2005

The winner of the Hamish Canham Prize 2005 was Judy Brown, for her poem ‘Loudness’.

Judges’ choice – Carole Satyamurti reports on the judging process:

“The judging panel this year had some excellent poems to choose between, which made our job both difficult and enjoyable. The year’s four themes were ‘Prehistory’, ‘Food’, ‘Loudness’ and ‘Coats’. Having a theme specified obviously presents a challenge, and members rose to it in ways that were very diverse. ‘Coats’, for instance, produced Jane Morley‘s poignant poem about psoriasis, as well as the more expectable ones about garments. ‘Prehistory’ prompted Frances Green to write about a photograph of her ex with both seriousness and humour.

“‘Food’ gave us Amanda Parkyn‘s ‘Catching Shad’ and Ian Caws‘ ‘Asylum Tea’, both of which were strong contenders for the prize. ‘Catching Shad’ is, on the surface, just about preparing fish in the kitchen, but it is a subtle evocation of the simultaneous anticipation of the delicious dish the writer is making, and awareness that, not long before, this was a living creature, exercising its freedom. In ‘Asylum Tea’, Ian Caws captures the state of mind of what we took to be a junior hospital doctor on night duty in a psychiatric hospital. The way language is used in this poem vividly conveys what it feels like to be just about hanging on.

“After an impeccably democratic voting process, we finally chose Judy Brown‘s ‘Loudness’ as the winner of this year’s prize. It is a poem about bad news, and we very much liked its unusual approach to the subject and the rightness of its language. It is a meditation on what bad news sounds like, and doesn’t sound like. The poem manages to convey, and enable the reader to recognise, what is really quite an elusive experience – ‘? a sound that’s not a sound? a chemical fizz?’ The poem ends with an account of what the ear attends to when the bad news is “bedded in”. The process of recovery makes it possible to hear sounds from the surrounding world again.

“‘Loudness’ is a beautiful and subtle poem, and we were very happy to award it this year’s prize.”