Poetry Society Members David Keyworth, Maria Isakova-Bennett and Scott Elder have been Highly Commended by judge Graham Burchell in this year’s Buzzwords Poetry Competition, won by Katie Hale.
What a strange and dizzy world one is thrown into when reading very many poems one after the other until there are three piles of descending thickness sitting on the carpet. The largest pile by far, sadly, being those that clearly weren’t going to win for a variety of reasons. The next pile, much smaller, had poems which bore some points of merit, but which were unlikely to make it to the winning or commended ranks. I was worried therefore, that the thinnest pile would be too thin, that I had perhaps been too judgemental. When I counted them, however, I found that sixteen extremely good poems had made it this far, half of which were from Gloucestershire residents. Now came the really difficult work of ordering them and finding the winners. The poem that quickly rose to the top of the pile did not lose its place when I re-read it fresh the next morning. ‘The Prayer for Motel Rooms’ had a light touch and form on the page that worked so well for a prayer that praised the small details, the very essence of all that a motel is and the landscape in which it sits. Goodness knows how many times I read this, and it convinced me more and more with each reading.
More difficult was finding the runner up to this. I read all of the remaining poems many times. I ordered and re-ordered them. There was so much to enjoy in each and every one. These included a war poem, a couple of beautiful nostalgia poems, a twist on a well-known children’s story, interactions with a famous artist and with famous poets, one that was deeply psychological and a nature poem about a grass snake that was short but concise and very evocative.
After much deliberation over two poems, I could not justify making one the runner up and one a highly commended poem. They were, in their difference styles, both worthy of a podium place behind the winner.
‘Soldiering’ is as the title suggests, something of a play on the word soldier, one which concludes with the poet’s grandfather (a survivor of fighting in the trenches in the first world war), just keeping mum, and soldiering on. This marvellously crafted three-part poem takes us from reflections on shell cases (No wonder he souvenired them home), to life beyond the trenches and how it shaped the rest of his days. A very sensitive ride through this man’s life.
The other runner up is ‘Beeching’, a nostalgic look back at our railways in the days before Richard Beeching made his notorious cuts in the 1960’s. Each stanza is so well crafted. There’s not a word out of place. I really liked the way the stanza lengths decreased until there was only memory and – Brambles, buddleia and crumpled cans.
In a similar vein, the Gloucestershire prize goes to a nostalgic poem, where we are taken back to ‘Shaun’s Shop’ in Marybone, Liverpool in days long since passed. The details were beautifully handled. The farthing bags of sugared coconut and dried-up custard creams were a joy to savour.
Well done to all highly commended poets also. The shock of Red Riding Hood’s adult life, those wonderful imaginative near-meetings with past poets (Dear Mr Causley, I knew you’d be out); with one considering a dream of taking Frank O’Hara to bed, the opening line of ‘Waiting for Him’ – My hotel is a gentle mother and journeying with a poet’s daily interaction with people in ‘In Situ’ were all a joy to read and read again.
Buzzwords meets regularly for a poetry reading, open mic and workshopping session in Cheltenham.
21 September 2018