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Winners: Open Poetry 2015


Here are the winning entries for the 2015 open poetry competition, judged by Maggie Harris.

You can also see the full list of the results.

First Prize Winner

Small Fry by Roger Elkin
Remember Rob telling how, as a lad,
his cupped hands worked the water,
his angled palms pushing back towards
the bankside and skirting around pebbles,
little finger trailing the gravel in a silent glide –
steady, steady – against the brook's lulling
push downstream, its surface mirrored
in glimmers of sunlight like fractured glass,
the water feet-deep, gin-clear, and those splinters
of minnows, darting this way, that or hanging still –
tail, fin, pectorals on hold, gills pulsing – and, scoop,
he swished them up, and out, time after time,
their grey-green leanness flick-flacking in his hand,
their pin-eyes a panic, head flapping, mouth
gawping till he slipped them into that jamjar world
of chickweed, their circling swirls transforming
to an easing freedom of sorts – Remember this?

He wouldn't have dreamt of making a meal
of them. And yet no second questioning
his request for whitebait: each piled fish
a masterpiece of reticulated scale – such
frail armature – lambent and shading through
silver to white to grey, the dark targets of their eyes
passively accusing in silent negations of all
they had been, their life to come, their everything,
taken away too soon.  What a world to feast
his wishes on, little thinking how within a month
the morphine would kick in, his mouth turning
to gawp, his eyes glaring that gone-away stare
of panic and acceptance, his hands cupped
to capture nothings, and letting everything
slide away, freed at last.

Second Prize Winner

The Gardener by Alice O'Malley
I saw in a corner, something wild grow;
a dandelion, a butter beauty
in the fertile lawn. Nature takes its shape
but serious gardens should be refined.
I took his uncombed head in hand and cut
his throat, knowing my neighbours would approve.

It was important then, that they approve,
though I don't remember why. All plants grow
rough, wild, chaotic. Back then, mine were cut
and my garden was praised for its beauty
by those whose floral tastes were more refined:
my neighbours, whose lawn was always in shape.

My rose was coarse in her velvety shape
so I bound her arms to wood. We approve
said my neighbours, your rose is so refined.
Together we watched her bloody heads grow,
bursting red wounds, too dark in their beauty
to ignore, and far too perfect to cut.

I remembered, then, the moorland's un-cut
wildness, dappled mustard; the lucid shape
of cloud shadows on heather; the beauty
of landscapes that do not seek to approve
or to be approved of, that, unbound, grow
like a breath, not self-conscious, not refined,

alive in ways that escape my refined
garden plants. The dandelion I'd cut,
lay still in my palm. I'd wanted to grow
more like him, to let wilder things take shape.
I'd allowed, from fear they wouldn't approve,
others to define how I see beauty.

Schooled to the beauty of my rose, I cut
her refined binds, freeing her velvet shape.
Now I approve. I let the wild things grow.

Third Prize Winner

Those Days by Sam Payne
How easy it was then when she used to take you walking
through fields of knee-high grass and past the farm with
the watchful cows to the brook at the bottom of the hill.

She would help you off with boots and socks, roll your
trousers up, and let your toes graze in the waters below.
And later, side by side, you'd spread out like wings,

under the dappled shade, waiting for the aerial acrobatic
display. Swallows swooped and swirled through the sky
alive with the joy of life and throughout those days you

never did think you'd be here now, rolling off her socks
and washing her feet, because the nurses always forgot.
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Author: Kevin Machin Date: January 29, 2016 3:57 pm
Categories: Open Competitions, Competition Results Tags: poetry, winners
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