The winning entries from our 15th competition are below. Scroll down to view judges’ comments. To read the winning poems check out our anthologies page.
The 2021 Competition
1st Prize iii – Estelle Price (Wilmslow, England)
Estelle Price divides her time between Cheshire and the Llŷn Peninsula. She began writing poetry in 2014 and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her poem iii is part of a sequence of poems about the Bloomsbury Group. Estelle was the winner of the 2018 Book of Kells Writing Competition and her poetry has been placed or listed in the National Poetry Competition, Bridport Prize, Canterbury Poet of the Year, Much Wenlock, the London Magazine, Yorkmix and other poetry competitions. Poems have appeared in The Lake, Marble Poetry and the Alchemy Spoon (forthcoming), the Stony Thursday Book, the Smith |Doorstep The Result is What you See Today anthology, Macunian Ways Anthology and Deep Time Volumes 1 and 2.
2nd Prize The Yellow Light – Sheila Aldous (Newton Abbot, England)
Sheila Aldous is a North London girl with Devon in her soul. Living on the banks of the River Teign she is inspired by the natural landscape, river life, local history and love & loss. Her first collection, Paper Boats, the Burning of Teignmouth and Shaldon 1690, was published by Indigo Dreams. Sheila has an MA in Creative Writing from Exeter University. She has won numerous competitions: the Welsh Poetry Competition in 2020, the Yeovil Prize, the NAWG, Riptide Journal and Happenstance 20. She was shortlisted in the Bridport prize 2018 and has been placed in others. Her second collection, a chapbook Patterns of All Made Things, is published by Hen Run, an imprint of Grey Hen Press.
3rd Prize The Foundling Mothers List of Pain – Jane Burn (Leadgate, England)
Jane Burn is a Pushcart/Forward Prize nominated, award-winning poet who lives for eight months of the year in an eco-friendly lifestyle with her family in an off-grid cottage in Northumberland. Her poems are widely published in many magazines, like The Rialto and Under The Radar. She has appeared in many anthologies, including Emma Press. She is studying for an MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University.
4th Shoes And An Old Woman Who Once Lived In Them – Julia Usman, Downholme
5th Entertaining Caravaggio – Julian Bishop, Barnet
6th Museum number 1984, 1002.1 – Estelle Price, Wilmslow
7th Women of Birkenau – Bex Hainsworth, Leicester
8th This Shy Architect – Dena Fakhro, Bahrain
9th Modigliani Answers His Critic – Sheila Aldous, Newton Abbot
10th Consoling The Whims Of The Tiniest, Whiniest Dictators – Jonathan Greenhause, New Jersey, USA
11th The Milkmaid – Sally Russell, Winchester
12th Rebel Song – Jean James, Swansea
13th A Mural For ‘Kitty’ Wilkinson – Philip Dunn, Nannerch
14th Lick and Split – Sally Russell, Winchester
15th Becoming A Saint In Ely – A Speculative Life – Pamela Job, Wivenhoe
16th The Rev’d Thomas With Scythe, Manafon – Ross Cogan, Faringdon
17th My Shameless Lips – James Knox Whittet, Swaffham
18th Daughter Of The Sea – Miriam Mason, Banbury
19th Steatoda – Mark Totterdell, Exeter
20th Blood Lines – Gwen Williams, Llanfairfechan
Results were announced on our web site, Facebook Group and Twitter on Monday 9th August, 2021. We have also informed the UK national press, Literature Wales, Pontypridd Observer and associated district newspapers, SW Echo, the Western Mail, BBC Wales and RCTCBC as well as many organisations on our mailing list. Thanks to Kathy Miles for judging this years competition, and thanks also to all those who entered and look forward to reading your work next year.
In addition Kathy also liked the following poems / poets, who also deserve a mention. In no particular order they are as follows:
Shedding Wilderness – Jonathan Greenhause
the behaviours of sheep – Lucy Crispin
Listen to the sea-women – Marion Oxley
Ravel at Montfort l’Amaury – Christopher M James
Escapology – Elizabeth Parkes
Mud – Ben Verinder
Him outdoors – Phil Coleman
Skomer Island – Stuart James
Kamikaze – Lindsay Pettifor
First watch – Anne Marie Connolly
Day 109 – Mark Fiddes
The Stone Cottage – Partridge Boswell
Winefride – Sheila Jacob
Ecologue with my dad on Bradnor Hill – Ken Evans
The icon in Room 711 – Denise O’Hagan
Porth y Wrach – The Witch’s Landing – Alison Wood
Hug – Pratibha Castle
As a second-time judge for the Welsh Poetry Competition, I once again found myself humbled and a little overwhelmed by the huge number of excellent poems in front of me. Many good poems failed to make the final twenty simply because of the sheer volume of outstanding entries. Subjects were wide-ranging; lockdown featured of course, as did poems about nature, family, Welsh history and myth, climate change, and sadly, also many poems dealing with domestic abuse and the decline into dementia of a loved one. Whilst it was slightly disappointing not to see more pieces that dealt with contemporary political and social issues, I was surprised at the large number of ekphrastic poems submitted, all of which were exceptionally well written. Poems came in a variety of forms, from sestinas and villanelles to sonnets and free verse, and included a glosa, a golden shovel, a Viking lay, and a very funny rhyming poem, ‘The Naughty Nit‘, sent in by nine year old Camilla Heitmeyer.
