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Winners: Open Poetry 2012

The First NAWG Open Poetry Competition


Below are the winning entries from the 2012 open poetry competition. You can also view the full results list.

Web editor's note: Apologies for the lack of correct formatting. Something went wrong during conversion from the original source material.

First Prize Winner

For John Camphor by Andy Humphrey
You had the universal cure for colds, welcoming wintry sniffles with hot fried fish, Valpolicella,
Sibelius and a parting jar of Vick's Vapo-Rub to fend off the frost in my chest.
Little green pots lined up over years along my bedside table.
Tonight, I reach for the last of your gifts.
Scrape the sides for the tingling gel, smudge under nostrils, breathing in camphor and the memory of you.
Vapour hazes my eyes, the way the sunlight through half-closed curtains used to kiss dust-motes,
speckle the spines of your library.
It's blurry, too, how I think I remember you: bicycle clips, your gown and that ridiculous cravat you wore to church.
I can't quite hear the chuckle of feigned dialects, only half recall the story of you spooning chillies in your coffee,
and the way you leaned your head when you were praying.
The gel is ice-warm on my skin: hot-water-bottled with aromas of old books and candle wax,
the must of Imperial Leather in the bristled embrace of your welcome.
I clutch the jar like a relic, scrape out the last of the ointment, smear, and inhale.

Second Prize Winner

Falling Water by Tim Ellis
Our jags and spats and weekends lost to bliss upstirred some murk.
How quickly twenty years can come down like a mist.
But high up in the fells the water's clear and all I want to keep with me is this:
a sweltering summer morning in The Lakes after exams, with friends.
We flop by a runnel that sprints down Scafell Pike,
uniting with its ilk en-route to funnel into Borrowdale.
We stoop to slake our well-earned thirst. I dither.
Do I dare put lips to this, risking water-borne bugs?
Someone is creased at my fear.
His laughter rattles round the rocks and crags with wild disdain, a man unfazed by care.
Myself, I find the slog to the summit tough but he's a dynamo, foot-sure and able:
a suck on a spliff and he's off, the long route back to Seathwaite, over Great Gable.
All his life, too much was never enough.
We shoulder no baggage and bivvy beneath the stars.
My first red squirrel is picked out by his eye,
attuned to all that stirs in ancients woods or soars in gaping skies.
We storm the hills and drain the lakeside bars.
But singing mountain streams are doomed to clot, stagnating in a muddy estuary.
Tired old cities sit piping flows of effluent out to sea where adolescent aspirations rot.
And now I know he's wrong: those tumbling streams are rife with germs.
I stumbled, bilious, half-blind. We marched to different drums.
He raced ahead while I lagged far behind, my backpack immense and chock with cumbersome dreams.
When I next climb the Pike I must rejoice in waters beating boulders smooth,
bawling with sheer ebullient force, glorious in the moment of their falling.
The rush and gush and gabble is his voice.

Third Prize Winner

Out Of Tune by Suzy Miles
He'd taught her how to play.
Now, he watched his red head daughter, flaming in June, rosin her bow;
her fingers slip on strings with the heat.
Soft embarrassed laughter through her battle with Bach rang in his ears,
as humming her missing notes, he shipped out East for duty.
He watched, standing guard, sweating fingers on the metal of a semi-automatic as rifle fire timpani'd,
discord cymbal-clashed on each shuttered window;
flats and sharps arpeggio'd on ancient stone walls.
Just one snapped string had sent a hot, a bothered people so far out of tune, no-one stopped to listen;
no conductor held his hand poised to re-define the rhythm, stop this crazy jazz of war.
She watched her fevered father, shock-still in his garden chair,
conducting with his fingers the blackbird's high vibrato, bringing in the robin, the skylark and the wren,
to calm his mind with harmony, quieten the cacophony still clanging in his head;
knowing, if he begged her to rosin up the bow again, he'd mither over missing notes now,
cry if she played Bach for him, cry if she did not.
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Author: Kevin Machin Date: December 6, 2012 3:19 pm
Categories: Open Competitions, Competition Results Tags: poetry, winners
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