FIRST PRIZE: HOWARD WRIGHT
Calvinist obligations notwithstanding, the imagination outlines the cast:
the woman the star, her suave co-star suitably tight-lipped, with you yourself
at second billing. You have been online and read the papers so, guilty
as hell, you waste the day, a good quality day buffeting economic precincts
and muzak malls, your hungry head wanting you off the streets and quick.
Up to no good, playing tricks, it craves the whole shebang, the gore
and guns, the crash and bang, the backtalk and peerless wit free of the bad trip
that has you close your eyes on the world and watch the projections clogging
your brain – a hackneyed romance as commercial as an Ulster childhood,
as violent as nature, as warped as killers’ logic. No surprise then, you are
the only one strolling the corporate heat and carpet silence, the over-designed
foyer as colourful as a travel agent’s in winter, as tidy as clockwork,
pharmacy-bright, a vision of choice to the mellow twilight of side-aisles,
blatant ergonomics and revenue, dulcet tones muffled by the pulled curtains,
there to flip up a seat near the back without the rustling of carbohydrates
or the wretched wherefore and why of couples, and let your Dolby patience
be stretched by the tirade of trailers, arthouse or blockbuster, a parade
of prohibitions and coming attractions, all that’s ‘Now Showing’ across genre
and pretension, giving you time to re-focus in the before-picture doldrums,
able as you are to resist the voice-over, the hard sell flogging what you never
tasted and can’t afford as relayed by this script transmogrified into electric dust,
particulates, held inside the filtered ether of a smokeless beam creating illusions
of unrehearsed love for the star who is moving, blurring out of shot, out of range,
with, less the hero, open-mouthed and no longer suave, someone who is you.
January 24, 2013 No Comments
SECOND PRIZE: AVERIL STEDEFORD
Would you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and, like an air plant, be sustained by the light. But since you must kill to eat … let it be an act of worship. Kahlil Gibran, the Prophet
Near the hospice car park, they hopped out at dusk
from the gorse onto open land…
I wheeled him out to watch them
moving from patch to patch, oblivious of us.
When headlights shone, adding detail
to their shadowy shapes, heads came up,
ears pricked. They never ran.
Enjoying them became our evening treat,
holding us till darkness forced us in,
him to the care of nurses, fitful sleep,
me to an empty house, wondering.
I saw the label on the vacuum pack
‘WILD RABBIT’. How long it looked!
Immaculate; no shot or bruise
marred gleaming muscles of the legs and back.
I remembered, in the check-out queue,
the holy words ’This is my body,
given for you.’ Rabbits too?
Our shared anatomy, customised for rabbits
made jointing interesting, allowed comparisons.
The diaphragm, tough to heave for panting,
could quiver for a sniff to test the breeze.
I freed the heart, red as a baby beet,
the size of a hazel nut;
rinsed its softness clean and placed it in the pot.
On my plate flesh fell away from bones
uncovering their complicated shapes:
scapulae like crooked kites,
vertebrae once strung for necklaces.
The tender meat was flavoursome and sweet.
I kept the heart till last and savoured it.
