Competition 2013: winning poems

First Prize  (£100)       Susan Davies             Wheeled into the Bright  Sunlight
Second Prize (£75)      A.K.S.Shaw                 Springtime’s Over
Third Prize   (£50)      Andrew Sutton         Vagabond Trickster

Highly Commended
Rosie Garland             Fancy Goods
Ciaran Parkes              Sharks and Relationships
Vicky Mackenzie        The Bull

Simon Williams          Galileo Galilei

Judge’s Report           Winning Poems           Commended Poems        Poet Biographies


Judge’s Report –  Ann Gray

Thank you for asking me to judge your poetry competition. It was both an honour and a responsibility!

I hope the winners will be delighted and those commended know that they got very close, even if it wasn’t close enough.

My clear winner, YOU ARE WHEELED INTO THE BRIGHT SUNLIGHT, uses the language of beach and birds in a wonderful way, the juxtaposition of drill, hole, skull, call of curlews and the tide flushing in is very fine indeed. The poem drives to a magnificent end, so that one is left with hope and joy, totally at odds with what seems to be actually going on. It does what any good poem should do, it takes you back to the beginning to captivate you again, to read it again and to wonder how it is achieved so remarkably well.

My second choice, SPRINGTIME’S OVER is neat. It never falters in the language of clocks and is sustained throughout. The form is well achieved, the rhymes have a light touch as does the humour. I particularly liked, Tom, a chubby mite, no bigger than a kiss and curl.

My third choice VAGABOND TRICKSTER is a delight to a Dylan fan. It’s also a rant that drives through every borrowed image to arrive at a fitting end, kicking and screaming when it’s his turn to go. It’s joyful, celebratory, the four line stanzas sitting in the whole piece so that the journey through isn’t lost. I liked it a lot.
I chose 4 commended poems, all of which had something different to offer. GALILEO, GALILEI is a really good poem that only just missed the first three. Well constructed, beautiful use of fact and subject to make a lyrical whole. I keep returning to it.

I really liked FANCY GOODS again, a different and interesting subject. A message hidden in the complexity of learning the language of the living and the dead, beautifully understated. The fine construct of she’s gone
the week after. I ask why but can’t translate the answer.
Back in school, I teach the future perfect

The first a well achieved villanelle, the Bull, six couplets that take us to a surprising seventh, a parody of Carol Ann Duffy’s pearls?!

As for the others that didn’t make it? better luck next time. I would like to say that there were many I enjoyed and the 2 short poems that arrived handwritten had a poetry waiting in them, so don’t give up, whoever you are! Keep reading.

Ann Gray



First Prize


and ceremoniously, the surgeon dons
his scrubs, the texture of bladder-kelp
strewn along the berm crest, thick
with beach hoppers and pill bugs known
to sting like needle-pricks. And in no time
you’re walking across the sands to rock pools
in search of shrimps, lugworms and whelks.
And your Medulla, as predatory as anemones,
leads you to believe that the drill
boring a burr hole in your skull is the call
of curlews as the tide comes flushing in.
But your heart falters and you feel giddy
and strangely un-earthed. You stumble
to the cries of godwits and head throbs.
There is no choice but to leave your bones
for scavengers, and your desiccated skin
on hot stones.  But always ready to make the best
of things, you take your chance.  Never
a spendthrift of words, you hover over the spume,
mute, spreading your magnificent wings.


Second Prize


Old Ben is late again: his ticker, so
                              they say, a shared concern, for I myself,
by twist of fate, a thin ill-tempered length
                              of rusted wire wrapped round a hollow core,
am way beyond the point of no return.
                              As softly as the closing of a door,
time shuts down options, weakens mettle, takes
                              away all thoughts of spring, till what remains
is just a worn-out coil, which neither oil,
                              nor grease, not soothing words, can then restore.

When young, as bright as brass and full of zip,
                              two caterpillars long when stretched, and tight
as tuppence if hard pressed, I’d crouch inside
                              my one-bed, all-square, little house, as full
of fire as hot shots from a cowboy’s hip.
                             If mum or dad thought fit to raise the roof,
I’d shoot young Jack into the air, and Tom,
                             a chubby mite, no bigger than a kiss
and curl, who couldn’t quite believe his eyes,
                             would clap his hands and chuckle with delight.

