Sunday, 6 January 2013

Judge’s Report and Results, Lupus UK Poetry Competition 2012

Judge’s Report by Abegail Morley

What makes a winning poem is one that is complete in itself, one that takes the reader on a journey and surprises them with its ending. A number of poems in this competition succeeded in doing this well, which made the task of narrowing down to three winners and two Highly Commendeds quite difficult. Some of the near-misses who can't take a place, but are worthy of mention are The Stillborns by Terry Jones, with the fantastic final line "the mild unopened flowers of their eyes", Victory in the Louvre by Lynn Roberts with its rich layering of images, and two poems by Christian Ward Aortic Stenosis and Mothing, both beautiful, slightly macabre pieces. I sometimes wonder if being mentioned as "an almost there" can feel quite disappointing, but these poems worked so well and were only just pipped to the post it would have been wrong not to sing their praises.

The overall quality of the entries was high and the subjects varied. There were the usual life experiences: love, loss and death, delicately handled in many of the poems. The dream world came under scrutiny by some poets and there were a number of poems about war, which perhaps came from Remembrance Sunday being within spitting distance of the closing date.

First prize: Udaipur Beat by MARGARET EDDERSHAW (Greece)   -

The winning poem is the beautiful and unnerving Udaipur Beat, a tight piece that at the same time splays the page, using the white space to play out the scene. Within a relatively short space the poet has explained and exploded a life. From the ominous first line: "I thought you had just a bronchial cough", through to the repetition of arrhythmia arrhythmia arrhythmia, echoed later with rise and fall  rise and fall  rise and fall. The reader is under the poet's spell, falling in line with the chanting of the machine.

It is eloquently understated, transformative, and carries the reader over its terrain:

"I don't remember speaking -
to ask where you were going
or even to say Goodbye"

There is a detachment here, no saccharine sweetness, but still it binds us to it. The reader knows just how it feels to be as "helpless as Shiva / waving those hundreds of arms" when a life is lost and found again.            

Second prize: Reading Czeslaw Milosz at Mullion Island by DESMOND KON ZHICHENG-MINGÉ          (Hong Kong)

This long, dense poem effortlessly builds from its simple opening line: "The small boat barely took the four of us." This is the richest poem in the competition, wonderfully lyrical.

The poet knows exactly what they are doing and expertly guides the reader across water to an island, "On the island lived the same poem, with skin like a mermaid's", to a church, "It was a churchyard, no pews as if the terrazzo floor was enough" and then back to the boat in the final couplet, where "Shane took the oars, and with a sigh, headed farther". The language is exquisite, as if painted by an artist with a plush palette. The poem, written to mark the birth of the Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz has triumphantly achieved its goal.

Third prize: Before the Fog Lifted by JULIE MELLOR (Sheffield, UK)

What I like about this poem is the depth of its images and its specificity. The lines that caught my eye over several readings were the "lichen grew overnight on walls where it would normally / take a hundred years to root". They have a magical quality to them which tangles the reader into this landscape. There is an unhurried pace to the beginning of the poem, "Elderberries blistered, / rosehips blackened, though there was no frost". It then swells, like the river Don in the poem, and tips over its edges, until it re-roots itself in the last lines, where the water "lifted translations / off bookcases, swilled them clean of words." A super ending to a well-honed poem.

Highly Commended:

Home Leave by MELISSA LEE-HOUGHTON (Lancashire, UK)

An honest, lucid insight into a life picked apart by mental illness. It shows how the small
parts of life tick onwards, even when the mind stalls. There is much to like in this poem and it has a momentum that thunders through its cloudscape.

"I write poems in the hospital.
They all bang on about images
but I have nothing".

Helvellyn by SIMON JACKSON (Edinburgh, Scotland)

This poem has been disqualified following a flood of complaints by people recognised it as being the same poem as The Ice Storm with which Mr Jackson won 1st Prize in the Slipstream Poets Open Poetry Competition 2011.


Highly Commended: Home Leave by MELISSA LEE-HOUGHTON (Lancashire, UK)
Highly Commended: Helvellyn by SIMON JACKSON (Edinburgh, Scotland) - Disqualified.
Third prize: Before the Fog Lifted by JULIE MELLOR (Sheffield, UK)
Second prize: Reading Czeslaw Milosz at Mullion Island by DESMOND KON ZHICHENG-MINGÉ    (Hong Kong)
First prize: Udaipur Beat by MARGARET EDDERSHAW (Greece)

1 comment:

  1. Huge apologies to all concerned. I'm working in Cairo at present, without the desktop I use for personal writing like poety, and we've just had our second child out here. In a blaze of disorganised energy I tried to send a handful of poetry out to competitions and magazines before baby Maksim's arrival, and have been stupidly careless in not checking re-titled and edited poems (or anything very much).

    I'm now rather paranoid and hoping I've not repeated the mistake with other poems.

    Once more, I'm very sorry and best of luck with the continuing charity projects,

    Simon Jackson