National Poetry Competition: Commended Poets


 

Lindy Barbour was born in Kirkwall then moved to Tayport in Fife. She read English at Oxford, and teaches Counselling and Psychotherapy at the University of Edinburgh. She has two children, and lives in rural Lanarkshire, near the Pentland Hills.
 
 
 
White Basin
 
 
It came to the point that she was weak
past climbing stairs and in the mornings
had to wash using the kitchen sink.
 
I went down Castle Street to Wallace Hughes,
Electrical and Hardware, to buy a bowl. The dark shop
smelled as always of paraffin and bare boards.
 
The bowl was cheap; a simple hemisphere
of thin white plastic with a rolled rim,
as white and round as the full moon.
 
Each morning I held her upright as her white hands
swam like little fishes through the warm water. The garden
was still flowering strongly that November. I watched her
gaze at the roses through two layers of glass.
 
I kept the bowl and use it now for ordinary things,
handwashing and catching drips. It’s as beautiful
as the moon or as a marble basin of clear water
with fish swimming in moonlight in a dark garden.
 
 
 
*
  
  
  
Liz Berry was born in the Black Country. She received an Eric Gregory Award in 2009. Her pamphlet, The Patron Saint of Schoolgirls, was published by tall-lighthouse in 2010. She is a visiting writer at Kingston University and a 2011/12 Arvon/Jerwood Mentee.
 
 
 
Birmingham Roller
 
     We spent our lives down in the blackness … those birds
     brought us
up to the light.
     – Jim Showell
, Tumbling Pigeons and the Black Country
 
 
Wench, yowm the colour of ower town:
concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.
 
Ower streets am in yer wings,
ower factory chimdeys plumes on yer chest,
 
yer heart’s the china ower owd girls dust
in their tranklement cabinets.
 
Bred to dazzlin in backyards by men
whose onds grew soft as feathers
 
just to touch you, cradle you from egg
through each jeth-defying tumble.
 
Little acrobat of the terraces,
we’m winged when we gaze at you
 
jimmucking the breeze, somersaulting through
the white breathed prayer of January
 
and rolling back up like a babby’s yo-yo
caught by the open donny of the clouds.
 
 
 
 
Black Country/ Standard
wench/ affectionate name for a female
yowm/ you are
cut/ canal
owd/ old
tranklement/ bits & bobs or ornaments
onds/ hands
jeth/ death
jimmucking/ shaking
babby/ little chld
donny/ hand
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Antony Dunn has published three collections of poems, Pilots and Navigators (Oxford University Press, 1998), Flying Fish (Carcanet OxfordPoets, 2002) and Bugs (Carcanet OxfordPoets, 2009). He is working towards completion of a fourth.
 
 
 
In Vitro
 
 
We found a moment’s break between champagne
and seating-plan to bolt into the dark
and dusty mop-cupboard we’d clocked before
and though it had no lock you turned your back
then lifted up your dress and suffered me
to thumb your nicest pants aside and pop
the needle through your skin and push it in.
 
And this is what I’m thinking of up here:
the Best Man, dazzled, running out of speech,
rooting for the groom and bride, the fruiting
of their marriage bed. I cannot make you
out among the guests. You’ve been gone too long,
all undone in a too-bright cubicle.
Gentlemen and Ladies, raise your glasses.
 
If you are back and standing at the back,
your glass high, I can guess the tenderness
with which you lift the brittle thing and watch
its little bubbles making themselves out
of nothing, climbing the strings of themselves,
bursting infinitesimally and
becoming, nothing after nothing, air.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Rosalind Hudis is an emerging poet from Ceredigion. She has always written, but decided to go full-time in 2009, beginning an MA in Creative Writing at Trinity St David’s. Since then, she has had poems published and won the Wilfred Owen Bursary.
 
 
 
Photograph
 
 
This is my daughter asleep in the morning,
one hand between the silvery poles
of her cot, that remind me of birch trees.
 
