The Frogmore Poetry Prize Winners 2009
 


Adjudicators Report
and winning entries

 

What a busy summer – almost 400 poems to sift and sort, rally and range, order and re-order…! I carried them with me, from place to place, a lumpy brown envelope of jostling voices, each one proclaiming its own virtues. But in the end the virtues that shouted loudest were the fresh-worded and surprising, the authentic, memorable and true. These made the best of poems.

At the top of the pile was Howard Wright’s wonderful 'Dog Day', one of a number of excellent poems that he submitted. I loved it for its precise and surprsing observation (‘the tide’s folded hem’), its effortless command of line (‘this dog high-tailing us/through the prongs of fierce grass’), and its emotional clarity in reviewing an uncommunicative relationship through the incident of a wandering stray dog ‘called, accepted and left alone’. A superb poem.

Second prize poem, 'For I will consider my new mobile phone' by Liz Crosby, surprised me, as (a confession here) I rarely give prizes to so-called comic poems! But I found this clever parody of Smart’s address to his cat a sheer delight: funny, deftly-worded, memorable and poignantly revelatory of a whole mother-daughter dynamic.

Third choice proved more difficult. I juggled and juggled, then in the end gave two: Norbert Hirschhorn’s 'Notes from Inside a Snow Globe', a literally polished and elegant poem, whose voice I absolutely believed in, conjuring up the untouchable space of a snow globe which might in fact be our own devastated world; and 'I Borrow Aunt Ruby’s Jane Eyre' by Wendy Klein, which beautifully focused a child’s longing for love in the borrowing of a copy of the Bronte classic ‘already haunted’, delivering its emotional weight in a strong yet powerfully controlled ending: ‘no blood, no sputum, no love’.

And so to the six runners up. Another excellent poem from Wendy Klein: 'Country Matters' offered sharp advice for country living (‘Beware of the looseness of pick-up trucks’) via surprising and edgy writing. Different imperatives in Jenny Morris’s haunting 'Signs', which created a ghostly world out of mundane observation of place, chiming the two together in a compelling last stanza. Crispin Williams’s poem, 'With which I might test even a few adventures' takes his theme of language as confusion to delightful ends (‘many pretty names for snow forest in my heart’), but delivers a condensed and emotional impact too: ‘to find your love my future’. Language is also the theme of Chris Hardy’s 'The Fearful Milliner', a deceptively simple poem about the gap between what we know and what we can say ‘in the wordless dark’; I loved the way his hats are tossed from stanza to stanza.

Poems triggered by paintings are fairly common in poetry competitions (beware!), but Derek Sellen’s poem inspired by El Greco’s 'El Caballero de la Mano en el Pecho' was a tightly wrought dialogue with the painting which became almost an hypnotic power struggle. And finally, Louise Tomlinson’s 'Half Moons', a strong poem that built and built rhetorically and emotionally to its distorted fairytale ending: ‘piling…bags of failed hearts at your door, in this house of collectors, this castle of claws’. A powerful gothic ending. Well done all.

                                                                                                                Robert Seatter

          
 
The winner, and runners-up
DOG DAY (Howard Wright)
FOR I WILL CONSIDER MY NEW MOBILE (Liz Crosby)
arrow NOTES FROM INSIDE A SNOW GLOBE (Norbert Hirschhorn)
I BORROW AUNT RUBY'S JANE EYRE (Wendy Klein)

Shortlisted entries
THE FEARFUL MILLINER (Chris Hardy)
COUNTRY MATTERS (Wendy Klein)
SIGNS (Jenny Morris)
EL CABALLERO DE LA MANO EN EL PECHO (Derek Sellen)
HALF MOONS (Louisa Tomlinson)
WITH WHICH I MIGHT TEST EVEN A FEW ADVENTURES (Crispin Williams)
 




 

 

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