Teignmouth Poetry Competition

In a spell of good luck I had two poems in the running for the 2019 Teignmouth Poetry Competition, which is linked to the poetry festival. ‘Since Eels do not Keep Diaries…’ was selected for the final ten by John Greening. ‘Chiaroscuro’ was awarded first prize in the local section. Here’s the judge’s report from poet and novelist Julie-Ann Rowell:

The poem I chose for first prize is one of great lyrical delicacy and artistry. The city of New York, a place I know very well indeed, is captured superbly – ‘Manhattan … where history crawled out of its sleeping bag and stretched’. The connection between art and what it can and cannot do for us is expressed with tremendous expertise. This is a craftsperson who has a mastery of technique.

It was great to chat with the judges and poets. Thanks to the festival organisers, Virginia, Jennie, and Ian for all of their efforts to promote poetry locally and further afield.

Here’s the poem for the local prize:

Chiaroscuro

Five years ago, I walked the eighty blocks
from Dan’s apartment in the West Village
all the way to the Met and found myself
staring at The Penitent Magdalen

alone for half the day. Nobody paints
skulls like they used to. There was no irony:
a candle-pale memento in her lap
held like a baby in her tenderness.

But it was the mirror that struck me.
Its flame burnt out of keeping with the first,
as if two candles lit her solitude.
One candle for knowledge, another for soul.

That evening was a bar two blocks away
where we drank screwdrivers until sparrows
sang at the Highline and Manhattan stirred
down at Zucotti Park, where history

crawled out of its sleeping bag and stretched.
Skyscrapers loomed either side of churches
that once dominated fields and houses.
Walking through cities, we see others’ lives

happening to them, even if they can’t.
Art has a little power for waking
but the rest is down to us. Is this prayer?
To be humbled in a white room where hope

has been given shape? Hope for redemption,
for the passion to imitate at first.
And for the courage to make forgeries
then let such grace as we find turn them true.

See the full competition results and learn more about their events on the Poetry Teignmouth website.

Photo: Viv Wilson.

Live Canon 2015 Anthology

Hello all, the new Live Canon anthology is available to buy on Amazon. In it you’ll find a new poem by Geraldine Clarkson, ‘After If–‘; Isabel Rogers’ ‘Boys in the Storm’; my poem, ‘Labyrinth’, and lots more besides. All the poems have been shortlisted for the annual Live Canon competition and the winning poem will be announced on the 22nd of November after a performance by the Live Canon troupe. Go to livecanon.co.uk to find out more.

Two shortlistings

Not long ago, I submitted six poems to the Primers scheme launched by Nine Arches Press and The Poetry School. These were shortlisted and I was invited to submit twenty poems for consideration by the judges, Kathryn Maris and Jane Commane. It’s a great scheme, offering a year of mentoring and the chance to give readings at a few events. We’ll see what happens. A book of shortlisted poems will be available.

Also, my poem, ‘Labyrinth’, has been shortlisted for this year’s Live Canon International Poetry Competition. It will be performed, alongside other shortlisted poems, by the Live Canon retinue at Greenwich Theatre on the 22nd of November. Isabel Rogers, a great poet who I first met through the Live Canon comp., has also been shortlisted with her poem, ‘Boys in the Storm’.

St. Augustine on the poetry game

This is possibly one of the least profound purposes for quoting from Confessions of a Sinner but, nevertheless, it’s a reminder about what matters in the art:

In public we were cocksure, in private superstitious, and everywhere void and empty. On the one hand we would hunt for worthless popular distinctions, the applause of an audience, prizes for poetry, or quickly fading wreaths won in competition…

— St. Augustine

Disclaimer: I’ve just entered a large number of poems for The Bridport Prize.