January 24, 2013 No Comments
THIRD PRIZE: PAMELA COREN
Baling Hay to the Art of Fugue
a fairish sky a dampish grass two men
two tractors trailing kit back and round and fork it up
drop and roll the rooks fly up twists in his seat
an aching hip and pick it up a greenweave roll
turn and lift spin and drop a lumpen pill
black rooks touch down reverse and turn
and fork it up the rooks fly up spin and drop
reverse and turn and lift the green rooks spin and settle
turn left and fork it up twists in his seat an aching hip
swings right and backs it up the black pill spins
the day wears long and spins and drops
rooks fly up rooks spin the field
lift the greenweave roll reverse and turn
and lift and spin it black and random grass
is gone rooks swirl the sky the day aches long
back and turn and lift it up the yellow grass is gone
seed swirls rooks turn and pick it up a black pill thumps
pause and turn and lift the green twists in his seat
an aching hip the tired day is black and long
turn in the seat and lift the day the lumpen black
thumps down random grass is gone and greenweave lost
the aching day and rooks remain and tired is
and so the hay and so rooks fly so
January 24, 2013 No Comments
FIRST PRIZE: DAVID R CRAVENS
Violence in Old Sainte Geneviève
when Kickapoo mercenaries captured an Osage
and burned him at the stake
the Osage would often sing to his captors
telling them as he died
that the fire was not hot enough for his liking
in seventeen seventy-three these same Osage
rode on Ste Gen
(in their black and orange bluff-paint)
and as they cut one villager from the running crowd
a warrior of the Bear gens unsheathed his knife
and pretended to scalp the man
but when the man screamed in terror
the warrior slit his throat
and he was left to lie where he fell –-
for no honorable warrior wished such a man’s scalp
to adorn his spear
the following century
Auguste De Mun insulted William McCarthur
(both candidates for the House of Representatives)
they met at the Ste Gen courthouse
one going up the steps, the other coming down
both fired their pistols
no police reports filed, no charges pressed
the century after that and just down Merchant Street
I fought two men in front of The Orris
but that was still the old days
before pent-up anger burst forth
in mass school-shootings
like the mighty river that ruptured the levee
(that very same year)
and nearly destroyed the entire village
I stumbled to my truck with a broken bloody nose
cracked ribs and mild concussion
but I made it home and slept it off
I like to think the Osage would have taken my scalp
January 16, 2012 1 Comment
SECOND PRIZE: ALWYN MARRIAGE
The Clue Lies in the Lady’s Toe
On visiting Henry Moore’s sculpture in Dumfries and Galloway
On a Scottish hillside the bronze statue
of an archetypal king and queen
braves the elements,
observing, perhaps, a thread
of slit-eyed sheep winding up the hill,
with careful, delicate tread,
yellow marks like lichen
on their rumps, their gaze
full of vague unanswered questions.
My mind, also, struggles to explain
the different texture of the metal on
the king’s right knee. While all the rest
is stippled, rippled, riven
in a pattern to catch the varying
shades of light, his knee is smooth.
What point was the sculptor making
as he carefully fashioned this
one unblemished surface?
Only as I descend the hill
does a clear-cut memory emerge
from long ago, as I recall
a constant stream of pilgrims
filing past a marble statue of
the queen of heaven,
the slight roughness of the stone
contrasting sharply with the smooth
and shining toe
which generations of the pious
have knelt to fondle and to kiss,
wearing away the awkward corners
and bringing out a deeper shine. The line
of sheep has reached the sculpture now,
and as I watch
each sidles up to the impassive king
and meditatively rubs her rump
against his knee.
January 16, 2012 No Comments
THIRD PRIZE: LESLEY BURT
Decorous, she follows her husband’s gaze;
he stands to one side; shows posterity
his property: wife, meadows, sheaves and trees.
She sits upright, clenched tight by corsetry.
He leans on her seat, nonchalant; one elbow
holds his gun with barrel pointing down.
Still, we must appreciate he has the power
to fire it at the game birds that he owns.
Her lap is a cascade of ice-blue silk;
crossed ankles close those thin thighs in together.
Over his verdant landscape, dark clouds skulk:
Mr Andrews does not dictate the weather;
but the dog watches his master’s face, his stance;
he will run, retrieve, at once, given the chance.
January 16, 2012 No Comments
About the Judge
Oz Hardwick is a York-based writer, photographer and musician, whose most recent poetry collection, The Illuminated Dreamer (Oversteps, 2010), has led to readings from Glastonbury Festival to the United States, via countless back rooms of pubs. A keen collaborator with other artists, he has had work performed by classical musicians in UK concert halls, by flamenco musicians in Italian villas, and with experimental sounds and film in an Australian cinema. By day he is Professor of English and programme leader for English and Writing at Leeds Trinity University College. In his spare time Oz is a respected music journalist.
The Interpreter’s House
Organizers of the Competition
The Interpreter’s House is a literary magazine which publishes new poetry and short stories. It is published in February, June and October.
Since our foundation in 1996 we have published over three hundred writers including: Sophie Hannah, Sheenagh Pugh, Pauline Stainer, Dorothy Nimmo, Penelope Shuttle, Duncan Bush, Tony Curtis, Peter Redgrove, R.S. Thomas, John Mole, John Whitworth and Duncan Forbes.
We accept excellent work from both new and established writers. All submissions will be dealt with as swiftly as possible.
