The overall winner Kay Buckley with judge Carole Bromley. Photograph: John Illingworth
The overall winner Kay Buckley with judge Carole Bromley. Photograph: John Illingworth

YorkMix Poet In Residence Carole Bromley explains how she chose the winners in the YorkMix / York Literature Festival poetry competition

There was a massive response to the competition again. This year we received 930 poems, up from 850 last year.

This time poets could enter however many times they wanted and some poets (despite the poems being shuffled so I couldn’t know this) had several poems in the longlist and some several in the shortlist.

At the stage of selecting the winners I was told which poems were by the same entrants though still didn’t know the names. I decided it was fairer not to give any poet more than one prize.

The first and third prizewinners, the York prizewinner and two of the highly commended poets each had two poems in the shortlist which was quite an achievement given such a large entry.

It was an enormously time-consuming process to judge this competition. Because of the difficulty of reading poems on the screen I printed out more than 200 to read carefully a number of times.

Then I had to cut this down to a hundred for the longlist. When I saw the names of the longlisted poets after the judging was complete I knew quite a number of the entrants at least by name.

Also I noticed, looking through all the entries, that a number of well-known poets with several collections to their names did not get onto my longlist.

In the end it has to be about poems not poets!

It was a very rewarding process too. I felt honoured to meet you all through your words.

Common themes

In a competition a poem takes on a life of its own. I could not have guessed who wrote what and was often wrong even about the sex of the writer.

The pleasure of discovering the identity of the writers (and of meeting them) is one of the joys of being a judge.

I wrote a blog in the early stages of judging giving tips based on what I noticed caught my eye and what didn’t.

In addition I was interested to note that there were a number of very common themes and if you wrote on one of those themes you had to be writing particularly well to get shortlisted.

A lot of poems on a religious theme, many about the death of parents, the floods, WW1, Yorkshire places, childhood memories, children, illness, wildlife, art.

If you chose one of those subjects you had to be writing really well and there are lovely examples among the winners and commended poems.

There were also a surprising number of traditional forms including sonnets, sestinas and villanelles, often well-handled. Again a sonnet made it into the list of winners.

Others came close. Most entries, however, were in free verse though sometimes delightfully lyrical.

High standard

Overall the standard was astonishingly high. I felt sad leafing through the 200 just now to remind myself of trends among entries, because some felt like old friends.

There was a startlingly good poem called In The Wings which didn’t make it because of basic errors but it haunted me.

There were a number of very short poems which also have to work extra hard, one in particular called Macie Draws which in the end just felt too slight for a competition winner. I’m sure both will get published.

In the end it came down to personal taste, whether I still loved the poems after I’d lived with them for a few weeks and read them over and over again, whether they stood up to the competition.

How to compare a lovely sonnet with a very funny poem with a poem on an unusual subject deftly handled is impossible to answer. I did my best.

I love all the poems you’re about to read and I hope you do too.

This year we were very pleased to be asked to submit the four winning poems to the Forward Prize judges. We have our fingers crossed for the writers.

The winners

Kay Buckley
Kay Buckley

First prize went to Kay Buckley from Barnsley for her stunning poem, Huskar. All three of Kay’s poems struck me on a first reading. I had no idea they were by the same poet.

One was about the miners’ strike, one about the mining museum and the one I chose as the winner is about a little known tragedy in which young children working down the pit were trapped and drowned.

I Googled the title for the full story though it is told very clearly in the poem. The empathy of the writer is one of the reasons for the power of the poem and I was moved by the way the writer takes us into the world of the children and imagines them playing on the way to the pit, being “swallowed whole into the earth” and then, after the storm, attempting to “tunnel home to blackcurrants and bread”.

I loved the language in this poem, its images and that hint of dialect that makes the whole thing so authentic and moving.

Second prize went to Sean Street from Liverpool for Richard Jefferies on the Diving Board. I discovered while judging that I like to learn something from a poem which is probably why I chose this one.

In 12 lines the poet conjures up the scene near a listed diving board at Coate Water near Swindon and imagines it to be haunted at night by the ghost of Richard Jefferies, a writer who I’m ashamed to admit I wasn’t familiar with but this is certainly one museum I will be visiting.

When I do, I will imagine him “executing a perfect/ backwards dive, three point five somersaults in/ the pike position”. Neatly done.

