Competition 2014: winning poems

Fire RiverThe results of the FRP Competition 2014 – with links to the winning and commended poems, along with biographies of the poets. 1st Prize £200, 2nd Prize 100, 3rd Prize £75. The judge was Lawrence Sail whose report is on this page.

1st Jacob McCullough’s Holy Barrow by Jean Atkin, UK
2nd Hands Down by Noelle Sullivan, Montana, USA
3rd The Football Obituary by Adrian Buckner, Derby, UK

Fog by Richard Halperin, Paris, France
The Next Morning by Joe Caldwell, Sheffield, UK
Pool Pictures by Jinny Fisher, Shepton Mallet, UK
Freddie’s Fish and Chip Shop by AKS Shaw, Somerset, UK
The Hunters in the Snow by David Penhale, Cornwall, UK

Judge’s report

Fire River Poets’ third competition, with over three hundred entries, presented a wide range of subject and approach. Themes such as war and soldiering, love, childhood and old age were common, with the seasons, weather and the natural world also well represented. A number of poets wrote about poetry – never an easy undertaking, and it is perhaps too easy to trip yourself up. In terms of poetic form, here too a great variety was evident, from rhyming couplets to sonnets to free verse. Where rhyme was deployed, it was often in a comic or satirical vein, and with a swing reminiscent of pop lyrics. Occasionally the temptation to use rhyme would lead to unnatural vocabulary or syntax: sometimes there was a lapse into doggerel. Overall, the two most common stumbling-blocks were the kind of clogging that comes from over-writing, and insufficient awareness of rhythm and its importance: some entries had line lengths and line breaks that disregarded rhythmical phrasing completely.

A number of poems were admirable in part, but either began weakly or did not sustain their momentum after a promising start. In some cases, the energy of the poem was compromised by a title too obviously flagging the theme, or the author’s feelings.
The poems which stayed longest in the mind were those that were imaginative in their approach, often thanks to striking imagery; those that attended to the specifics of a subject; and those that were articulated with verve and a clear interest in language. To put it more generally, every successful poem creates and fulfils its own terms. There is, of course, no formula: what works, works.

Congratulations to the prize-winners and to those whose entries were commended. And my thanks to all those who submitted their work. As a final thought, maybe writers could take heart from Samuel Beckett’s exhortation in one of his radio plays: “Next time, fail better”. This ought to be bleak but can, I think, be read as consoling and even encouraging.