Competition Shortlist A to B : The Judges’ Views

Here are the Cafe Judges’ reasons for placing the selected poems on the shortlist, prefaced in some cases by the poet’s own introduction which was printed in the programme the audience received on the afternoon of Saturday 26th September. The poets are in alphabetical order.  Extracts from Rachael Boast’s comments on the four winning poems are also published here. We hope that these comments, taken as a whole, might give poets who are following this blog insights into the competition process which will serve them usefully later on.

Helen Ashley : Fall  (featured on this blog)

Whilst acknowledging the botanical process of deciduous trees, I can’t help feeling that they share my relief when the throng of summer gives way to autumn.  The judges said: We loved the unusual approach to the subject of autumn and the cleverly managed movement of the thought.  The poem is extremely well crafted with a particularly nice pivot on the key word, “heaviness”. 

Sarah Barr : January

Sarah’s poem had to be withdrawn from our actual judging because it won ‘The Frogmore Poetry Prize 2015’. The judge was John McCullough. We were delighted that Sarah was still willing to make the journey to share her prizewinning poem with us on our competition afternoon.

Zanna Beswick : Above Lamorna Cove

‘Lamorna Cove’ was described by one of the judges as ‘another way of seeing sound.’ The invocation of Rilke early in the poem was very ambitious and we were impressed by the way the poem lived up to its promise, moving from the specific to the universal with maturity and confidence.

Ama Bolton : The Capitalist Dogs (featured on this blog)

The flight from Moscow was delayed and we unexpectedly spent a night in Sheremetyevo airport listening, we thought, to wolves in the surrounding birch- forest. Next day, a fellow-passenger explained. The judges said:  This is a chilling indictment of capitalism captured within a few lines of highly realistic poetry. 

Stephanie Boxall : Ghost Notes

I love music and have taken up various instruments over the years including, most recently, the drums. This poem was inspired by one of my drum lessons.  The judges said: We loved the understated music of ‘Ghost Notes’ and the gift of space inside the poem – space within the form and space for the imagination – which mirrored the meaning so perfectly. 

Stephen Boyce : She Considers His Proposal & Pendulum

The judges said : ‘She Considers…’ is a poem of uncomfortable, bleak, unresolved experience – a confident, adult piece of writing which uses detail very well.  We loved the exactitude of the extended metaphor. ‘Pendulum’ had many of the same strengths and we were struck, in this poem as in the other, by the way that what is NOT said was as important as what is.  So much is implied rather than stated.  We also very much admired the subtle use of rhyme.

Sara Butler : Changes

Home at one time was a smallholding in Norfolk. I had a rather pushy neighbour.  The judges said: ‘Changes’ is a beautifully grounded poem with a lovely clean trajectory.  It moved very nicely from the vernacular energy of the first stanza into the more musical language of the second, sustaining its energy throughout.

Graham Burchell: Envelope (featured on this blog)

The judges said: We liked the close focus on the envelope of the title and the way this simple object was used to explore the privacy and tenderness of the relationship between the characters.  It is a touching, innocent, affectionate, authentic poem and it appealed to us very much.

One Poem in a Hundred: The Final Four at Last!

The Short Poem Competition had 395 entries so it isn’t too inaccurate to describe the Final Four Poems in this way.

Here, as chosen by the outside judge Picador poet Rachael Boast are the results which were announced at the end of yesterday’s truly amazing Best Ever Afternoon of Good Poetry in Bath.


Claire Dyer for In Chinese and Rosie Jackson for John Donne Arriving in Heaven


Louise Green for Sieste with Jean Gabriel


Jonathan Steffen for Road Atlas

Congratulations to these four hugely talented poets.  When I retrieve my belongings from Queen Square tomorrow, I will write up the Cafe Judges’ admiring comments about all the listed poems which were shared in the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution yesterday afternoon.  First though I need to wake up from brilliant open air post-competition celebrations at Carluccio’s with the lovely authors of Ghost Notes, Above Lamorna and Guinevere’s Gown and a young german shepherd called Tosca.

The never-ending delights of poetry, poetry friendships and prosecco…

Best Ever Afternoon of Good Poetry at the Bath Poetry Cafe

Day programme cover design 26 September copy

We are almost there!  The programme for the Afternoon is in print. Twenty three amazing poets are gathering from far and wide to share their twenty six amazing shortlisted poems with each other and with the Cafe Judges in the fabulous Elwin Room.  At the end of the Afternoon, distinguished artist and film-maker CLIVE WALLEY from Frome will be announcing the final results of our competition – four winning poems chosen by Picador poet RACHAEL BOAST.  Clive will reveal Rachael’s comments on the four poems, and her response to the entry as a whole. While you wait for all that excitement, of course, please remember that fourteen of the listed poems appear already on this blog, with my personal attempts to unravel why each appealed to me so much.  I am extremely grateful to the poets who were generous enough to let me try this experiment. Running this competition has been a complete joy.  I hope every poet who joins us on Saturday will have a rewarding and enriching day.