The 2022 winners from our 16th competition are below. Scroll down to view judges’ comments. To read previous years winning poems check out our anthologies page.
The 2022 Competition
1st Prize Cross Words – Jennifer Hetherington (Fisherman’s Reach, Australia)
Jennifer Hetherington is an Australian author and artist who holds a degree from Griffith University in Communications (Creative Writing and Screen Studies). Jen was delighted to have her short story “In Random’s Wake” shortlisted and published in the Lane Cove Literary Awards 2019 Anthology.
Her works reflect, with both text and illustration, the coastal countryside of Northern NSW where she grew up. After decades involved in the textile industry as a designer, manufacturer and educator, Jen has returned to her love of the creative arts, primarily as a writer of poetry and short stories.
With more collections undergoing the editing process, Jen also has several novellas in various stages of development, all influenced and motivated by the local and emotional landscape that shaped her. Her highly anticipated first poetry anthology “Between Coastal Rocks & Softer Places” was published in early 2022 by RoseyRavelston Books.
2nd Prize Ukraineing Up for WW3 – Paul Hawkes (Aberteifi, Wales)
Paul Hawkes has a book in production – a modern version of Homer’s epic = “Il-i-ad That Lad”. He often writes poems about the environmental crises. He’s had great success in the Welsh Poetry Competition, coming 8th in the 2014 contest and 2nd in 2016. He lives in Aberteifi/Cardigan by the River Teifi, near the coast of wonderfully-wild south-west Wales, where Welsh dolffins play.
3rd Prize eagles nesting in oaks above the bluff – Mara Adamitz Scrupe (Philadelphia, USA)
Mara Adamitz Scrupe is a writer, visual artist, and a documentary filmmaker. She has authored six prizewinning poetry collections and received numerous creative grants and fellowships. Her poetry and essays have been published worldwide in literary journals and arts periodicals and her environmental installations, sculptures and artist books are held in the collections of international museums and sculpture parks. She serves concurrently as Lance Williams Resident Artist in the Arts & Sciences, University of Kansas/ Lawrence, and Dean and Professor Emerita, University of the Arts/ Philadelphia. Mara lives with her husband on their farm bordering the James River in the Blue Ridge Mountains countryside of Virginia.
4th Hearing Bashō – Rod Whitworth, Oldham
5th Loop – Aldona Kapacinskaite, Milan, Italy
6th Grus – Mark Totterdell, Exeter
7th Finally – Felicia McCarthy, Rush, Ireland
8th Harold – Damen O’Brien, Wynnhum, Australia
9th The Coursing: New Years Day – Ann Leahy, Drumcondra, Ireland
10th On the red list – Glen Wilson, Portadown
11th Sapped – Anne Marie Connolly, Edinburgh
12th Timelapse Footage – Thomas Larner, Neston
13th Drôle de guerre – Sally Spedding, Ammanford
14th Circles – Jonathan Greenhause, New Jersey, USA
15th On The Mountain – Isobel Thrilling, Skipton
16th Filled with White Feathers – Louise G Cole, Ballaghaderreen, Ireland
17th Seafront – Mike Pullman, Hope Valley
18th The Powerful Owl is listed as vulnerable – Denise O’Hagan, Northbridge, Australia
19th The currency of love – Steve Garrett, Cardiff
20th Killing Hares – Lisa Parkinson, Ystrad Meurig
Results were announced on our web site, Facebook Group and Twitter on Monday 1st August, 2022. We have also informed the UK national press, Literature Wales, Pontypridd Observer and associated district newspapers, SW Echo, the Western Mail, BBC Wales, Wales Arts Review, Nation Cymru, Storyville Books and RCTCBC as well as many organisations on our mailing list. Thanks to John Evans for judging this years competition, and thanks also to all those who entered and look forward to reading your work next year.
1st CROSS WORDS – Jen Hetherington
A stunning visual work of art, painted with words. The writing is concise, elliptical, intriguing, enigmatic. Every single word counts. Every single word has its own place, its own “story”, and each thrives and multiplies itself in meaning – or perhaps I should say, meanings – by those words around it. The poem also has a delicacy, which only makes the contents feel more moving and tragic.
