Judge Dr Alan Kellermann said: “The winning poem strikes a difficult chord: it’s playful without sacrificing intellect. I was further impressed by the author’s ability to sustain a conceit and to achieve such crisp imagery while resisting the urge to embellish the poem’s diction. It was not only an enjoyable poem, but skilful.”
The photograph shows Sue Lewis, Editor of the Tivyside Advertiser with Katherine Stansfield receiving her cheque from Jackie Biggs, Deputy Chair of PENfro Book Festival.
Second prize (£100) goes to ‘Postcard from the Ferris Wheel’, by Rachel Plummer, from Edinburgh.
Dr Kellermann said: “It’s refreshing to see an author use form as a way of liberating language, rather than as a road map to the end of a poem. It’s well-paced and the poem’s sense of longing—which can so easily be wound too tightly—was tuned just right.”
Third prize (£75) is awarded to ‘Divining Her Firstborn’, by Elizabeth Sennitt Clough, from Stretham, Cambridgeshire.
Dr Kellermann’s comment: “This was quite a dense poem, but I don’t mind being asked to roll up my sleeves and feel around in a poem’s guts, especially when the effort is rewarded. And if the reader is willing to enter the space between the language and the visual, the reader is suitably rewarded. A vivid, haunting poem.”
Here they are:
The woman on my National Library of Wales library card by Katherine Stansfie
Her mouth says it all –
slack as a jellyfish. They made her
stand against the wall
with no time to pose or comb
the seagulls from her hair,
no time to dig her smile
from pockets of sand.
The sea fret foaming at her hems
thickened once inside the dusty air
that seeps from books. See, she’s ghosting
under the card’s laminated skin. Almost
gone. She fogged the enquiry desk too.
The attendant lost his hands
in the mist, hence the wonky
shot. She’s looking at a horizon
beyond the frame. I can’t meet
her salt-stiff eye which asks
for silence from the waves
as if such a gift could be given.
She doesn’t get out much now for fear
of mackerel following her home
and wheezing to death in the road,
of mullet in the bath again.
Her doorstep is crunchy with limpets.
Can I take her something back?
She likes romance, set far in land.
Postcard from the Ferris Wheel by Rachel Plummer
The drop from here is lethal, but the view
Somewhat makes up for that. Out there the Forth
Is silver, fat under the patchy blue
Cloud-mottled sky, a ribbon in the North
Or strand of grey roving, Falkirk its drop
Spindle. Up here the Castle, where we stood
And looked out from the rampart at the top
Of its rock face, our hands held hard. I could
Almost catch sight of our lookout point past
The red and white axle, the wheel’s slow spin,
If only it would pause a moment. Last
July I waited for you here, mired in
A long, hot summer. Higher, now, the wheel
Rotates above a city framed in steel.
Divining Her Firstborn by Elisabeth Sennitt Clough
She has entered the kitchen well
before dawn, her backbone already sunk
over the sink. Her elbows piston away
grease from linens or dishes
or rabbits’ skins. Her coarse pink hands
cross with blind regularity to draw her dead
to the surface. Easing pelt from membrane,
loosening the densest caul to a bruise,
she divines the parts of a creature,
until he is baptised fully in the gleam
of his own inner sleeve. A new born
conceived in a murky basin, a parei-
dolia of flesh and fault: unlidded
black eyes, a frothy grinning mouth. He grows
pike’s teeth and a tail that dips and flicks –
rabid fish. And doesn’t he thrum her own
ventricle beat through his tiny atrial cysts.
There was a fantastic response to the PENfro Poetry Competition this year with work of a high standard coming in from all over the UK. Over 200 entries were received in total. Thank you to everyone who entered and to our guest judge, Dr Alan Kellermann, who read every entry.
Elizabeth Sennitt Clough Stretham, Cambs. – ‘The Boy and the Mountain’, ‘Divining Her Firstborn’.
Angela Rigby Conwy. – ‘Lotus’
Katherine Stansfield Aberystwyth. ‘Canada’, ‘The woman on my National Library of Wales library card’
Tom Gatehouse Brecon. – ‘In Bloom’
Maria Isakova Bennett Liverpool. – ‘Eight Day Chimer’, ‘i hope you are well’
Rachel Plummer Edinburgh – ‘Postcard from the Ferris Wheel’
Natalie Ann Holborow Swansea. – ‘Victoria Terrace’
Ian Humphreys Hebden Bridge, West Yorks. – ‘Cruel moon’
Ken Sullivan Reading – ‘ ’79’
Stephen Giles Lutterworth, Leicestershire. – ‘Your Tongue Stud’
Catherine Edmunds Bishop Auckland, Durham. – ‘a warning’
Alan Kellermann: judge
Our guest judge for the PENfro Poetry Competition 2014 is Alan Kellermann. Alan was born in Wisconsin, USA, and lives in Swansea. He completed a PhD at Swansea University where he now lectures in Creative Writing. His first poetry collection – You, Me and the Birds – was published in 2012. He is poetry editor for Parthian Books. Alan will be reading all the entries.
Asked what he is looking for in a winning poem, he said: “It’s been my experience that muses don’t tend to make house calls, so my favourite poems are ones where it’s clear the author has had a genuine relationship with. Sure, I like poems that suckerpunch me – hit me right in the gut when I least expect – but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the brilliance of those quietly confident pieces whose energy is modulated, their tension sprung at just the right moment (or left taut). I’m looking not for a specific type of poem; rather, the poem that best achieves what it promises to do. In any case, the best poem will delight in exploring the capabilities of language; ask language to perform in fascinating and unusual ways.”
Alan will be reading all entries.
Our thanks to Tivyside Advertiser for supporting this competition.