Competition Shortlist A to B : The Judges’ Views

Here are the Cafe Judges’ reasons for placing the selected poems on the shortlist, prefaced in some cases by the poet’s own introduction which was printed in the programme the audience received on the afternoon of Saturday 26th September. The poets are in alphabetical order.  Extracts from Rachael Boast’s comments on the four winning poems are also published here. We hope that these comments, taken as a whole, might give poets who are following this blog insights into the competition process which will serve them usefully later on.

Helen Ashley : Fall  (featured on this blog)

Whilst acknowledging the botanical process of deciduous trees, I can’t help feeling that they share my relief when the throng of summer gives way to autumn.  The judges said: We loved the unusual approach to the subject of autumn and the cleverly managed movement of the thought.  The poem is extremely well crafted with a particularly nice pivot on the key word, “heaviness”. 

Sarah Barr : January

Sarah’s poem had to be withdrawn from our actual judging because it won ‘The Frogmore Poetry Prize 2015’. The judge was John McCullough. We were delighted that Sarah was still willing to make the journey to share her prizewinning poem with us on our competition afternoon.

Zanna Beswick : Above Lamorna Cove

‘Lamorna Cove’ was described by one of the judges as ‘another way of seeing sound.’ The invocation of Rilke early in the poem was very ambitious and we were impressed by the way the poem lived up to its promise, moving from the specific to the universal with maturity and confidence.

Ama Bolton : The Capitalist Dogs (featured on this blog)

The flight from Moscow was delayed and we unexpectedly spent a night in Sheremetyevo airport listening, we thought, to wolves in the surrounding birch- forest. Next day, a fellow-passenger explained. The judges said:  This is a chilling indictment of capitalism captured within a few lines of highly realistic poetry. 

Stephanie Boxall : Ghost Notes

I love music and have taken up various instruments over the years including, most recently, the drums. This poem was inspired by one of my drum lessons.  The judges said: We loved the understated music of ‘Ghost Notes’ and the gift of space inside the poem – space within the form and space for the imagination – which mirrored the meaning so perfectly. 

Stephen Boyce : She Considers His Proposal & Pendulum

The judges said : ‘She Considers…’ is a poem of uncomfortable, bleak, unresolved experience – a confident, adult piece of writing which uses detail very well.  We loved the exactitude of the extended metaphor. ‘Pendulum’ had many of the same strengths and we were struck, in this poem as in the other, by the way that what is NOT said was as important as what is.  So much is implied rather than stated.  We also very much admired the subtle use of rhyme.

Sara Butler : Changes

Home at one time was a smallholding in Norfolk. I had a rather pushy neighbour.  The judges said: ‘Changes’ is a beautifully grounded poem with a lovely clean trajectory.  It moved very nicely from the vernacular energy of the first stanza into the more musical language of the second, sustaining its energy throughout.

Graham Burchell: Envelope (featured on this blog)

The judges said: We liked the close focus on the envelope of the title and the way this simple object was used to explore the privacy and tenderness of the relationship between the characters.  It is a touching, innocent, affectionate, authentic poem and it appealed to us very much.

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