The first time I read this poem I had a good idea of the process that lay behind its creation. The title is not only a good choice because of the poets use of dynamic word play, it also provides a pointer to the origins of the poem. I could write about Tristan Tzara, William Burroughs, David Bowie, Kanye West and a whole host of other writers who have been involved in the development and practice of this method, but the only factor that that has any real bearing on whether a writer can produce work of high quality is their own innate talent, not their use of any particular technique.
So, here we are.
“East Texas Hills“, and I catch the mention of “1876“. Immediately, I jump straight in. For me, this throws up vivid images of a place and a time in history which is very familiar to me, as I am sure would be for many other people throughout the world. This is the world depicted in the “Western”, that genre of films that dominated the 20th Century and which are still made today.
There is menace in this landscape. “Torso…/a head, a man,/ a pain“.
“1876”, is the year that the Constitution of Texas was finally completed, and the so called Texas-Indian Wars were coming to an end. This was a long brutal campaign waged by European and Mexican settlers who wanted to wipe out the “Plains Indians”, and no surprise who won given he unevenness of the conflict. Although, in the very same year, General Custer and his infamous 7th Cavalry finally paid the price for past crimes against the Plains Indians at Little Bighorn.
In the poem we also discover that in this brutal world there is also a gentleness, a softness, and beauty, “love, for a,/ woman, hand, to tell, the,/ crest, of hair, sure.” A time remembered, better times, a home life, a time before the killing and bloodshed, maybe?
This America frontier was aptly named the “Wild West”, and while men were busy being cowboys, gunfighters, outlaws, sheriffs, warriors and often getting themselves killed along the way, women frequently found themselves left alone to survive in this stark and brutal world.
However, the poet soon causes me to have a complete rethink, and to revaluate previous judgements, when I read the next line, “Gija, oonga, culture“. Gija refers to a specific group of Aboriginal Australians, and I remember, yes, there other places in the world called Texas (25 to be precise), and yes, there is also a Texas in Australia.
This “other” Texas, which is situated on the border between Queensland and New South Wales, is an area where various Aboriginal groups share a historic interest in the land. It was first discovered by white Europeans in 1827, by the 1840s the Aboriginal people were already outnumbered. In 1855 it is recorded that only 100 of them remained alive. There were also conflicts and territorial disputes between the settlers and it is no surprise that, this area was named after the State in the USA.
Perhaps the writer would be quite aware that many, like me, would be far more familiar with the past plight of the Native Americans than those of the Aboriginal Australians, and by using this device it would help the reader to better understand and picture their equally horrific pain and suffering.
While we are left to ponder, the poet again shifts the focus away from these harsh realities with a haiku-like line that would have graced one of Ezra Pound’s imagist anthologies, “canvas, dance, one, tree.” Just four words, but what a rich and powerful image they create. Again, a time remembered, a simpler time, a time gone and lost forever, perhaps?
In the poem I also really like the other ambiguities thrown up by the word play and possible deliberate misspelling of some words, “Joon, stories”, “hand gooy” and “doo“. For me at least, in part it gives voice to all those dispossessed, the inarticulate, or silent, the victims on both sides of all these conflicts. It took generations before the real stories of the indigenous people were written down by anyone outside, and among the European settlers the majority couldn’t even write their own signature, let alone master the rules of spelling and grammar.
The final line also brilliantly sums everything up in just a few words, “drown, with, date, told, doo/ scars, as pain”
The LANGUAGE poets, a group of writers primarily, but not exclusively, based in the USA, led the last great new movement in poetry. They emphasised the readers role in bringing meaning out of a work. This is a poem that brings something fresh and exciting to a form of writing which has often been bogged down by its long history and association with stale and outmoded traditions and rules. It is a very worthy winner of this years competition.
2nd UKRAINEING UP FOR WW3 – Paul Hawkes
A poem for our times. Not only because of its subject matter and the clever way in which the poet manages to weave in many of the serious issues which trouble the world today, but also for its writing style.
The opening lines immediately grab the readers’ attention. They demand to be read, and take us on a breathless journey through Europe in 2022. It’s a travel guide to hell:
Ukraine UK-r(a/e)i(g)n(e) U crane-ing/ your long lovely neck my love into a cuckooaddled nest/ of Nuclear Biological Chemical Russian bear-viper inorganic eggs/
We are living in a time of unprecedented global turmoil. We have an ongoing global pandemic; war in Ukraine and an increasingly unstable Vladimir Putin; a crazed Donald Trump driving the USA towards civil war; and China flexing its military muscles on the global stage. While here in the UK there is Brexit, a phony self induced, “cost of living crisis” driven by profiteering, and Boris Johnson, a man making sure everyone knows that all politicians are incapable of telling the truth and are only interested in lining their own pockets. Throughout Europe countries are seemingly unable to cope with the energy crisis, global challenges, and the influx of vulnerable migrants feeing war zones, poverty and all the symptoms of a world in melt down.