She’s going to theatre soon:
the surgeon will snap her ribs
to reach a heart which can’t wake
 
itself properly inside its blue forest.
She mustn’t eat. So when she stirs and calls
my arms down for the first feed, I turn
 
to the wall. She beats a fist,
the size of a large bee, into air.
Her feet swim faster as if racing
 
a blind snow flood,
and I am the snow. Later
it’s I who can’t reach
 
my child so far under,
her face a locked, white egg
in the thicket of tubes.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Helen Klein Ross, a former copywriter, has written hundreds of ads for household products. She lives in New York where she works on the Poetry Society of America’s campaign to restore Poetry in Motion to New York City’s subways. 
 
 
 
How to Furnish an American House
 
     How to furnish old American houses (Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1949)
 
 
Our first problem is how to hide
as much as possible. We want nothing
distressed. Snakes on walls create
a restless feeling. Red is rarely suitable
in large doses. After dark, a panelled room
seems to close in upon us, but it is not
an oppressive sort of enfolding. Housekeeping
can be somewhat simplified by small rugs.
Do not make the mistake of painting
old hinges black. Oil portraits are effective
but little damage is done by simple pastorals.
Rooms should be friendly without abandoning
reserve. Insincerity often manifests
in over-ornamentation. The most elusive
quality is what we call charm. It cannot
be planned for deliberately.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
S.J. Litherland, born and bred in Warwickshire, became an honorary Northerner after moving to Durham City in 1965. She has published six collections of poetry, of which the most recent is The Absolute Bonus of Rain (Flambard Press, 2010).
 
 
 
Springtime of the Nations
 
A sympathiser advises a friend
 
 
The lilacs were in flower, heavy, drowsy,
boulevards suddenly pleasant. And
I suspect the sun was out. You must
understand there was nothing we could
do. In the square hung the conspirators,
dangling effigies—the partying over—
how they caroused our masters,
the hubbub was like the explosions
of military battle to deafened soldiers,
we the defeated drank deeply while
the victors were clinking glasses. All
we could hear was the chink, chink,
like raindrops in gutters, of their toasts,
and vowed never to let glass touch glass
again in Hungary. And so my friend—
I remove my drink from your pleasure
in my health—in due homage
to the twelve—the silence between us
heavy, ominous. In my hearing, glasses
will never chime. All through the night
they were pushing the boat out, the oars
of a thousand hurrahs dipped into water,
chink, chink, chink, chink, chink,
came the replies of the tiny waves.
It was terrible music to the demented.
The boulevards next day were ashen
with pollen. The twelve hung in the sun.
You must understand there was nothing
we could do but shun the moment,
to turn our backs on all that merriment.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Ian McEwan is a charity trustee, philosophy tutor and treasurer of Magma Poetry. Many magazines have published his poems and The Stammering Man was a winner in the Templar pamphlet competition 2010. Ian has four children and lives in Bedford.
 
 
 
Our Lady of the Pylons 
 
 
When she is re-designed, will we
 
still know she stands for us – that repeated
shape potato-printed, lino-cut, repeated
 
through the hills?
She gives herself away and away,
 
the aching weight of power hung
from each shoulder: her prayers hung
 
to each light switch. Grey paint
elides her figure to a burr
 
of cloud. She is waiting for the birds
to trust her. Lip-level with the birds,
 
their pointed banter all
the company she gets. Her shadow
 
laid on corn, on tar, on earth,
is levering the sun around the earth,
 
to explain the hollow landscape,
and her faint construction-lines
 
are the gateways to a sky. Hum for us
Our Lady of the Pylons, hum for us
or hum
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Jon Stone is the co-creator of small press Sidekick Books and arts journal Fuselit. His pamphlet, Scarecrows, was published by Happenstance in 2010 and a debut full collection, School of Forgery, is due from Salt imminently.
 
 
 
Blue Poison Dart Frog
 
 
Little gas flame sparking in the mulch
Cog-tooth of a Scandanavian iris
Micro-totem to a god of shyness
Petrol bubble birthed from earthy belch
Tree kingfisher chink, shorn off mid-brawl
Driblet-beast from thirty fathoms down
Half-exploded teardrop of a clown
Alien seedling, sown amidst a squall
Blot made by a buggered cartridge pen
Bubblegum in Violet’s champion gob
Goblin bleach got worryingly smart
The genitalia of a very ill man
Lightning caught and boiled down to its nub
An arrowhead that’s softened to a heart
 
 
 
 
 
Read more about The National Poetry Competition.

Read more about The Poetry Society.
 
 
 
 
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