We received 337 poems from 210 poets for this year’s Stanza Poetry Competition, and each poet is a member of a Poetry Society Stanza. Every poem was sent in anonymously and Andy Croft, our judge, read every one. You can read all 13 winning poems on the Stanza Poetry Competition page, along with judge’s, and author’s, comments on the top three.
Konstandinos Mahoney of the Barnes and Chiswick Stanza is the winner of this year’s Stanza Competition for his poem ‘Dr Mirabilis and the Brass Wall That Will Save England’. Andy Croft said of Konstandinos’s poem ‘…an enjoyable original take on Brexit, somewhat improbably via Roger Bacon’. You can read the winning poem here.
Our joint Runners-Up are:
- ‘The Penance of St Stephen’ by Andy Jackson (Dundee)
- ‘Toy Town’ by Mark Fiddes (Clapham Originals)
Andy has also chosen ten other Commended poems:
- ‘The Far Wall’ by F J Williams (Staffordshire)
- ‘Winds of Change’ by Sheila Schofield (Treignac)
- ‘Cavafy’s Barbarians’ by John Gohorry (Poetry ID, North Herts)
- ”Letting Her Go’ by Bernie Cullen (York)
- ‘Walls’ by Sarah Barr (Wimborne)
- ‘The Walls Between Us’ by Simon Currie (York and Otley)
- ‘Gated Community’ by Mary King (Staffordshire)
- ‘On and Off the Wall by Wendy Klein (Reading)
- ‘Reportage, Grenfell Tower’ by Joan Michelson (Palmers Green)
- ‘The Door’ by Kaye Lee (Palmers Green)
“Who knew that there were so many good poems waiting to be written about walls? Among the 337 entries there were poems about the walls of Jericho, Babylon and Derry, Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall, Grenfell Tower, the Wailing Wall, the Great Wall of China, Wall Street, the Antonine Wall and the Wall of Death. There were poems about garden walls, firewalls, party walls, thin walls, dividing walls, ruined walls, convent walls, climbing walls, harbour walls, church walls, execution walls, castle walls, prison walls, seawalls and dry-stone walls. Some wrote about flies on walls, walls with ears, walls of silence, walls for climbing and walls for jumping off; others about wallpaper, wall-calendars, graffiti, ice-cream and pork-pies (think about it), Pink Floyd, Trump and the Three Little Pigs.
Hard to choose among so many fine and enjoyable poems. But the most effective for me were those poems that moved with the greatest freedom around the theme of the competition, notably those that used the idea of ‘Walls’ as a way of talking about something else – for example, old age, dementia, loneliness, fear, silence, xenophobia.
‘Dr Mirabilis and the Brass Wall that Will Save England’ is an enjoyably original take on Brexit, somewhat improbably via Roger Bacon. It’s a poem about illusions (‘wizardly’, ‘magician’, ‘marvels’, ‘dreamed’), theatrical gestures (‘cloaking puddles’), boastful nonsense (‘the mighty ring of Jove’) and self-defeating contradictions (the spell designed to stem the ‘Latin tide’ is in Latin, while the ‘England’ that must be defended is of course already home to ‘freckled Vikings’ and ‘the offspring of the Commonwealth’). The combination of nightmare and slapstick, Middle English (‘pottle’) and twenty-first century English (‘taking selfies for his instagram’), reduces the characters in the poem to a cast of implausible fools and stage-devils in an Elizabethan comedy – Johnson (‘a mop-headed jokester’), May (‘crossing her leathered legs’), Rudd (‘Rye’), Thatcher (‘a witch’) and Gove (‘an owlish friar’). A talking head made of ‘brass’ suggests something loud, hollow and brazen (as well as money spent). Meanwhile, the character of Dr Mirabilis (who talks like a tabloid leader-writer) is ‘hard at work’ turning everything he touches to ‘piss’.
Andy Croft runs the Ripon poetry festival, the T-junction international poetry festival, and independent poetry press Smokestack Books. His latest collection is Letters to Randall Swingler (Shoestring).
28 September 2017 – National Poetry Day!