Finally, and most importantly, we are facing the very real prospect of global mass extinction due to the fact that successive world leaders are nowhere near motivated enough to really tackle climate change and the existential threat it poses to our planet.
Buying recycled plastic clothing and thereby also boosting the profits of companies happy to sell products cheaper for them to produce, doesn’t cut it. At very best, we are simply greenwashing our way to oblivion.
“weapons” so-called of mass extinction/ war Crime(s)a against the Extinction Rebellion/ a specious species driving all other species/ to the brink in a climate devastatingly changing of a lost last (o)pinion/ where birds shed their dinosaur wingfeathers/ and head with the rest towards oblivion/ when the second holocaust comes/ far far worse even than the first/ out of here Arma-geddon.
Throughout the poem the writer uses word play to construct and deconstruct language in a way which not only gives clever rhythmic, musical sound patterns to the poem – after all what is a “poem” if it is not something which sounds even more potent when read aloud? – it also highlights the fickleness and inadequacies of language itself.
In the late 20th Century the Postmodernists focused in on the fragile nature of the link (if there is one at all) between the signifier and signified. Consciously or not, this poet both flags up the problem, and offers a solution through their writing style. Early Postmodernist literature was full of self-referentiality, and at the time this was the method most writers to draw attention to the issue. I was never convinced. This poet does a far better job, In the poem words are malleable, nothing is fixed, and the poet successfully builds in multiple meanings, multiple stories, as the words all interplay with each other.
not only bombing (maternity) hospitals schools theatres churches the buildings blocks apartments/ but also the bakeries a Russianing rationing rationalising halfbaked basket case/ Ukraine a bread basket of the world/ crying out for dying for grain/ going down the drain brain drain against the grain/ children cranking out for Love/ will crane that way Forever/ Changes
I also really like the way the writer deftly manages to references two iconic albums from the 1960’s rock group Love. Similarly, I like the subtle way the reference to the band contrasts with the other group mentioned, The Clash. We have Love, with their “peace and love” message, and Joe Strummer with his, ” Hate and war”. Two opposing views on how to affect change perhaps? Although the contrast, is not really as it seems. Arthur Lee the founder of Love was often cynical about the whole “flower power” movement and its ability to really get us “back to the garden”, and Joe would have much preferred a more peaceful, loving way to change the system but had seen how the Summer of Love had only led us to Altamont. In fact, in many respects Arthur Lee gave us Joe Strummer.
There are also references to Homer’s Iliad and his Odyssey, and this poem is itself a journey. Today, just like Odysseus, we too are on a long and perilous journey as we try to navigate very troubled waters.
An excellent poem, written by one of the very few writers in the UK today who is producing work that is relevant, fresh and vital.
This poet wants to address the issues we all face today head on. This is no twee, middle class, arts council funded poem which is likely to be buried away in some self indulgent literary journal. This is not written by someone only interested in virtue signaling their own performative activism by writing about the fashionable issue of the day. No, this is an in your face, punk rock, roar of a poem. This piece has raw genuine message from a heart of passion. This poem wants, no demands, to be noticed and its message not only understood, but acted upon.
Ginsberg gave us Howl in the 1960’s. It was the voice of a generation. We need more poems like ‘Ukraineing Up for WW3’ to provide a voice for our generation today.
My respect also to this poet for submitting another excellent poem which highlighted the 2020 Covid care home scandal in the UK. So many vulnerable older people abandoned to die alone, but so few even talk about it. A future where the weak and elderly are culled to save money has frequently been the subject of dystopian movies. Accident, incompetence, or perhaps not, the less we in the arts give voice to those who have none, the more likely such atrocities will occur and be repeated.