Submission for publication to:
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Plymouth PL3 5LT
The Interpreter’s House
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Please send orders to:
The Interpreter’s House
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The Bedford Open
2012 – 2013
First Prize £300
Second Prize £150
Third Prize £50
17 November 2012
Winning entries will be published in
The Interpreter’s House
Conditions of Entry
The Bedford Open Poetry Competition is open to anyone of 16 years of age and over except the editorial board of The Interpreter’s House and their families.
The judge’s decision is final. There will be no correspondence concerning the results.
No competitor may win more than one prize.
Competitors may submit an unlimited number of poems for a fee of £4.00 per poem. Subscribers to The Interpreter’s House and members of the Toddington Poetry Society are entitled to submit one poem free of charge in addition to a paid entry.
Manuscripts will not be returned and no alterations may be made to a poem once it has been submitted.
Each entry must be a poem of not more than 50 lines on any subject. It must be typewritten clearly, in English, on one side only of A4 paper.
All poems submitted must be the original, unpublished work of the entrant. They must not have been accepted for publication or won prizes in any other competition. Translations of other poets’ work are not acceptable.
Entrants’ names and addresses must not appear anywhere on the poems.
The entrant’s name, address and the titles of all poems submitted should be written clearly, in block capitals, on the entry form. The entry form and payment should be attached securely to the poem(s). Cheques/Postal Orders (sterling only) to be made payable to The Interpreter’s House.
Please do not send cash.
Entries must be received no later than 17 November 2012. Prize winners will be notified by February 2013.
Entrants wishing to receive a list of names of prize-winners must enclose a separate stamped, self-addressed envelope, marked PRIZEWINNERS.
The copyright of all poems remains with the author. However, authors of the winning poems agree to assign the right to arrange the first publication or broadcast of the winning poems to The Interpreter’s House.
The submission of any entry will be deemed to assume the unqualified acceptance of all of these conditions by the competitor.
17 November 2012
Please return this form with your poems to:
Bedford Open Poetry Competition
Plymouth Proprietary Library
Alton Terrace, 111 North Hill
Plymouth PL4 8JY
Name (block capitals please):
I enclose a cheque/Postal Order (made payable to The Interpreter’s House) for
£ ……….. (£4.00 for each entry)
I enclose the following poems:
May 23, 2011 1 Comment
‘Of course I’d be happy to judge the competition, Merryn’, I said to the editor, ‘provided you don’t think I’m too mainstream’. She didn’t think I was, or that it would matter too much. My apprehensions were allayed. It was strange to be a poacher turned gamekeeper, for nearly forty years a submitter of rather formal poems (so a bit of an outsider), transformed into an adjudicator of other poets’ submissions. Submissions, it quickly became evident, which deployed no little variety of metre, form, theme, outlook and attitude (and, agreeably, ‘attitude’). I hope the list of winners and commended poets reflects the variety.
Competitions are about individual poems rather than books or chapbooks, though I did note that the winner and two runners-up each had at least two poems in the final shortlist (in two cases, three). My original hope was that I would come across resonant poems such as Ann Drysdale’s ‘Nuns, Skating’, or Andy Croft on Ellen Wilkinson, or the best work of Duncan Forbes or John Whitworth or, in the United States, Tim Murphy, or, to be less mainstream, Paul Durcan or a witty, quirky poem like Les Murray’s ‘Black Belt in the Marital Arts’. This hopeful notion indicates my own bias or predilection for economy, point, clarity and structure and, no doubt, the Cleopatra of wit and humour (we need its ‘bonus’ to help us down Cemetery Road). I didn’t want, however, personal tastes to determine my choices. I resolved firmly to be fair to the Quoofish, to Ashberydom, to the post-modern, to psycho-geographical poetics (should they turn up), to the subversive; to be open-minded about the deeps or shallows or rip-tides or white-water sections of the poetry river system beyond the mainstream.
I reread the report of my predecessor competition judge John Fuller with relief ‘….. since good poems can lose, does that mean the winners are better? Blame the chance of one man’s taste …. another judge would, I am sure, have chosen differently …. I know that I myself might well have chosen differently last week, and differently again next week …. Preferring this or that good poem is influenced by mood and whim, and I would not like to think that my difficult decisions were set in stone ….’. My own judging experience leads me to endorse this frankness.
