Competition Shortlist R to W : The Judges’ Views

Here is the fifth and final instalment of the Cafe judges’ views on the listed poems which were performed in the Elwin Room on Saturday 26th September 2015.

John Richardson : Swimming with the Bo Tree

The judges agreed that Swimming with the Bo Tree  was a poem of ‘delicious acceptance’ and loved the sense of complete harmony between the sensual beauty of its language and the lived experience.

Robin Thomas : And These, Gentlemen

Poems of ideas are notoriously difficult to achieve.  It’s very easy for such poems to seem to want to tell their audience what to think.  What I tried to do in my poem was to distance its action from what its poet might think through distancing of various kinds, including a lot of space. The judges liked the ingenious use of traditional language in the futuristic scenario. They also liked the way And These, Gentlemen puts forward a bold challenge which the reader is obliged to look inwards to complete.

Anthony Watts : Preserve Me….

This poem speaks for itself really.  The third line refers to a story about the philosopher Diogenes who lived in a barrel and is said to have admonished Alexander the Great for ‘standing in his light’. The judges liked this poem for all kinds of reasons. We liked the subject, the skilful use of natural, unobtrusive rhyme  We liked the humour and the poet’s evident affection for the ordinary.  We liked its bravery and we liked its cleverness.

Shirley Wright : Luskentyre Overheard

Luskentyre is a seven-mile stretch of pure white sand on the west coast of Harris, in the Outer Hebrides. The judges liked the imaginative sweep and  the broad canvas of both Shirley’s poems and the bold contrasts between the distant and the intimate. These were rich tapestries of the right words in the right places, orchestrated by a real mastery of form. 

Shirley Wright : On the Fells

Competition Shortlist K : The Judges’ Views

Here is the fourth instalment of the judges’ views on the listed poems which were performed in the Elwin Room on Saturday 26th September 2015.

Nikki Kenna : Taking Leopard in St Ives

Seeing five thousand year old engravings of giraffe, rhinoceros and lion pecked into stone in Twyfelfontein, Namibia heightened my belief in the power of animals to alter the mind. In Taking Leopard in St Ives, I call on the feelings I experienced watching a wild leopard under a Mopane bush in Chobe, Botswana to overcome winter humdrum. The judges liked the affectionate and convincing juxtaposition of the wildness of Africa with the cosiness of St Ives. 

Carolyn King : Elemental

Carolyn King, not usually a fan of Damien Hirst,  was indeed bowled over by his life-size silver statue of St Bartholomew, with the flail of skin over one arm, at the Royal Academy.  She wrote this short poem after a much longer one in which she explored the connection with St Bartholomew’s (Barts) Hospital, London. The judges liked the seemingly effortless journey in Elemental from the mundane to the sublime, as well as admiring the many surprises on the way.

Wendy Klein : Taking Carrie Up

My grandfather was a terrifying old autocrat who scared the life out of all of us. I have written many poems about the fear and consternation he caused during my growing up, but I thought it was time to show off his finer qualities.  A Jewish refugee from Czarist oppression, he was a true civil libertarian and had no truck with racism of any kind.  He told this family story with great gusto. The judges said of Wendy’s two poems that they liked the way each created its own universe, its web of multiple, deftly drawn human relationships and the filmic quality of the detailed observation.  The poems were both pleasingly understated and compact which added greatly to their powerful effect.

Wendy Klein : Nothing to Declare

This poem is nothing more, nothing less than the postlude to a family reunion across continents where the strange tug of mothers and daughters is re-established and celebrated.

Competition Shortlist F to J : The Judges’ Views

Here is the third instalment of the judges’ views on the listed poems which were performed in the Elwin Room on Saturday 26th September 2015.

Annie Fisher : The Innocents

The judges said: We liked the restrained approach to good and evil in The Innocents.  This opened avenues of thought and imagination without dictating what the listeners’ conclusions ought to be.   A poem of apparent simplicity, rich in possibilities.

Louise Green : Sieste with Jean Gabriel

This poem comes from a sequence about real and imagined lives in rural France in the last century. The sonnet, with its ‘turn’, seemed right for this rather unusual subject. The Cafe judges said: ‘Sieste’ is an artful, seductive, challenging poem, full of surprises and shocks.  We liked the way the bucolic jostles the gothic and also the way that the unexpected ending forces you to reread, hunting for the clues which this skilful writer might have left half-hidden in the lines. 

Caroline Heaton : Guinevere’s Gown

The judges said: The words are beautifully chosen. The poem’s incantatory quality and formal mastery create an entirely convincing and enticing universe.

Rosie Jackson : John Donne Arriving  in Heaven

This is a composite of various sources: the title comes from a painting by Stanley Spencer, some of the ideas are from Donne’s poems and sermons, while the final section is filtered through my own spiritual beliefs, prominent because I wrote this while on retreat in India. The Cafe judges said: We liked the way the poet’s command of both subject matter and language are crafted together to make a poem that is dazzlingly new. 

Competition Shortlist C and D : The Judges’ Views

Here is the second instalment of the judges’ views on the listed poems which were performed in the Elwin Room on Saturday 26th September 2015.

Sara Cheesman : Finn’s Loft

Finn’s Loft was written at my sister’s house in Pembrokeshire as a late autumn gale raged outside. The judges said: This poem explores the liminal space between the safe and the wild, the real and the surreal, the interior and the exterior worlds, alternating its focus of attention to hold the reader fascinated throughout. 

Rachael Clyne : Belvedere

The view from my back garden is itself, a prizewinner and I get to enjoy it every day. It has inspired several poems, including this one. The judges said: We really liked the way this poem makes use of all five senses and also its successful alliteration and surprising imagery. 

Annemarie Cooper : January Afternoon

Annemarie Cooper has published two pamphlets. The latest in 2013 is ‘The Flight of Birds.’ She is from London. The judges said: This hymn in praise of winter is characterised by a particularly deft use of detail to create a an utterly convincing  poetic space. We loved the movement within the poem and its joyful celebration of the drab.  We also thought that the closing couplet was particularly strong. 

Martyn Crucefix : The Humanist Tour Arrives in Ravenna

Ravenna is on the tourist trail around northern Italy because of the startlingly beautiful mosaics in its many churches. The mosaics are made up of tiny individual blocks of cut stone or glass called ‘tesserae’.  The judges said:  We loved the movement of this poem from its apparently unattractive opening subject to an ending that is full of beauty and mystery. 

Claire Dyer : In Chinese

‘In Chinese the character for poetry is made of two parts’ is a poem about love and the loss of it and, I hope, a discussion on how the notions of ‘word’ (name) and ‘temple’ (worship) can be interchangeable.’ The Cafe judges said: We were very impressed by the way this poem created a synthesis between the delicate essence of Chinese poetry and the wilder narrative that lies underneath. We also liked the way the narrative is so cleverly threaded through the succession of striking, often unexpected images.