The winning poems are included in 'Petrol & Matches', a special anthology of poems, lyrics and reflections to mark the 10th anniversary of the W&M Festival. ISBN 978-1-5272-1443-9.
- It's available from ticket points during the Festival and from Bloom, Grapevine and The Nantwich Bookshop priced £5.
- 50% of all profits will go to the W&M Festival.
- You can also order a copy from competition organiser, Phil Williams,Tel: 01270 882060 or 07794 620 368.
- You can order them by post: Phil Williams, 4 Derwent Close, Alsager, Cheshire, ST7 2UT or pay online by PayPal to Philip Williams.
- Please email Phil with your PayPal transaction ID on PhilWilliams441@gmail.com.
- Please add £1.30 for post and packing (first class) or £1.22 second class post.
- If ordering more than 2 copies by post please contact Phil for estimates of postage costs.
Nantwich Words & Music Festival 2017 Poetry Competition Winners – by John Lindley, former Cheshire Poet Laureate
Whenever judges of poetry competitions describe the task of arriving at their final decision as ‘difficult’ they are (or, I believe, should be) acknowledging a problem they secretly hoped for when first accepting the undertaking. For a mere handful of obvious winners to immediately present themselves doesn't necessarily represent the 'best of a bad bunch' – the outstanding poems may indeed be excellent – but it can be indicative of a somewhat underwhelming overall entry. The submissions to this year's Nantwich Words & Music Festival resulted in the kind of difficulty any poetry-loving judge (and there should be no other kind) would relish: a dazzlingly high quality of work to sift through.
At the judging, poems were read and reread – sometimes in the head, sometimes tested aloud – but still the hefty pile of entries that remained following our initial attempts to thin the submissions rendered the word 'shortlist' something of a misnomer. In truth, even after much debate and the reluctant ruling out of yet more submissions, we were left with a plethora of fine poems that could easily and ably fill a chapbook collection.
For me to then narrow these submissions to a final three overall winners and a local one was … well, difficult. Another day, another mood, another table I was seated at and it's entirely possible that their final order could be shuffled; even that some of those that so nearly made the grade could have been amongst the winners. In the end those were:
1st Prize: Heavy Waves by Jack Senior
A brief and deftly crafted piece that documents the personal with all the all too recognisably universal. The rhyming is subtle, employing assonant rhyme at times and full rhyme – notably in its devastating closing couplet – at others with a sophistication that never veers into artifice. The twist of that well-worn phrase 'buried bones', which locates the skin-housed skeleton before death whilst at the same time anticipating its destiny, is memorable.
2nd Prize: Eleven Plus by Helen Kay
As with the winning poem, there is much to admire in this again brief work. A looking back with an almost forensic eye for detail.
3rd Prize: Bone by Lynn Tammadge
A further looking back poem and one that, in its account of the finding of a human bone, brilliantly rocks between the irreverent and sacred mindset of children.
Local Prize: Caecilius Avirus by Brian O'Connor
Hard flinty language and imagery pervades this fine poem with its … crusty lumps of legionnaires, marching …
1st Prize 2017
This shirt, lightly brushing my skin’s tiny white hairs,
Wraps round me like a blanket, but keeps them unaware
That I can trace my fingers over each pronounced rib;
Counting down to my waist, where I pinch at skin
And forcibly constrict the size of my abdomen.
I’m the shrinking coastline, washed away by the tide,
Beaten by the wind, eroding rapidly over time,
Crumbling down to my skeleton - my buried bones;
Chalk-white skinned, too thin or frail to stand,
I’m sweeping out to sea with the sewage and the sand.
2nd Prize 2017
The playing field rolled out the summer term,
grassy sandals, socks stencilled with mud.
Careful not to split the leggy stems,
they threaded eggy daisies into crowns.
The last day cried: she was a Grammar Grub;
her friend was marked for Cotton Street.
Infants flapped around a grill of gates,
a whole term’s artwork under each arm.
Mum sat in the Mini, tapping to the radio.
Hot Rod was longing for Maggie May.
Years on, a tipsy hour, Friends Reunited
smooths out and waters dried up yesterdays,
Daz resistant stains, the grip of sorting hats,
a squealing gate, the crack of July heat.
3rd Prize 2017
We huddled around the bone, scrummed in,
Kids frying ants with broken glass,
Each of us extending a finger to run along its length.
At one end it was roughly broken, uneven honeycomb
Exposed, thin lines running the length of the shaft, pitted,
The shadow of a scar where he’d fallen from his horse.
Each of us took quiet turns to trace the length of the bone
With the tips of our fingers, then Pat made us jump.
It’s a tibia – the long bone here at the front of your leg.
She bent double, stretched like a ballerina pointing
to her calf, John ran up to the group, snatched it,
waved it above his head.
He lifted it high, unattainable, threw it. It turned
like a gymnast doing back-flips. We stood.
The four of us, open-mouthed, frozen.
Last moment, I tried to run, to catch the bone
of a hero. Diving like a winger on the rugby pitch,
the ground came up to meet me.
We buried the splinters in a shallow grave, crossing
Ourselves like we’d seen our neighbours do during Sunday
service. Pat cried while we sang the Lord’s Prayer,
Hallowed be thy name ...
Local Prize 2017
The gravestone of Caecilius Avitus, Optio, XXth Legion is in the
Grosvenor Museum, Chester. He came from Merida in Southern Spain.
Museum lined in gravestones,
dry dust settles in silence,
coating Caecilius at the back
blank-eyed stare etched into stone,
dreaming of home in Spanish sun,
not lying feverish in Deva barracks,
dying in a cold sleeting January,
another statistic of the bloody weather,
Caecilius, once soldier of the legion,
tough as his sandal studded iron hobnails,
coarse as the cloth of his red heavy cloak,
hard man with an acid tongue,
in a rugged granite face,
and I saw him along the vanished road,
burly brute with an arrogant swagger,
barking whiplash orders,
at crusty lumps of legionnaires,
marching the straight-sided road.
to the brine springs of Salinae.
Now on this forgotten forest trail,
following an almost erased line,
where legionnaires marched
but left no marks, no feeling of time,
no sense of SPQR,
but here, to you Caecilius,
to your memory, I salute a greeting.