What I looked for in particular were well-crafted pieces that had that little bit extra; poems that made imaginative connections, which engaged completely with their subject, or where a slant viewpoint or strong narrative thread gave them a different perspective. All of the winning and Highly Commended poems have those elements in common. But every poet should feel extremely proud, because the work was of such a high standard throughout. It has been a real privilege to judge the competition this year, and I would like to thank Dave Lewis for inviting me, and all entrants for their great submissions.
1st iii – Estelle Price
I came to this poem without knowing either ‘The Tub’ or much about the complex triangles of Vanessa Bell’s artistic and personal life; the subtext to the visual ‘iii‘s of the piece. But from the start I was struck by the freshness and originality of the approach, and the way the poet engages wholly and intimately with the artist, and with her thought-processes as she revises the painting. The artist’s feelings towards her subject – Mary Hutchinson, the mistress of Vanessa’s husband Clive Bell – are made abundantly clear when she removes a pitcher from the composition:
‘…..Boiling water can’t dissolve
the odour of this woman’s desire.’
The poem is a glorious and imaginative tale of revenge, as the painter quite literally strips her subject naked in the most marvellous and humiliating way: ‘Mary, Mary, you should / be nude for the sake of decency’, and changes the depiction of the tub to ‘a single-minded orifice that gapes at the heart / of the composition.’ There is cheekiness here, and more than a little touch of malice in the brush. It was also a refreshing change to see an ekphrastic poem written about a female artist. This is a beautifully-written and passionate poem, and is the one I kept coming back to over and over again during the judging process. An absolute triumph.
2nd THE YELLOW LIGHT – Sheila Aldous
A powerful and memorable poem, The Yellow Light vividly captures the thoughts of the Irish nationalist leader and teacher Patrick Pearse as he awaits execution for his part in the Dublin Easter Rising. Again, the poet takes us right into the mind of his subject, as he writes a farewell letter to the mother he saw only yesterday: ‘She had grown old overnight. A body cancelled: / lined like Renoir’s Old Woman accepting the dark.’ The imagery throughout is precise and intense, as he waits not only in the faint hope of a pardon from the authorities, but for
‘…… the priest who will mutter words of Christ’s pardon.
He considers this barterer who will haggle without blinking
for his soul, for the promise of a fag and dinner.’
The repetition of ‘he’ throughout, particularly at the beginning of the last five tercets, is a device the poet uses to emphasize the lack of control Pearse feels over his situation, and which serves to highlight the particular isolation and self-absortion of the condemned man in his cell as he hears the sound of his comrades being shot by firing squad. And a superb ending, which takes us right to the heart of Pearse’s fears, and his hope for a swift death:
‘He had been told they would be precise, like swifts winging
through a black tunnel to the sun’s yellow light –
that it would be quick.’
A very worthy second place winner.
3rd THE FOUNDLING MOTHER’S LIST OF PAIN – Jane Burn
A good list poem has to work both inside and outside of the restrictions of the structure to avoid becoming merely a series of tropes or clichés, and The Foundling Mother’s List of Pain does this brilliantly. Set in the C18th, it comprises a list of imaginary ‘instructions’ to a new mother who is forced to give up her baby to a foundling hospital. As the poet’s note tells us, such mothers were allowed to leave a token of fabric, in case they were able to reclaim the child at a future time. The poem is a progression, starting with the moment of arrival at the hospital, where the poet guides both mother and reader through the process with a set of heartbreaking commands:
- Walk, slow as you can towards that door
- Cradle your child, feed on the scent of frail hair
- Stitch the sight of newborn skin to the back of your eyes
We feel the mother’s pain throughout the years, in language which is simple and direct, but vividly paints a picture of loss:
- Stop waking at night to imagined cries
- Stop opening your palm to the ghost of tiny hands
- Stop searching
- Howl. Your throat is wolves
The grief of a mother for a child is timeless; these stages of loss bind the past to the present intimately and seamlessly, as do the directives, so reminiscent of the ‘self help’ guides of today, such as the ‘Tasks of Mourning’ models. A stunning poem.
Kathy Miles, 2021
See also our links page for details of poetry web sites in Wales and beyond.