Poets come together to share wonderful words

Chris Robinson from Billingham kicked off the readings. Photographs: Richard McDougall, YorkMix
Chris Robinson from Billingham kicked off the readings. Photographs: Richard McDougall, YorkMix
Chris Robinson from Billingham kicked off the readings. Photographs: Richard McDougall, YorkMix

Wordsmiths and readers of all ages climbed the wonky stairs at the Black Swan on Peasholme Green, York, for a celebration of poems and poetry.

When YorkMix Poet In Residence Carole Bromley launched our poetry competition, in association with the York Literature Festival, we had no idea of the wave of interest and creativity it would unleash.

Co-founder of YorkMix, David Nicholson, began the awards evening by emphasising the quality of the entries, of which there were more than 850.

In her opening remarks, Carole explained that she initially thought her role as judge “would be a doddle”. Although the number of poems greatly exceeded the 100 she expected to receive, she said: “It was such fun, and I learned a huge amount every day.”

Then the first of the shortlisted poets, Chris Robinson, got the readings off to a cracking start with her very funny poem My Date With Mike. Chris had travelled all the way from Billingham to take part.

Next, Genevieve Carver, of Ellerton, York, performed The First Poem with verve and entirely from memory. She was followed by Robert Gwynne from York with (From East Coast Main Line): Near Doncaster, one of a series of railway poems he’s writing.

Genevieve Carver, reading The First Poem
Genevieve Carver, reading The First Poem
Robert Gwynne reading (From East Coast Main Line): Near Doncaster
Robert Gwynne reading (From East Coast Main Line): Near Doncaster

Unfortunately Elizabeth Sandie was unwell, and so Carole read her shortlisted work, That First Letter. Rose Drew from York was another poet unable to make it. Alan Gillott, her co-collaborator on York-based independent publisher Stairwell Books took the opportunity to invite the audience to the poetry nights he hosts at the Exhibition Hotel, Bootham, (the first Tuesday of each month), before reading Rose’s poem, Disconnection.

Neil Davidson from Glaisdale told us he writes a poem for his wife for her birthday and every Valentine’s Day: one of them was his competition entry Just A Moment. A further two love poems followed, When Love Stumbled, in which Rachel Glass explored the gap between expected and real love. And finally for the shortlisted section, a reluctant Grace Clarke was persuaded to read The Last Summer Before You Left and was rewarded with a hearty round of applause.

Now it was on to the commended poems. Mantz Yorke, who had travelled across from Manchester, declared himself “utterly amazed to be here”, but his evocative poem Uplands Scene, Malham confirmed he absolutely deserved his place.

Jane Park, from Bubwith, commanded the room as she described the First Moments With Our Son. Carole commented on the poem’s remarkable imagery, pointing out that it is harder to write about birth than death.

Alan Gillott reads Rose Drew's poem
Alan Gillott reads Rose Drew’s poem
Neil Davidson from Glaisdale reading Just A Moment
Neil Davidson from Glaisdale reading Just A Moment
Rachel Glass reads When Love Stumbled
Rachel Glass reads When Love Stumbled

Going on to read Today, I Pulled On The Coat Of Seamus Heaney, by another absent poet, Maureen Oliphant from Durham, Carole said she is a fan of poems about writers. The final commended poem, Zoom, was read by David Nicholson on behalf of its author Anthony Watts, unable to attend for the very good reason that he lives in Taunton.

So to the business end of the evening: the prizes. Winner of the best poem written by someone who lives at a York postcode went to Lydia Harris. She couldn’t make it to the Black Swan, so York Literary Festival supremo Miles Salter read The Heart Of Mary.

Third prize overall was claimed by Gaia Holmes of Halifax, with Holes. Before reading the poem, Carole explained she was hooked by its extended metaphor of someone nibbling round the Swiss cheese holes in his life.

Grace Clarke, after reading The Last Summer Before You Left
Grace Clarke, after reading The Last Summer Before You Left
Mantz Yorke reads Upland Scene, Malham
Mantz Yorke reads Upland Scene, Malham
Jane Park reads First Moments With Our Son
Jane Park reads First Moments With Our Son
York Literature Festival organiser Miles Salter
York Literature Festival organiser Miles Salter
Carole Bromley completed a great night with readings from her own poetry
Carole Bromley completed a great night with readings from her own poetry

Doreen Gurrey of York was up next with her second-prize-winning Bishopthorpe Road. Beautifully evocative, the poem recalled Doreen’s visits to the attic bedsit of the boy who was to become her husband.

And then, without fanfare, drum roll or gold envelope, the winner was revealed: Coup de Foudre by Caroline Price, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The poem captured a momentary encounter with wild animals and was read by Carole to a rapt audience.

After a brief interval to replenish drinks, Carole read a number of her own poems, including a selection from her latest collection, A Guided Tour of the Ice House, provoking laughter, sadness and applause by turns. It was the perfect end to a terrific night which will be remembered for its friendly atmosphere, a drooping microphone and above all, the quality of the writing. Our thanks go to Carole, to Miles, to all the poets and to the Black Swan.