We’re delighted to share the three winning poems below. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to Sarah James/Leavesley for judging the competition.
First prize – Kathryn Bevis for starlings
Kathryn Bevis is Hampshire Poet Laureate, 2020. She is founder and director of The Writing School, Winchester, and hosts a Poetry for Wellbeing project for service users of the mental health charity Mind, funded by Arts Council England. Her poems have been published and anthologised in print and online by: Nine Arches Press, Parthian Books, Words for The Wild, and The Fenland Poetry Journal. Recent awards include first prize in the Poets and Players competition, third prize in the Welshpool Poetry Festival competition, and runner up in the Out-Spoken Prize for Poetry. Kathryn’s poems were recently shortlisted for the Nine Arches Press Primers V scheme.
Judge’s comments: starlings – This poem looks beautiful on the page and is powerful, energising and musical to read aloud. Comparatively everyday words are combined to create an imaginative and evocative new vocabulary in which sound also plays a key effect. Form and content work as one, and repetition is used in a wonderfully reinforcing and accumulative effect across the poem. Although ostensibly about starlings, the spiritual level of the poem allows it to be read analogically in a way that’s relevant to human experience, society and community. This memorable poem reverberated in my mind and emotions more and more after and between each re-reading.
Second prize – Jane Pearn for At a stroke
Jane Pearn had a poetry pamphlet published when she was 18, and promptly stopped writing. She resumed thirty years later. Her poems have appeared in print and online magazines including Candelabrum, Quantum Leap, The Eildon Tree, Snakeskin and Ink, Sweat & Tears. At a stroke was longlisted in the 2018 National Poetry Competition and Jane was one of the winners of the Guernsey International Poems on the Move competition in 2019. She has two published collections – Matters Arising and Further to.
Born in London, she spent most of her adult life in the Isle of Man, raising four children, before moving to Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, where she lives with her cat, Florence. She retired from the NHS in 2014 after a career as a Speech and Language Therapist. Having spent her working life helping children to communicate their thoughts, it’s now her turn to struggle to find the words.
Judge’s comments: At a stroke – In this poem, again, I had the impression of well-placed, carefully weighted, imagery, metaphors and sounds. Use of punctuation, white space and crossings-out felt crafted and precisely poised with a befittingly musicianlike sense of timing, all reinforcing the moving narrative of illness and loss, as well as characterisation. A moving, “beautifully judged” poem.
Third prize – Jane Lovell for Pebble
Jane Lovell has been widely published in journals and anthologies. She won the Flambard Prize in 2015 and has been shortlisted for several awards including the Basil Bunting Prize, the Robert Graves Prize and Periplum Book Award. Her work is steeped in natural history, science and folklore but is essentially poetry that examines our relationship with the Earth and its wildlife. Her pamphlets have been published by Seren, Against the Grain Press, Night River Wood and Coast to Coast to Coast. She also writes for Elementum Journal and Dark Mountain. Jane is writer-in-residence at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and runs the Mid Kent Stanza group for the Poetry Society.
Judge’s comments: Pebble – This beautiful poem addressing a pebble as “small symbol of this precarious world” unfolds to something much larger – encompassing nature, human experience and the essence of life itself. I was struck by the striking images in this poem, the sounds of the words chosen and its shape on the page, reflecting a tidal tug and flow. Every time I re-read this evocative poem, I was struck by a sense of wonder that remained with me.