Winners – Jan/Mar Poem Awards

The votes are all in and the poll-winning Readers’ Choice poem is…

Hearing Things – by Mat Riches

Mat will (eventually) receive the usual winner’s mug, and thanks to everyone who voted.

The Editor’s choice was selected by Rachel Bower and she picked out

A Place on the Sofa – by Lesley Burt

Rachel had these comments to make.

It was a pleasure to read this pile of wonderful poems as Guest Editor this month, but not an easy task to choose a winner! On first reading, I was struck by the range of form, as well as by recurring subjects and tropes, particularly running, keys in hands, the child’s perspective and coming to terms with the past. I was drawn to several poems before deciding on my winner.

I was struck by “Five-Year Survival”, for the intensity created by its patterns of repetition (I find it hard to resist a pantoum!). This poem is full of mystery and delicacy, and I didn’t want it to end. I also loved the ‘‘chemistry of cakes’ and ‘physics of flans’ in “Girl’s Education”: a seemingly simple poem which is layered with meaning. The violence simmering under “How You Will Identify My Body” and the ‘creamy breasts of pigeons’ which ‘turn crimson’ in “First Deaths” were also powerful. “August 1947” effectively captured the human aspects of a moment of great political upheaval, and this poem was a close contender for the winning spot.

The winning poem stood out on first reading, and got better every time I read it. By the third or fourth reading I was sure this was the one. “A Place on the Sofa” is an understated, taut account of a single moment in a girl’s family life. The poem skilfully enables the reader to share the perspective of the young girl, sent off to the kitchen by the grandma so that her brother can take her place on the sofa. I love the way that we look through the gap between the hinges with her, and share her rage at this injustice. The poem is tight: there are no wasted adjectives or articles, and the rage bristles against the tight tercets of the poem. The ending is also wonderful – the rage ‘rests in her diaphragm’, as in this restrained poem, and we wait for the day that it will finally be breathed out. This is a powerful poem about the moments that make us (and mark us), and the ways in which the personal and everyday are always political. Thank you!

Congratulations to both our winners.

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