My shortlist did, in fact, stay relatively stable. But it was interesting to note how one or two poems, on the edge of inclusion, slowly impressed themselves on the mind (and in the affections) during the rereading, reconsideration process, advancing into contention. Consistency and structure lay behind this, asserting their power. Conversely, brightish pieces that appealed at first reading could begin to disclose flaws; once or twice, say, concluding lines or couplets did their job all right, but not convincingly enough, compared to other submissions.
I did insist on reading all the poems (more than once, too). There was no ‘weeding-out’ stage. If you paid your dues and sent in, I read your piece/s – out of democratic, or protestant, conviction. Rumours do circulate about competitions where submissions are first read and weeded out by some understrapper, with only a percentage of the (fee-paying) poems arriving on the desk of the nominated judge or judges. I hope this is only a rumour.
As far as subject-matter is concerned, there were a good number of poems on illness, hospitals, grief and bereavement — touchingly so. A good deal of nature – woods, hedgerows and beaches – as backgrounds or stages for incident, meeting or reflection; not a lot, though, about global climate change anxieties, which surprised me. Commuting to, and life in, the office, featured, as did family life, especially descriptions of aunts, uncles or grandparents whose vivid characters were often set in their particular age, sometimes recalled from the writer’s own childhood. Afghanistan featured too and, at the opposite end of the scale, some jogging and keep-fit poems. On the credit-crunch, bank-managers, ATMs, mortgages or investment advisers, there was curiously little. Computer technology was also in short supply as a topic; little of cyberspace, laptops and mobiles, an area Don Paterson mined for one of his poems in Rain. Several poets saw contemporary life with exasperated, tolerant irreverence, often amused, quizzical and in some cases creating surreal landscapes. The judge could chuckle over these. That overused but I suppose useful poetry review adjective, ‘wry’, comes to mind.
The most difficult thing about decision time was having to say a regretful no to some poems on the short-list. From re-reading, I had become familiar with and, in cases, fond of lines, insights and moments in them. Let me credit the ‘near misses’ and ‘not quites’ (I am not a stranger to rejection slips of that type myself!), ‘A Fortnight’, (Dorothy Pope), ‘Duke Senior’s Song’ (Robert Nisbet), ‘Never too late for a key to the door’ (Grahame Young), ‘Chimney Crazy’ (Peter Wyton), ‘Stabbing’ (Laura Garratt), ‘Office Workers’ (Ashleigh John), ‘Infidelity’, ‘Hospital Appointment’ (two by the runner-up), ‘Bull’, ‘With Love?’ (two by the winner), ‘Illustrating the Past’ (Jenny Morris), ‘The Documentary Model’ (Ed Reiss), ‘Before the Flood’ (by the third prize-winner), ‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor’ (John Whitworth), ‘Sleepwalker’ (Howard Wright) and ‘The Future of the Wind’(Alesha Nicholson). There were others. They bear out John Fuller’s point that a competition like this is not a matter of ‘rivals for a prize’ but a ‘communal enterprise’ and shared endeavour.
The winner was ‘Diagnosis’, an accomplished and confidently-phrased poem with good narrative line and a surprise ending, coolly brought off. The fourth verse, for example, is assured in its grasp of the nuances of a conversation between partners, each with their own concerns. Full of black humour and witty, it made me think of the work of Raymond Queneau. A spirited and original piece.
‘Logging’ came second. A bright and engaging poem in terza rima, the nature description is lively, and I like the way the poem moves from icy beach onto a different level, into a more personal dimension or landscape, speculating on the psychology of quest and, it seems, acquisitive desire.
‘A Zoo Full of Unicorns’ came third. Like ‘Logging’, it is economically written, more conventional in tone, scene-setting and outlook. I like its cadences, and its sense of the strangeness of, and wonder at, the mythical animals. The ‘strength and delicacy’ ascribed to them might be applied to this attractively evocative poem.
Among the commendations, ‘Passenger’ is a poem of Hardeian drama and sadness, told, to use Hardy’s word, in an ‘impersonative’ way. The poem grew on me after I had taken in the tense, busy first verse. It is underpinned by discreet skilful rhyme, and crystallises a life-story (an economic one) and life-crisis into the train journey.
‘The Poetry Reading at Under Orchard Moon’ is very different, an intriguing exercise in the comic-surreal, with a matter-of-fact flowing account of odd events, setting and characters, with crazy details such as the rugger socks and motorbikes. It undermines expectations, then, without losing its buoyancy, smuggles in a sense of loss (of spirituality?) at the end, as the quiet poetry-writing nun addresses the visitors.