Not a wasted word and I love the tone. This is a voice I felt I could trust.

Third prize went to Andy Hickmott from Cheshire for Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1a, a delightful memory poem about building Airfix models with his father.

The memory is, I assume, sparked by finding the model fighter plane after his father’s death and recalling every tiny detail of its construction and even the father’s proud words as he hung it from the ceiling.

The power of this one lies in the detail and in that beautiful last stanza.

The York Prize went to Ann Heath of York for Sonnet.

I loved the way this poem combined sensitivity to the natural world with the quickening of a child, the two things bringing a realisation of the transience of beauty and a feeling of regret that for the unborn child “there will be fewer things beneath your sun”.

I felt it was beautifully achieved and the sonnet form skilfully handled.

Highly commended

Mick Gidley
Mick Gidley

Any one of the highly commended poems could have been a winner. These are are all really strong poems and very different.

Home Front by Mick Gidley from Leeds is a delightful poem about being a grandparent and finding evidence of the children’s games after they leave.

It is also a very clever and funny poem which plays with war on the television mirrored in toy soldiers all around the room. The ending is terrific.

Plums by Lydia Harris, last year’s York Prize winner who now lives in Orkney, is a beautifully handled 11 line poem about revisiting her home and the memories of a lost husband and shared activity which the visit evokes.

The language in this is beautiful and I found myself haunted by the line “I imagine us waist-high in foxgloves” and by that moving last line. A lovely poem.

Lovers’ Promises by Brian Clark is about the love padlocks locked to the railing at Liverpool’s Albert Dock. Brian takes us there with his words and that mention of Chagall is a real clincher, as is the witty ending.

Brian Clark
Brian Clark
John Foggin
John Foggin

The morning we dragged the settee into the garden by Gaia Holmes (a prize-winner last year) is about the heady early days of a relationship and is full of life and vigour like the spring scene it describes. I just love that last line.

A Proper Job by John Foggin has a mystery play feel to it. It consists of a conversation between the two carpenters at the crucifixion.

The matter of fact “professional” approach of the one giving advice is both chilling and comic. It is a very clever and effective way to write about the event and so well handled.

John could equally well have won with Hole of Horcum. December, a quieter poem but a very strong one.

Commended

Nadine Alvarez
Nadine Alvarez

And now, briefly, to the commended poems. KINGS KINGS by Nadine Alvarez would be snapped up by any children’s publisher. It isn’t about kids playing football, it is kids playing football. Superb.

Chris Bridge’s Walking Through York is about so many things all at once and gives us York and its history and somehow its essence too.

Losing Elena by Abegail Morley is ostensibly about a girl’s “invisible friend” but actually a most unusual rite of passage poem.

Wisdom by Clifford Hughes reminded me in its glorious musicality of The Highwayman. Again, a superbly handled piece in which the writer never puts a foot wrong.

I would love her by Moira Garland is here for its sheer originality, the conceit behind it and those wonderful rhymes.

Tall Cool Dude by Michael Hildred earned its place for its lovely rhymes, its energy, the way it captures the excitement of a gig and for that killer last line.

Windfall by Ken Sullivan is about the Battle of Trones Wood in the Somme and in it the poet imagines what might have been in the mind of a young soldier from a Kent regiment. It is quite haunting.

Chris Bridges, listened to by competition judge Carole Bromley
Chris Bridges, listened to by competition judge Carole Bromley
Clifford Hughes
Clifford Hughes
Moira Garland
Moira Garland

Wearing Red by Maria Taylor is a delightful poem about a woman “old enough not to care” being transformed by a red dress and finding “how comfortable /redness feels”. It is a deceptively simple poem in which the reader feels she is witnessing a woman discovering her true identity.

The Vegetable Grower’s Handbook Volume II (1945) by June Wentland takes us into memories evoked by handling a gardening book which used to belong to the poet’s father. It is a lovely way to capture the father’s personality and the time in which he lived. The title’s great too!

Afterthought by Ayesha Drury is astonishing in its metaphors and in its ending. I loved it.

Naked Mole Rat Sings The Blues by John Gallas is hilarious, very musical and I love the dialect in it. You can feel the joy of writing the piece and the sheer enjoyment in the words. Also it made me laugh!