But Jack, no longer young, has cracked his crown.
                           Old Ben, who clocked up twenty non-stop years
of stress and strain upon the mantle-shelf
                              behind a striking Roman face, his hands
now hard to raise, is slowly winding down,
                              and I, my span near spent, am lying in
this cobweb-shrouded wooden box, my spine
                              all bent, decorum bruised, surrounded by
a load of dirty washers, two old nuts,
                              and half a dozen threadbare crosshead screws.



Third Prize


He’s the vagabond trickster; the king of deceit,
For he’ll slyly bewitch ya; he’s a wayward aesthete.
He’s a heart attack gambler, a counterfeit rambler,
He’s a chancer, romancer and verbal entrancer.
            He’s an illusionist, a fusionist, a daring elocutionist,
            He’s playing with words and he’ll twist what you say,
            For he’ll cheat you and beat you and try to defeat you,
            So best not to argue nor stand in his way.
He’s an anarchist minstrel, a weatherman signal.
He quotes from the gospels and spoke for all those,
Who’ve been given no choice and have not found a voice,
Whose options are few and whose chances are closed.
            He’s an electrified preacher, a crucified teacher.
            He’s a poet and painter; he’s Chaplin and Bruce,
            T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, he’s that thin mercury sound,
            He’s Kerouac, Ginsberg with his head in the noose.
He’s a bare knuckle evangelist, a sweet talking pugilist.
He’ll seduce you or save you, or beat you away,
He’s a restless chameleon, kind of awkward and alien,
He’s not of this world, of this time or this day.
            He’s the berated apostle, a street corner hustler,
            He’s Wyeth, he’s Hopper, the Big Bopper too,
            He’s living the blues and with nothing to lose,
            He’s the born again Christian and orthodox Jew.
He’s Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Woody and Cisco,
He’s the prodigal son and party of one.
He’s a high wire autocrat, a freewheelin’ democrat.
The Prince of desire and the slave on the run.
            He’s the crazy old jokerman, he’s old rabbi Zimmerman,
            He’s Thoreau, Tom Payne; he’s Brando and Dean,
            He’s Paradise lost, he’s the new Robert Frost,
            He’s the spirit of all these if you see what I mean.
He’s the hobo bumming, the slow train coming,
He takes no prisoners and leaves blood on the track,
He’s the guitar strumming, the train tracks humming,
The harmonica blowing like some old smoke stack.
            He’s out on the road; he’s the ghost of Tom Joad,
            He’s the absentee landlord of Cannery Row,
            And in life’s fundamental, he will not go gentle,
            He’ll be kicking and screaming when it’s his turn to go.






Beneath the corrugated iron roof, shelves bend
under luxury items.  Packs of Kenyan Rhino Chi,
Nigerian hot chocolate, tinned peaches from Saudi,
Paris Soir perfume in cut glass bottles hefty as grenades.
The shopkeeper snaps away the sand.

I buy toothpaste; it costs the same as two day’s rent.
My Arabic’s good enough to decode Tripoli on the box.
The plastic cap is bullet shaped.  At that price, I roll
the tube tight to squeeze out the last bead of paste.

There are new traders in the weekly market, swamping
the wadi with southern accents.  A woman pleads with me
to buy her baskets woven to hold food, her wedding jewellery,
her amulet to ward off disaster.  She’s gone
the week after.  I ask where, but can’t translate the answer.

Back in school, I teach the construction of the future perfect
By November I will have understood the lesson.
I am going back to England when I have finished.

There are exceptions to each rule.  I struggle to explain them.
There are no simple patterns in this language.




Lying on your bed together, watching
a Woody Allen film, Allen compares
sharks and relationships, always moving

to stay alive.  You’d think that constant swimming
would tire us out, but no time for splitting hairs.
Lying on your bed together, watching

Allen joke to the camera, explaining
his neurotic lifestyle, all his doomed affairs.
Sharks and relationships, always moving

beneath the surface, we could be happy, walking
along some quiet beach then up it flares.
Lying on your bed together, watching

figures on the screen instead of talking.
The final scene, the soundtrack’s closing airs.
Sharks and relationships, always moving

the way you’d go, disappearing, leaving
other fish to catch but none of them compares.
Lying on your bed together, watching

sharks and relationships, always moving.




His scrotum swings
between his back legs,

a magnificent pendulum
counting the hours, the days.