‘When I Heard the Learned Professor’ works in an altogether simpler, direct, satirical mode, clearly-written in respect of its comic genre. It doesn’t overegg the pudding, and uses a nice change of metre for the good pay-off final line. One knows, as well, how the poet feels.
‘Saddleback’ is a realistic, well-sustained, lively ‘nature’ description (of a pig). I liked the image in verses three and four, its assured control throughout, and witty ending. The poet seems to have enjoyed his depiction, and the creature stays in the mind.
‘My Mother’s Medicine Cabinet’ overcomes the risk or temptation of nostalgia through its control and economy. There is something of a restrained, accurate still-life in its atmosphere. It has resonance. The jars and bottles in the cabinet trigger memories of a childhood past as well as the self-reliant character (probably a parent?) who supervised the medicines.
‘For a Dead Princess’ is a more discursive memorial piece, its congenial voice tolerating the disastrous conduct of the mother’s funeral (the awful insensitive organist and then the loss of the urn!) with a kind of long-suffering scepticism. The speaker is unfazed, as a full portrait of mother (and family circumstances) emerges.
‘Mnemonics’ is precisely conceived, a closely-argued poem which reflects on the processes of infinite-seeming geological time on a gravestone (it seems). I liked the cool, succinct ending. The cadences worked for me when I read the poem aloud.
‘Into Winter’ is a free verse conversational narrative. It starts with an everyday local landscape of woods and concern for an independent old fellow who goes for country walks alone. Then it moves onto a strange level where, in the snow, the man’s transformed not so much into a ‘green’ as a ‘white man – but is safe. Is this consoling or discomforting? I’m left pondering.
I hope that the winning and commended poems will please and/or challenge – stimulate, anyhow – readers of The Interpreter’s House. May I conclude with a word of thanks to Merryn Williams for asking me to judge the competition? We readers of ‘little magazines’ owe a big debt of gratitude to tireless and dedicated editors like her.
March 7, 2010 No Comments
A Zoo full of Unicorns
This is somewhere else we’ve never been,
where what is not was once the entire case,
a place for the enraptured and their gaze,
antic, frantic, wonderful, serene.
In reality this is so much more
than creatures from a fabled latitude,
happened upon, like spirits in a wood
or lights that flicker on a tousled mere.
Stooping to browse on acorns or on corn
someone scattered then slipped out of sight,
their delicacy is a sort of strength,
like the brittle twist of sparkling horn,
perpetually moonlit, white on white.
Creation never went to such a length.
I’m never quite certain how these things happen. (Who was it said, ‘If I knew where poems came from – I’d go there’?) But if pressed, I’d say it is, of course, a poem about the power of the imagination, with the unicorn doing what it has always done best, i.e. standing-in for the rarefied, the mysterious, the otherworldly. As far as the zoo part goes, it struck me that if the imaginative force of a single poem could be symbolised by a single unicorn, then maybe a book of poems was rather like a zoo full of them, and that was a sufficiently strange and delightful image to spark a poem. Anyway, that’s my take on things, and, for the time being at least, I’m sticking to it.
March 7, 2010 1 Comment
Even the shore is frozen: ice, thick-laid
silences streams from dunes that fringe the beach
as puffed-up gulls perform a masquerade.
Nothing is as it was: a sudden screech
distils in Arctic air, sharp cry of cold.
Reality is distant, out of reach.
Except that stick: high stormy tides have rolled
and left one there for me. An inner fire
drives me to pick it up. It turns to gold.
The alchemy of foraging – desire
as ancient as those caves warms my right hand.
I’ll find another, better, thicker, dryer.
There’s always just one more, the finite sand
stretches for ever now. I’m not afraid
of nightfall on a quest I never planned.
Few of us need to gather sticks or logs to warm our houses nowadays when central heating does the job quickly and conveniently. However, in weather such as we have had this winter (and last) atavistic instincts can take over and the drive to collect fuel becomes obsessive. I found myself weighting down plastic bags on Newport estuary in Pembrokeshire until my arms ached and my hands froze: there was always one more perfect log just within reach to be carried home, slowly but triumphantly. Terza rima seemed the ideal form to suggest this chain-like activity.
March 7, 2010 1 Comment