A Gathering by Rob Miles is a delicate poem about a couple bringing home a bird’s skull with great reverence. It is quite beautiful and very striking.

Michael Hildred
Michael Hildred
Maria Taylor
Maria Taylor
June Wentland
June Wentland

Young Woman Standing at a Virginal by Yvie Holder is in the imagined voice of the subject in the Vermeer painting. It is very well executed and gives us insight into the painter’s world and also into the world of the model. I love “A painter’s eye unpicks you, hooks you in”, the language of the poem and its rhythm.

In Small Lightnings Martin Malone is looking back at an earlier time and writing about a lost love through the language of emergency services. It is an unusual poem and works really well.

The contrast between the rather distancing ambulance section and the sudden flash of vivid memory in the lines “as you slept through your fever, /those three December days in my room” is extremely moving.

In the mix by Joy Winkler is a real Yorkshire poem. What could be more Yorkshire than Yorkshire pudding? The details of the making of it by the young girl under instruction from her sick mother are beautiful and it becomes a metaphor for a whole way of life.

Thank you to all these wonderful poets and to everyone who entered. Now, here are the poems.

Rob Miles
Rob Miles
Joy Winkler
Joy Winkler

The poems

Winner – Kay Buckley: Huskar

 
In Nabs Wood the leaves gather
around the memorial figures
of a boy and a girl crawling
on their hands and knees.

Huskar,
to us and those who worked in pit;
House Carr Colliery to them that
owned it.

In smooth stone now, black-bright then.
Hurriers in their two separate
tunnels, carting coal out in corres.
The little ones are not shown,

Trappers,
who opened and shut the vent doors;
tucked alone in the dark whistling
profit.

That July morning, walking in early light,
the Burkinshaw boys throwing
goosegrass onto Ann and Sarah’s back,
clouds clamped over the fields like a lid.

All were
swallowed whole into the earth until
a crack of lightning. A summer storm
misheard.

Electric in their stomachs jolts
through limbs to clamber up a day hole,
day eyes to the sky; tunnelling
home to blackcurrants and bread.

Switch-backing
rain, black and soil-laden,
swells the drift; a coal cocoon
is now their tomb.

Twenty six bodies were laid out
at Throstle Nest Farm. One tree for
each child planted in Nabs wood.
Tally sticks in oak, ash and beech.

 

Second prize – Seán Street: Richard Jefferies on the Diving Board

 
By 1935, the Art Deco board at Coate Water provided a nationally renowned platform for diving competitions. It is now listed.

It’s an idyll bequeathed to an edge land,
derelict for years, but the ducks love it.
Swindon, if it remembers, Sundays out
here until the dusk makes it depressing.

Time to bed off if you’re of the feathered
persuasion, though the M4 never sleeps.
Through years they’ve learnt to live with that,
far worse is the bearded ghost that troubles

them on full moon nights, him glancing around,
then on impulse executing a perfect
backwards dive, three point five somersaults in
the pike position. Bevis applauding.

 

Third prize – Andy Hickmott: Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1a

 
Last time I held this, it eclipsed both my upturned palms—
look, Daddy, look what I made!—I weigh its moment now in one.
And look how badly it’s fared: it’s deficient one propeller blade,
the wonky rudder now hangs loose, its undercarriage has collapsed.

1970, Stone Street, Maidstone; invest two weeks’ pocket money
on an Airfix model kit, a fighter plane (and I remind myself again
why lessons in those days so often were taught by widows),
and a few extra Humbrols; the bus fare home takes all the rest.

I spread the Kent Messenger two ply thick on the table; open the box
and make an arrangement of scalpel, decals, cement, enamels, a rank
of brushes, an aromatic cup of turps; un-concertina the instruction sheet,
check all twenty-nine parts are strung along their plastic vine. All set,

I pick a tin and shake it well, prise off the lid with a teaspoon heel,
load my brush and hone it to a point; bronze the guns & engine cowls,
blacken the blades and tyres, silver the hubs and struts, a warning
flash of red to the propeller tips, duck egg blue to the underside, and then—

oh boy!—the camouflage: the meandering bands of alternating
moss green and dark earth woven seamless from fuselage to wing.
Fix the pilot in his seat to the floor, the propeller on its spigot; breathe in
polyurethane; pluck the fuselage from its vine, mount its pieces side by side

like a filleted rainbow trout. But when I mate the halves, my hands
are the bulbous hands of a ten-year-old; I might as well be wearing gloves.
Glue squelches and smudges the paintwork—see there, right there—
the locating pins just won’t locate, my guilty traces lie everywhere:

dabs frosting the canopy glass, mine; the tail fin with its fumbled
rudder, my work; my curse upon each of the red, white and blue roundels
so tenderly damped in tepid water, slid from their mounts, and kissed
onto the model with a roll of my fingertip, a suspect inking his prints.