He is always waiting
in the agony of his body,

ignoring the rook
pulling worms from the ground,

unable to see the
the beauty of the meadow.

For years I’ve lived beside him,
beyond the fence and padlocked gate.

At night I lie awake and bellow.




‘I can see the fortifications of Santa Rosita, Signor Galilei’

Of course you can, you old fool,
you’re looking through a telescope.
You could use it to watch the young girls
brush out their hair in La Frezzeria bedrooms
or point it up to see the Tre Cime di Lavardo
far off in the mountains, but far better,
you could, with the right inclination,
see such details of the six bright spheres,
you would be perfectly astonished.

You could see the phases of our sister Venus,
the way Saturn is haloed, Mars cross-hatched,
the swirling eye that stares from Jupiter’s head
and even, though I’m still recording,
can’t confirm my lenses have detected it,
a new planet, small and far out from the centre,
a watery, icy place, cold as Poseidon.
You could see all this, and if your head
weren’t full of banquets and crystal rings,
conclude we’re all of us, God willing,
rotating slowly round the Sun.

The first line is spoken by The Doge of Venice in Galileo Galilei by Bertholt Brecht





FIRST PRIZE  Susan M. H. Davies
Born in Germany, I was brought up and educated in London. I worked for radio at Broadcasting House in the Talks Department of the BBC. I married and lived in Oxford, and then moved with my husband to Cyprus, where he worked for the British Council.  I became a mother to three children. We returned to the UK after four years abroad.

I read English with Linguistics at Sussex University. After graduation completed a Post-graduate Certificate of Education at Southampton University, and taught in a 6th form college locally. I live in Hampshire and love children, wildlife and birds.


A K S Shaw (aka A K Scutter) (Keith Shaw) was born in 1941 and educated at Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Basingstoke and Hull University. He then qualified, first as a chartered accountant, and then as a solicitor, with firms in private practice in Reading. He joined the Civil Service in 1975 and spent twenty one years commuting to central London from the home counties. He now lives in retirement in rural Somerset and writes poetry as a form of therapy and relaxation.

 THIRD PRIZE Andrew Sutton

My love for poetry was first kindled by being read to as a child, primarily A.A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson and Lewis Carroll. Later, despite an otherwise mediocre education at King Edward’s Grammar School, Aston, in Birmingham, the mantle of editorship of the school poetry magazine ‘Ax’ was handed down to me and I also helped co-ordinate a similar magazine for all the schools in the foundation.

I continued to write and when my sons were small, wrote a collection of poems for children and included some of the longer narrative poems into a novel, ‘Molly in Limbo’, as yet unpublished.

We spent all our working lives in Coventry and in the last few years there was a member of ‘Earlsdon Live Poets’, a group which met monthly to hear and critique each other’s work.

Since moving down to Somerset two and a half years ago, I have been working on a collection of short stories called ‘Fathers and Sons’.



Rosie Garland

Rosie Garland is a novelist, poet and sings in post-punk band The March Violets. Her poetry has been widely published, including in Mslexia, The Rialto and The East Coast Literary Review. She is a seasoned performer, from the Cheltenham Festival of Literature to the Bowery Poetry Club, New York.

Her latest solo collection of poetry is ‘Everything Must Go’ (Holland Park Press). Her debut novel ‘The Palace of Curiosities’ won the 2011 Mslexia novel competition and was published by HarperCollins in March 2013. Her second novel, ‘Vixen’ is due out in June 2014.



Vicky MacKenzie

Vicky MacKenzie writes poetry and short fiction and has won a number of writing awards including the Ruth Rendell Short Story Competition and the McLellan Poetry Prize. Her work is published in magazines and anthologies such as Magma and Dundee New Writing and she regularly writes poetry reviews.

She has an MLitt in Creative Writing and a PhD in English Literature, both from the University of St Andrews. Her PhD explored how contemporary poets engage with scientific subjects in their work, from genetics and quantum physics to freshwater ecology. She is now a creative writing tutor for the Open College of the Arts and for the Creative Writing Summer Programme at the University of St Andrews.


Ciaran Parke
Biography not yet available

Simon Williams

Simon has five published collections, the latest being A Place Where Odd Animals Stand (Oversteps Books, 2012) and He|She  (Itinerant Press, 2013). He was Bard of Exeter 2013 and is a technology writer alongside the poetry. He has a website at, and is founder of new magazine, The Broadsheet (