s open Competition.

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David Caddy and Folio Results

On May 17th., David Caddy is our welcome guest on Zoom.

David is a poet, essayist, critic and literary sociologist from the Blackmore Vale in north Dorset. He was educated as a literary sociologist at the University of Essex. He founded and organised the East Street Poets, the UK’s largest rural poetry group from 1985 to 2001. He directed the legendary Wessex Poetry Festival from 1995 to 2001, and later the Tears in the Fence festival from 2003 to 2005. He has edited the independent and eclectic literary magazine, Tears in the Fence, since 1984. He co-wrote a literary companion to London in 2006, has written and edited drama scripts and podcasts, and regularly contributes essays, articles and reviews to books and journals. David also offers critical appraisals of writers’ work.

Recent books include  The Bunny Poems (2011) & So Here We Are (poetic letters 2012), from Shearsman. Interiors and Other Poems is due next year.

David will announce the results of our members’ competition and read from his own work.

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Night lights, by Helen Scadding

Joint fourth prize in our 2022 Open Competition was awarded to Helen Scadding’s Night lights.

Night lights

Moths hold the underside of leaves
wrapped in nettles waiting for the light,
‘til tiny tapestries of wings begin to flicker on the lawn,
crowding windows, tapping glass all night.

Below the fire-exit lights our daughters
breathe out smoke, flick hot ash with bitten nails,
walk home fast in flat black shoes,
the last shift of the night.

Blue screens hum with heat,
their hard drives filled, then wiped
of applications, or supplications,
while all the rules change overnight.

We underestimate the damage clever men can do
with whisky glasses glinting on the baize
in chandeliered rooms, where lies are edited and stacked
in piles left cooling in the night.

If only I could be with you again, I would,
in our caravan’s drop-down bed,
watching oak leaves fall across the estuary
and the orange curtains fly into the night.

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how to spell your name, by Mary Mulholland

Joint fourth prize in our 2022 Open Competition was awarded to four poets, including Mary Mulholland (Twitter:@marymulhol)

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Gill Sans in the institution, by Harriet Truscott

Joint fourth prize in our 2022 Open Competition was awarded to four poets, including Harriet Truscott. @HMTruscott

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On Glass, by Mike Farren

Joint fourth prize in our 2022 Open Competition was awarded to four poets, including Mike Farren for On Glass

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John Donne Dreams his Still-Born Son Lives, By Rosie Jackson

Third Prize in our Open Competition this year was awarded to Rosie Jackson (Twitter: @_rosiejackson)

John Donne Dreams his Still-Born Son Lives

You arrive in a season of mallow and love-in-a-mist,
swim between worlds like a swordfish, eat little,
whittle wood into birds.

Like all kids, you break things – teeth, bones,
your mother’s heart. You like swimming in icy water,
retrieving almost-dead things under stones.

You talk to angels, know the exact hierarchy of cherubim
and seraphim, the pecking order from St. Michael down.
At night, I fancy your footsteps sound on bare boards

where you tread back and forth, reciting my poems.
I am a little world made cunningly Of Elements, and
an Angelike spright… You’re my twelfth and last child –

I hesitate to say my favourite – but it’s your face,
grown into manhood, riddled with sorrow, that I see
praying in the garden of Gethsemane. I like to think

you’ll intercede for me. When I hear your voice, I hear
my own warm vowels, the same firm passion, faithful
consonants. It’s strange how things are handed down,

like seeing yourself poured out again in a pitcher
of next year’s water. But you move quickly, while I
stumble after you, not yet one of the immortals.

Many times in dreams I lose sight of you. You have my
slightly hooked nose, slender frame, long-fingered hands.
You’d make a good thief. As you did when you stole

your mother from me, your tiny face so unguarded,
raw, forlorn, she had no choice but to come with you.
If I could but love our three-person’d God with one shred

of the hunger I have for you and your mother. See how
I fall to my knees each morning, yellow with prayer
as the ivory gates close behind you once more.

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Loch Coruisk, by Caroline Heaton

Second prize in our 2022 Open Competition was awarded to Caroline Heaton.

Loch Coruisk

The legends hang a variable pall:
flung peat-broth from a witch’s cauldron
or hollow carved from the black crags
by a giant’s furiously hurled boulder,
haar simmering above the water,
which whispers, sings you forward
to test your mettle on the shifting
slippery scree, till ripples clasp an ankle,
instruct you deeper in. Now shed
your many borrowed skins, let water
ring your limbs, inch by silken inch
initiate of the depths and inky chill.
Each slow stroke through cloud-reflecting currents
translates you and a rising wind urges: Begin.

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First Prize: I Still Dream About My Ex-Lovers, By Fern Beattie

Our 2022 Open Competition first prize winning poem, by Fern Beattie Twitter: @fernbeattie

I Still Dream About My Ex-Lovers

My heart is a wooden doll’s house
and in the top right chamber I’ve set off an alarm,
so now I’m sleeping in the left ventricle downstairs
hiding from the incessant ring of your accent.
It woke my parents but they’re not trying to turn it off
and my girlfriend hasn’t noticed though she suffers
from sleep paralysis, and I wonder how you’ve managed
to get away with this for so long, hiding up there
behind a locked valve like Mr. Rochester’s wife in the attic.
Although it isn’t Mr. Rochester you’re married to,
and when I open my eyes to compound my disbelief
that you’re still safe here, I see you sneaking up to my atria
with your husband. I think that if he is allowed entry
then I can’t be such a bad person. In 5 minutes
he will realise where he is, where his wife has been leading him
all this time, into the thing that pumps love around the woman
who stole her from him temporarily. In 5 minutes
he will smash a lilac vase over my bed, china shattering everywhere;
will set off a bomb inside my chest that kills only himself
because you’ve always known to leave me right on time,
green sweater slipping out amongst the blast.
My parents and girlfriend will rush down the grand stairway
in their silk nightgowns like middle-class guests of the Titanic
and I’ll follow, though for a moment I won’t know if it’s them
I’m following or you. It isn’t this that haunts me most,
though it does, so much that I wake up.
It’s that for all the ways I’d imagined him, in the split second
before he recognised me, he looked at me and smiled.
Genuinely. He must have had shards of glass for teeth –
the monster – or maybe just a mirror in his mouth.
But in that moment I saw what I had done.

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