My father put aside his smouldering pipe and fetched a chair; he hung
my offering with a drawing pin from the ceiling at the top of the stairs.
They was always a joy to behold, he said, proof there’s a god in heaven
what loves us.
I neither knew nor cared, till now, where it had gone.

 

York prize – Ann Heath: Sonnet

 
A deer, lithe as a hound, bounds from trees
To freeze, prick-eared and fierce against the sun,
For one heartbeat, then leaps, and is lost in leaves.
I notice it the moment it is gone.

My heart beats, fast and fierce, at being near
An animal living wild under the sun,
And, in my belly, you leap with the deer,
As if to follow where the deer has gone,

Into a tapestry, rich with wolf and hawk
And bear and boar where herds of deer run.
We are left a slowly darkening walk
Through empty woods, our footpath almost gone.

There will be fewer things beneath your sun.
We notice them the moment they are gone.

 

Highly commended – Mick Gidley: Home Front

 
For days after the children leave for their homes in the South
we discover unexcavated battlefields, nonsensical as Towton.
Small formations of infantrymen guard the lower book-case shelves,
lone snipers lurk behind the curtains, while the abandoned fort,
its battered walls camouflaged with leaves and twigs,
starts to gather dust under the spare bed.
While on television we watch the bombardment
of oilwells somewhere, the final cavalryman,
his leg twisted under him, waves
his bandaged arm from his lookout on the piano stool, urging us onward.
When I switch off the lights to go to bed, the bayonet
of the foot soldier hidden in our carpet
stabs between my toes.

 

Highly commended – Lydia Harris: Plums

 
I’m back in spitting distance of our home.
The spire of St Catherine’s
points behind the creaky sycamores.
You’ve withdrawn. A sparrow hawk
crosses Barmby Field, the track to Keldspring
and hovers above Black Dyke. It swoops
the gap where our garden used to be.
I imagine us waist-high in foxgloves,
the front door shut to keep the cats in,
our pockets stuffed with those tart plums
that wouldn’t soften, no matter how long we cooked them.

 

Highly commended – Brian Clark: Lovers’ Promises

 
Love-padlocks click
heartbeat after heartbeat
along black chain-links
at Liverpool’s Albert Dock

where tall ships
used to whisper promises
of a new world
love might not reach.

Backward glances
still meet big stone blocks;
brick warehouse walls
are still warmed by lovers.

Promises haunt this dock
store for tobacco, silk and tea
now a gallery
where Marc Chagall
locks hands
with ecstatic Bella
as she soars
high as a ballerina.

My lover clicks our padlock shut
and throws the key into the Mersey.

I can feel the spare in my trouser pocket.

 

Highly commended – Gaia Holmes: The Morning We Dragged The Settee Into The Garden

 
The morning we dragged the settee into the garden
was a morning
when you were still a guest in my bed,
when you were still
testing out my name on your tongue
like Laverbread, like Sushi,
like something you’d never tasted.

It was a morning
when the last cold rind of winter
was giving in to spring
and I wanted to be with you
and out in it.

I wanted to douse my wrists
in its pollens.
I wanted to roll in the grass
and soak up the new season
like a dog rolling in dung.

 

Highly commended – John Foggin: A Proper Job

 
There’s more to this than people think.
So listen. See, you want to get the build-up right.
That one I took you to last week. All wrong.
What’s the good of flogging someone
till he can’t carry the thing? He only ends up
dropping it, spectators want to help,
military jump in. A bloody circus.

Take my advice. You want to keep them
fit and fed and fresh. They’ll not thank you,
but just think on. You’re not there to cheer them up.
Just to do a proper job.

Make sure you order oak
that’s been let to lie a year or two.
You need to cut a solid six by six,
one tight lap joint, nice and snug.
Four clean dowels.. olive;,
don’t get palmed off with pine…
If it does get dropped you don’t want
that cross-piece twisting.
Causes too much bother later on.

