CONGRATULATIONS to Poetry Society Member Kathleen Bell, who has won this year’s Nottingham Open Poetry Competition with her poem ‘Testament: in an Embankment Garden’. Kathleen is also a lecturer at De Montfort University Leicester. Poetry Society Members featured strongly as Merit Prize-winners too, with Lesley Burt, Katy Carrington, Alan Dunnett and Paul Stephenson on the list of names.
The contest has been held annually for more than 25 years and the 2016 judge was Liz Berry.
Commenting on Kathleen’s winning entry Liz said:
“This poem is a beauty and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading it. It’s a wonderful mix of melancholy and hope, a beguiling, lyrical tale of re-wilding, of our human world yielding to nature.
“I loved the direct address to the singing blackbird and the odd ecstasy of the ending. The couplet form and language work so well together too. What a gem of a poem.”
“I have entered the competition before because I like to support something local and have received three merits in the past – but when opening the envelope which revealed I had won first prize, I was stunned.”
The poem went through numerous drafts while coming into being, which she has now shown to her Creative Writing students so they can see the scrupulous process involved.
“I always carry notebooks around – with squared paper – so I can make amendments. I don’t write hastily. It’s a good example to the students of how poems are always a work in progress and the subtle changes made,” she added.
It was the second poetry award of the year for Kathleen after coming second in the Brittle Star Competition in the summer.
Testament: in an Embankment Garden
Blackbird, I see this garden
should have been planned for you
and now it’s yours, as the woman
sprawled on the bench spits phlegm
and the man clutching the railings
taps at his phone, willing the screen to load
but there’s no reply, and the sky brightens
and doves descend, a bicycle crumples
and roots wrench roads out of true, a tree twists
to demolish a wall, leaves break through brick –
so sing, blackbird. The river rises. We dying bequeath
this garden to you and to your heirs
and ask that you use it well who stay
– and look at me, blackbird, now and sing
till you splinter air with your sweetness –
here, blackbird, here – let me hear you sing as I vanish
You can read all the winning poems on the Nottingham Poetry Society’s website – the Society ‘promotes the best in poetry’ and holds an annual competition.