3rd 3 EAGLES NESTING IN OAKS ABOVE THE BLUFF – Mara Adamitz Scrupe
The poem opens with a bang. No unnecessary preamble. It’s simple, “& in that moment / one measure ends & another begins”. And straight away, we are in. We are there alongside the writer, watching,
in grief & vestige entwined/ paired sea eagles wheel in crux of fingers reach
Birds of prey often have fascinating and dramatic interactions with each other, but none is more dangerous and spectacular than the sight of two of them talon grappling – two birds locked together by their talons, cartwheeling over and over as they plummet from the sky. A ritual often done by male and female as part of their mating ritual, and also sometimes also used as a trial of a strength between two competing males.
Imagist poet Ezra Pound rightly said that images have the power to unlock “an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time”. In the poem we find ourselves tumbling along with the birds as this image throws up a wide and complex range of thoughts and emotions. While the eagles rotate and swap positions, one on top, the other below, they are “flip sides of the same motion… in facile submission to dominion“.
As the writer points out, Eagles are often “fetishized as symbol or nationhood or ideology” as they are considered to be bold, majestic and a symbol of strength. Which of course leads us to question why we have elevated this particular trait to such a high level that the majority of nations and people, are desperate to be seen as strong. After all, the notion that strength should always be associated with power and dominance is indeed ultimately “facile”.
David Bryrne’s song ‘Once in a Lifetime’ is centred around a man who having surveyed the material gains from a life spent chasing the american dream – his beautiful car, house and wife – suddenly feels the aching emptiness of it all and asks himself, “Well, how did I get here?”
The writer of this poem is similarly perplexed by the complex thoughts and emotions thrown up by the sight of the tumbling sea eagles and also feels a need to go back in time to help them understand how and why they had also reached this point destination in their life. Although for them this means going much further back than Byrne’s character, they want to go back to the very beginning, back to the asteroid that ended the age of the dinosaurs and triggered the re-emergence of life on this planet.
whilst in a moment long past tektites blanket the hemisphere
& enter the atmosphere – tiny orbs of white-hot glass –
lain to waste the day sixty-six million years the great cataclysm
The writer graphically describes this global catastrophe with many powerful and moving images. This vision of the past is a warning to us all in the present given the perilous state of our planet as it once again hovers on the edge of another mass extinction.
& incinerate 70% of forests’ breadth/ variety meanwhile leviathan
tsunamis roil coasts & drag boulders & rubble
out in towering waves & then post-conflagration deep
freeze annihilates appreciably all life & ready access
to abundant food
Eventually, the process of replenishing the earth begins again, and now with species we recognise.
…& still/ eventually kites emerge scavenging
& hunting fish & small mammals again appear thirty-six million
The poem then moves us forward to the emergence of human life and all of its genetic, physiological and psychological complexities and conflicts. The hardwiring of the brain vs the genetic needs, impulses, and functions of the body.
under the law of desire brain be damned be damned
divines all our secrets/ as sure as spring turns to summer – in our own
calamitous accountings – sleep good sleep good
there was a time I believed I did that it’s up to me/ the loving
& the mating & the subsequent duration the moral of the story
And finally, we find ourselves back to a moment in time spent with the Sea Eagles, and as the writer points out they mate for life – an obvious contrast can be made with human relationships today.
perched alongside eagles nesting in oaks on the bluff
or careering the James in premonitory soar on thermal convection
each oceanic raptor couple mated for life
The construction, layout, and subject matter of this poem reminds me of the Open Field Poetry which emerged in response to Charles Olson’s essay ‘Projective Verse’ published in 1950. This poem is “nature writing”, but importantly it also takes into account all the turmoil, pain and flux present in the 21st Century. Wordsworth’s romantic pastoral idyll was buried years ago, it would be absurd to try to resurrect it today.
The writer absorbs us, pulls us in and takes us on a startling journey and along the way we contemplate all the complexities of life on this planet and grapple with all of its uncertainties. However, just like the sea eagles who are completely focused and locked in (literally) to their own private struggle, we need to be mindful that unless we are able to refocus and let go at some point we are also in danger of heading
“directly/ for the briny”. The eagles finally find their way out, “talons locked/in high
flying free-fall separate/ just before slamming into the sea”, and in order to survive, we too must also rise up out of the chaos.
The poem is very visual and cinematic, it is filled with many visceral and spectacular images, and every time I have finished reading the poem I come away with the lingering feeling that I have just been watching a film. It richly deserves its place among the winners.
John Evans, September 2022
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