Nails? Get them from that blacksmith
by the market. You’ ll want clean-cut, well tapered,
a good nine inch.
Plan to use just the three, but get six.
They can break if you don’t catch them right,
and anyway a big lad might need
a couple in each wrist.

I’ll tell you all about the way
to lie them down, the knots,
the bones to get between,
the hoisting and the dropping in the slot
when we’ve had our snap.

But just one thing. You get it right.
You don’t want another carry on
like the one last week.
The one it turned out wasn’t dead.
Never hear the last of that.

 

Commended – Nadine Alvarez: KINGS KINGS

 
Pass it. Pass it.
Foul. Foul
Hands. Hands.
Offside, Smiggy.
To me. To me.
Here. Here.
Kick it. Kick it.
Get the ball.
Kings. Kings.
What? What’s up?
It’s these Wellies, I think I’ve broken me toe.
Swap with Thommo then,
You can be goalie.

(*Calling ‘Kings’ brings game to a halt)

 

Commended – Chris Bridge: Walking Through York

 
Somewhere the image of me walking
with my Godfather, awkward and awed
on the day I was confirmed,
still travels through space.

Today I’m getting my exercise fix
when I round the corner
and recognise the place,
now part of a hotel chain.

It’s 5.32. I’ve just turned 66.
The bishop’s hand touches my head.
I hope to be chosen or different,
but (as now) I feel about the same.

Time is a string bag:
a thing in which
some moments stretch
and so much just falls through.

I hide my disappointment
and follow Uncle Harry in to lunch.
He carries a wrapped up book.
It’s on my shelf.

York Minster loomed and looms.
The Merchant’s House is pale against the dark.
A tide of people washes from the shops,
carrying their days in plastic bags.

Clifford’s Tower is barely lit at night,
as if the flames have just gone out
that night they massacred the Jews.
I stare through the restaurant glass –

and later see the river brimming,
sliding across slabs.
This city, layered and living,
measures its time in floods.

 

Commended – Abegail Morley: Losing Elena

 
When I was eight I made a pact with my invisible friend
that our friendship wouldn’t end when we grew up.

At eighteen we lacked the confidence to part, so I took her
to read English at Hull, shoved her invisible things

in the corner of my room, clutched them close at night –
they smelt of nutmeg, warm milk, coddled eggs.

I knew all her tricks by then – moving stuff at midnight
as if wind sucked the room’s air till its ribs collapsed,

lifting clothes like a tornado had wrecked the room.
In the canteen she’d steal reflections from spoons,

take bites of my food, sip coke till the bubbles
went up her nose. She’d pose in shop mirrors, hang

around their windows, walk in time with me down
the road. She began to weigh stone-heavy. One night

we played cards, winner disappears. It was late,
we’d drunk too much beer in the Union bar.

At three in the morning I opened the door, felt
the street’s cold breath take her, sweep her away.

Sometimes I phone her up for a chat, but a shriek sticks
to the back of my throat as if it has nowhere else to go.

 

Commended – Clifford Hughes: Wisdom

 
The geese that fly over the water
see everything here below,
for the wisdom of geese in the ways of men
is something I’ve come to know.
They followed me from Jamaica
through the Gulf of Mexico,
then they wheeled away over the water,
they flew on over the water,
in a chevron over the blue, blue water
to the lands of eternal snow.

The geese that fly over the water,
where they come from, nobody knows,
and nothing that we can do or say
will change how the high wind blows.
And they seemed to be urging me caution
but I failed to understand,
so the geese flew over the water,
the geese flew over the water,
the geese flew over the blue, blue water
as I turned my face to the land.

The goose that flies over the water alone
will never, ever return.
But the wisdom of men in the ways of geese
is something I’m slow to learn.
And the man who flies over the water
to discover his purpose in life
would do well to remember the sea and sky,
should only consider the sea and sky,
must always beware of the endless sky
before he returns with a wife.

And geese will fly over the water
long after I’m laid in the ground,
for the talent of geese to navigate
is mystical and profound.
I should have sought their wisdom
not left my way unplanned,
for geese will fly over the water,
geese will fly over the water,
will always fly over the blue, blue water
while worms burrow under the sand.

 

Commended – Moira Garland: i would love her

 
I would love her white cold stillness
on the platform seat.
I would love to travel with her ticket
stuck in her like a receipt.
I would love to cuddle her knowing
she is only a conceit.
I would love to sit with her until
she melted in my heat.

The snow woman looked so calm,
at the lonely station, so neat.
Whose frozen hands had formed
this fabulous feat?

 

Commended – Michael Hildred: The Tall Cool Dude

 
The city’s music rendezvous
was filled to overflowing,
in a vast expanse of seating
like a giant layer cake.
The buzz of expectation,
overwhelming, ever growing,
compressed to utter silence
as the theatre came to dim
and a spotlight slashed
the darkness, directing our
attention to a dazzling pool
of brilliance that anticipated … him.

Five thousand eyes converged
to spot the slightest sign
of movement – and then the
place erupted in a crazy swell
of sound. The tall cool dude
with hair slicked back, moved
into light, all dressed in black
and smiling, stood his ground.
Finally, the crowd fell still
and unstrapping his guitar,
with exquisite panache, it was
one long look to all of us and –
‘Hi. I’m Johnny Cash.’

 

Commended – Ken Sullivan: Windfall

 
Here lies a fallen apple,
A mirror unblemished,
One side the rational, God’s rosy cheeks,
Rotted to brown on the other,
Hung with fungus medals,
The scent of its corrosion charming
A solitary wasp, sickly buzzing.

There is nothing unusual in this orchard
except for the mud,
the wire, the glove
on the severed arm,
a snapped branch of bone,
a dead lack of trees,
a single windfall,
tempting into silent gunshot range.

And at night, at night it sometimes seems
in a thousand years of hiding from the beasts,
the beasts of the dark return to us, the children
of survivors of the cold, harsh times,
times when we were night-stalked for selection.

Then the apple takes a grey night-pallor,
Seems to rise up like a dreadful thing,
and tigers leap from the mouths of fish
Leap from the mouths of tigers,
but all of this is nothing compared to the rifle,
The rifle man with his bayonet eyes,
his mouth oozing mud.

I see them in the cigarette glow,
I see that barbed wire look,
That look and I promise, for God’s sake somehow,
If I can get through this night,
I will go home and plant an orchard,
An orchard in the foxglove fields of Kent.

 

Commended – Joy Winkler: In the mix

 
On the Sunday my mother gets pneumonia,
the Yorkshire puddings still need making.
I take four heaps of flour using the big spoon
up to her bedroom for approval.

Illness clutters the bedside table,
tablets, Vick, the kitchen clock
that’s usually downstairs in the daytime.
Crack the eggs, just enough milk.
Her eyes glint like wet glass.

I imagine myself cooking on telly –
brash like Fanny Craddock,
I tumble flour into liquid, flaunt
my fork, circle and cut, circle and cut.

There’s a thickness to the batter
that can’t be taught. I take it again
for her to feel. She wants to use
the flat of her hand. I stand there,
try not to touch her nightdress,
damp, done up to the throat.

I poke a tongue of lard into each tin,
she shouts down wait until it spits.
Half-one and they’re in from the pub,
sitting at the kitchen table
with straight backs and expectations.

The puddings are golden, on time, hollow.
I take hers up on a tray. She’s sleeping.

 

Commended – Maria Taylor: Wearing Red

 
For Charlie

Old enough to no longer care,
a woman in a curtained room
lets dark jeans fall to her feet,
then zips herself into a red dress
and everything it means, staring
at her brave twin in the mirror
who mouths back ‘why not?’

Later, red pours from bottles
and leaves kiss marks on glasses.
She realises how comfortable
redness feels. It’s not a disguise.
It’s her way of saying ‘I’m here.’

 

Commended – June Wentland: The Vegetable Grower’s Handbook Volume II (1945)

 
The pages are foxed and the smell of 1945
has wintered under dust and bloomed into
something that irritates the skin.
Pea boughs reach out from photogravure plates and
thrifty print warns of the need to uproot
straggling wasters from the rhubarb bed.
My father, to whom this book belonged
preferred the randomness of seeds blown in –
lilies of the valley, bluebells, the legacy of a buddleia tree.
He used this book as a place for storing dance steps,
notations in looped handwriting of tango and cha cha cha,
a quick step seeded on lined paper
to blossom later on the dance floor of Hornsea floral hall.
I imagine my father and this Cambridge graduate – the author of this book –
meeting one summers evening in an unknown garden
both men from a time of pea varieties named Onward, Quite Content,
my father fox-trotting alone, as he was in later years,
between rows of lime-loving brassicas lit by moonlight,
the author advising on how to drape tomato plants with sacking
when the days are warm but the nights are cold
constructing with care a framework made from bean poles.

 

Commended – Ayesha Drury: Afterthought

 
Being in love is like
being a whale on the moon:
great, just
very confusing.

Being in love is like
being a moon in a whale:
squashed, and
missing the stars.

Being the moon is like
being a whale in love:
enormous.

 

Commended – John Gallas: Naked Mole Rat Sings the Blues

 
Hey Brothers, ah’m a Moley-Drone,
a-diggin’ tunnels with ma teeth,
mostly on ma loney-own,
roundabout an’ underneath.

Ain’t got no purdy Moley-Mate,
guess ah really ain’t got nuffin’,
only got ter concentrate,
an’ keep mah Moley-dentals chuffin’.

Ain’t got no furry Moley-Coat,
ah’m jest all nudey-pale an’ pink,
ah cain’t have kids, ah cain’t see nowt,
ah cain’t feel pain, cain’t cry, cain’t think.

Oh yeah, I got them Moley-Blues,
ah got ‘em, Brothers, like they hurt,
doan get to love, doan get to choose,
jest get to dig the dirdy dirt.

Ah jest keep diggin’, lone an’ lorn,
ain’t no stoppin’, ain’t no slowin’ :
ain’t no question why I’se born,
ain’t no question where ah’m goin’.

 

Commended – Rob Miles: A Gathering

 
Taking the long way from the stones, your boot
barely spared the skull of a bird
on dense pine needles. Pausing
to take it in, the two of us alone made up
a gathering, enough
to seem a crowd looking down
on that fallen cradle.
Save a few last stains, its thin
shadows had been picked dry, pestered
almost clean, and it still hosted
a ghost of gnats, forming all known
holy signs over what remained of body
and wing. You kneeled so gently
to bring its tiny silence
home where any sound
found every nook and corner; each pindrop
rose, as each room lowered into night
like water.

 

Commended – Yvie Holder: Young Woman Standing at a Virginal

 
That corner of the room was tarted up.
From where I stood, his unmade bed, his sheets
cascading to the floor, a table strewn

with empty flagons, rotting fruit, stale bread,
were all my eyes could feast upon. Yet his
indulged themselves with me. I knew that look

and thought I had escaped it, being wed,
no longer chased by taunts and stares that stick,
like curses, when you’re single, or alone.

A painter’s eye unpicks you, hooks you in.
A clinking purse and promises. Fine clothes.
Next thing, I’m fixed. How long must I have stayed?

Some colours fade like winter dusk. Some stain.
Spring’s pearly light recalls my shame: chill tiles,
a shadow on a chair, and how he’d moan

that landscapes of the mountains, restless, wild,
filled him with pain – a constant ache, he said.
That cherub on the wall. His unmade bed.

 

Commended – Martin Malone: SMALL LIGHTNINGS

 
Driving the A4 to Burghclere, last summer
passes me in an ambulance

on the opposite side. The flashing lights
tell me all I need to know: our time

here is taking its leave on a gurney;
worked on by paramedics whose

urgency is slipping with each
failed shock. I do as Dave says

and stand clear. In doing so I see
that she looks very much like you

as you slept through your fever,
those three December days in my room.

When you finally came to, you smiled
and pulled me on top of you. Though now,

it’s not looking so good for last summer.
I glimpse your tattoo on her shoulder

as he bends over to massage
the pale ribcage. But this year

there is no give back of lightning.
Dave I say, we’re losing her.

 


 
Carole Bromley is married with four children and lives in York. Twice a winner in The Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition, she has two pamphlets with Smith/Doorstop (Unscheduled Holt, 2005, and Skylight, 2009) and a collection A Guided Tour of the Ice House. She has won a number of first prizes, including The Bridport and Yorkshire Open, and her poems have appeared in a range of magazines and anthologies. Carole is a graduate of the MPhil in Writing at Glamorgan University and teaches creative writing for York University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning.