The competition results are in! A huge thank-you to Maura Dooley and Heidi Williamson for all their hard work in selecting the following entries. You can find out what lay behind their decisions in the Judges’ Report below:
First Prize — Over Against — Liz Ellertsen
This confidently sustained sestina was tightly handled, with intriguing detail building to a satisfying end. It rewarded repeated reading and we kept going back to it. Its crafting is worn lightly enough to keep the tone natural, which contrasts nicely with some wonderfully odd images. Like a sinister fairytale, certain words and thoughts cannot be escaped. The circling around images of family, growth, the past, and what the future holds fits the form perfectly.
Second Prize — Nadezhda — Elisabeth Sennitt-Clough
In this fluent, haunting poem the reader is taken straight into another and particular world, a world where beauty exists even amongst poverty and difficulty. The location Gornostaypol is perhaps near Chernobyl and certainly the sense of a vanished life in all its lost sweetness is caught precisely in this poem.
Third Prize — Godzilla at Seven Months Gone — Jo Ingham
This poem’s humour and ambivalence made us come back to it each time. We enjoyed the central conceit of the womb-like cinema and cinema-like womb. The mix of closeness, cosiness and claustrophobia is nicely evoked, culminating in its own pleasingly ‘salt-sweet’ ending.
Modern Times — Mary Livingstone
We very much admired the way in which this poem takes a long slow pull back from the tiny, intimate, particularity of a shared moment with a children’s tea set to arrive at the tiny, intimate but universal world that Chaplin gives us in Modern Times. The poet references famous partnerships across the history of film which adds further poignancy to the moving final verse.
Like her Favourite Film — Kaye Lee
We enjoyed the jump cuts in this poem telling us the love story from unusual angles and the way its short sad tale is enlivened with telling details. The continuity of the colour mauve ties the three stanzas together nicely and adds weight to that fragile final image.
This could be Our Death Scene Moment — Claudine Toutoungi
This wry take on a life lived as-if-on-film suggests a way of both hiding and revealing what is so difficult to say straightforwardly. We found this both funny and enigmatic. The poem earns its unsettling conclusion through its clever use of musical references that unravel into the poignant final lines.
Sunset Song — Dee High
An experiment in form is a risk this poem is prepared to take, and it alters the reading, as war alters each character within it. We liked its directness, as well as the moment of clarity in the poignant final image.
Suspending Disbelief — Jonathan Totman
As well as suggesting a more personal story of an attempt to understand a relationship by reading it through films, this poem captures perfectly the magical transportation of cinema, the way in which we are taken out of ourselves and into another world. We especially liked the final stanza with its vivid evocation of that stumble out into the real world we all have to make once the film ends.
I don’t remember what colour the roses were, they never came back.
I’ve never had much luck with them myself. My sister has roses,
and tends to them daily in gloves softer than her own soft hands.
She pretends not to notice our rusting trikes and all our butterflies
in next door’s garden. I have two children; boys,
one runs a toy pram round and round the kitchen,
the other sits on the table, eating an apple, eyes just over the cusp. Our kitchen
is so hot this time of year, we have to jam the back
door open, by the drying rack and freezer full of ice-pops for the boys,
and in the garden, the boys lie on their sides, by the bushes without roses.
My mother is here, her hair too wild, too white. She sprays houseflies
which snap into the corners like electricity. She often hands
out death like this, and when they’re spinning on their wings, she hands
me a brush for the bodies. If only this kitchen
didn’t get so hot, we could shut the door and keep the flies
and such out. One day the boys will run upstairs and won’t come back.
They’ll visit me appalled at my vase of dead roses,
my too-dry-too-wet lips, and the way I eat cake and lick at the crumbs, my boys,
and my tongue, so ashamed, but nothing can be done. Boys,
remember we were this, our tooth taped to the fridge, our hands
on hands red, yellow, pink, this. I wonder if winter froze the roses
from the earth up or when I tried to cut them back, my too-blunt kitchen
scissors tore at the stems, causing invisible ribbons of trauma. Back
in the summer, when the rain seemed enough, flies
in the shadows of the garden, the earth damp enough, flies
swarmed in the heat above the rot and mulch and the boys
on their haunches, so careful, just far enough away, watched a frog, when behind my back,
the cat snuck past with a fledgling ring-necked dove between his teeth. Our hands
preoccupied with stillness, did not disturb the frog, as the cat ran through the kitchen,
and took the bird upstairs to my bed, where on roses-
on-white sheets, he unfeathered it. I held it- skin- heartbeat. Roses-
on-white and just a little blood and the feathers, so many feathers, the flies
watching from the walls, the boys watching from the door, the cat in the kitchen,
already bored crying and crying for touch. Boys,
remember the frog, and how we held the cusp of daylight in our hands,
before the night returned and snatched it back.
Don’t bring me roses boys, they’re more than I can hold.
Your paper butterflies don’t scratch my hands, and I’ll need my hands,
as our kitchen falls, if I’m to catch these bricks, if I’m to put them back.
Liz Ellertsen lives in Ely Cambridgeshire with her husband and two young sons. She studied Fine Art at the University of East London and spent many years in fringe theatre as a performer and designer. Liz has recently completed a five month course on The Long Poem with Melissa Lee-Houghton and is particularly inspired by the poetry of Anne Carson, Marianne Boruch and Ellen Bryant-Voigt. In 2006 she was chosen to join a support group of artists led by Philippa and Grayson Perry, which has informed much of her creative practice since. Her poetry explores the themes of female identity, motherhood, sexuality and mythology. There is often danger at the heart of her poems, a sense of something being very much at stake.
You’ve forgotten Gornostaypol
and our cottage by the river.
You pass time by counting souls
trapped within the spillage pools:
they’d wither like jellyfish in the sun
should they ever leave, you tell me.
Can you see how green shoots have thickened
the old forest with new life? Ivy and brambles
now flesh out the legs of rusting pylons.
Yesterday I heard Paganini in the trees,
as branches fluttered against overhead cables,
leaves bristled to an applause.
Watch me lift my face to the razor
each morning, to rinse and rinse anew,
the water spiralling about my ears
like an orchestra. Let’s prepare our home
for guests: vases of wildflowers on windowsills,
candles at each end of the piano.
Oil slaps the sides of your buckets
and you strain the water until it runs clear.
It tastes sweet as well-water from the village
where my father mined. At the end of each shift,
he made his way through the earth
clawing at light as he abandoned the dark.
*Slavic female given name, meaning ‘hope.’ Popular in Russia, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine.
Elisabeth Sennitt Clough is the author of Glass, which won the inaugural Paper Swans Pamphlet Competition in 2016 and went on to be a Poetry Society Young Poets’ Network ‘Top Pick’. Her debut collection, Sightings (Pindrop Press) was also published in 2016. Elisabeth’s poems have been published in The Rialto, Stand, Wasafiri, Magma and Mslexia. She is a current Arvon/Jerwood mentee and lives in Norfolk with her husband and three children.
I liked you in the cinema best,
my own silent movie
ravelled in the plush of my blood.
The dark made you kick –
or was it the Dolby,
Chris Hemsworth’s voice,
an explosion in space.
You had a knack for suspense,
a Tarantino taste for gore.
This was your plot after all,
I was the board for your story,
your projectionist’s screen,
the scream for your Shining.
You were my slasher flick,
my happy ending,
my Oscar in the stars.
We needed our fix
of X-Men strangeness,
Fassbender in a cape,
that blue unsteady light.
It was the only place
I knew you, floated too,
cocooned in Vulcan.
Ah my salt-sweet baby,
it wasn’t popcorn we craved
but Ridley Scott, Loki’s
pale and beautiful wrath.
How we loved our future worlds,
my small Godzilla.
Let us tear down the set
and start again.
Joanna Ingham grew up in Suffolk and lives in Hertfordshire. Her poetry has been published in Ambit, Magma, The Sunday Times and in the anthology Best British Poetry 2012 (Salt). She won second prize in the Wildlife Poet of the Year 2008 competition, featured in BBC Wildlife magazine. She was recently longlisted for Primers 2, a scheme run by The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press. Joanna has worked in theatre and museums and runs creative writing workshops in community settings.
and view him
at the crack of dawn,
a broken spirit
sitting upon his cowards’
backyard tragic throne.
Bravely facing his sad end alone
more so than any of his kilted killers
who level their rifles carefully, steadily
shooting in unison from the shoulder,
felling this young father soldier.
Who was unable to ever return the fire
from friend or foe or fellow man.
His sad accepting eyes will prove to be
the assassins torture rack revisiting them
whilst laying in their beds of sweat and fear
when they are home again and they recall
time and time again the unkind mud and pointless rain.
The pain of his young body embalmed with hope and love
now slumped in its’ mud glove, resting. For his tender heart
could not impart nor bear the crass brutality
that any war brings — such blatant futility.
Look through the croft window
a crack of light shows her
cradling his clothes.
Dee High is based in West Norfolk is a retired teacher of the hearing impaired, so has long been interested in how emotions and thoughts are communicated. She has always endeavoured to express herself through different media but over the last couple of years she has discovered Sue Burge’s stimulating classes which seem to have unlocked some new avenues for her.
it ended beside the sea, a sea so still
it shimmered, mauve as the satin frock
her bridesmaid wore. Nothing should end
in summer, he objected, not when the sky
has forgotten about clouds.
It began outside a florist shop
with a bucket of irises, purple irises,
spilling their lushness on his polished boots
and she on her knees, mopping, wiping.
The middle was trousers never achieving
regulation creases, bed covers pulled too lax
to bounce his coins, the reek of burnt fat
and overcooked cabbage as storm after storm
raged, leaving behind mauve palm-prints.
Kaye Lee is an Australian poet resident in north London for many years. She worked in health care for 40 years until she retired and now spends most of her time reading and writing poetry. She has been published in poetry magazines and anthologies and won prizes in competitions. Belonging to poetry groups in Palmers Green and Enfield and to Second Light Network gives her much needed encouragement and inspiration.
I pin up a picture of us:
You & Me on plastic chairs
at a red plastic table
shrunk to the size of small,
bigger than a Borrower, littler than a BFG.
I am pouring tea made of air
into blue plastic cups.
I stop just before
they overflow. We are
Bert and Ernie,
Chip ‘n’ Dale,
Tom and Jerry,
Sylvester and Tweety Pie.
I ask you, how was your day
at work? Reprimand you
when you do not reply,
then answer for you.
My mouth is open but
I don’t know what
is coming out.
Later, we will remind me
of Little Tramp and Ellen
in Modern Times, sitting at their
makeshift table in the Depression’s
cold grip, where
house is pared back to the
toys of a child: two cups,
two plastic knives, a fork,
no bowls so we drink straight
from the tin, its most jagged
edge held turned away
from our lips. I will wonder
whether if we had not
learned to speak we could
have spoken in mime
across the windswept spaces separating
us from the city, pulling in
immigrants and natives, able and
disabled, young and old, black and white,
like Charlie did, only a harmonica playing.
Mary Livingstone is a sustainability consultant from Manchester who is now based in Ely. Her poems have been published in various places, including Lighthouse and Poetry News, and have been placed in competitions — most recently the Nantwich Words & Music Poetry Competition (2nd place). As well as writing poetry, she co-edits the literary magazine The Fenland Reed: www.thefenlandreed.co.uk @TheFenlandReed. She was chosen to be the Fenland Poet Laureate for 2016-17. www.marylivingstone.wix.com/poetry
At times, I hear the silence
a breath; a breath
like that of the dying, then you
that pins us to our seats.
I study your favourites
for clues: Some Like It Hot
as dressed up codicil, the darkness
between frames visible, perhaps,
if I train my eyes hard enough.
like a Hitchcock cameo:
train passenger, lone drinker;
a clerk at a desk, scribbling away
with a black Pilot pen, its fitful nib dashing across the page
like a beak on glass.
(Won’t you sneak me in
behind the fourth wall –
lighting rig, director’s chair,
missing props and garbled lines,
the countless takes, the eyes…)
In the plush dark, we reach
for an ending. Watch the credits roll.
We gather ourselves,
tipping over our drinks,
knocking elbows and knees,
shuffle our way out, as silhouettes.
Jonathan Totman lives in Ely and works as a clinical psychologist and lecturer. He was the Fenland Poet Laureate for 2015 and co-edits literary magazine, The Fenland Reed, together with Mary Livingstone.
It seizes me
like the way, as a kid, I would fling open the door to the
where we stored loo rolls
to give my best rendition of
The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow.
I believed a secret team of documentary -makers
filmed everyone upwards of six, for future posterity.
I planned on lots of future posterity, so
did my best Fat Sam into a cereal bowl
saving my particularly heart-wrenching
Fantine for waits in car parks and
a shower cubicle in Wales.
Now I want each word to you
to be as much a knock-out;
tender, but funny,
poignant, but droll,
in case it’s all there is.
Terrible to end on
The flush has gone or
The damp’s back or
something about the wrong tax code.
Terrible enough to put off
Instead I leave you
gnomic, preplanned voicemails
intended to uplift and edify.
You must be able to extract
nutrient from a sand-pit, I try—
murdering Thoreau, and
Where there is nothing, there is peace.
You call and ask me to stop.
It’s taken years for me to work it out.
There are no cameras.
Claudine Toutoungi’s poems have appeared in PN Review, Magma, Poems in Which, the anthology New Poetries VI (Carcanet, 2015) and Poetry (Chicago). Her debut collection Smoothie will be published by Carcanet in 2017. She also writes theatre and her plays Slipping and Deliverers have also aired on BBC Radio 4.
Jack Toye’s Picturehouse Picks
Jack Toye, Marketing Manager at the Picturehouse Cinema in Cambridge, has been hugely supportive of this project and I am delighted to announce “Jack’s Picturehouse Picks”. He has selected the two remaining entries which most stood out for him — find out why below!
Special Mention — Every Saturday — Audrey Ardern Jones
father gave me 1/6 to go to the pictures if mother
said my room was tidy and I’d finished all my chores;
we gathered at the bus-stop, girls in boots, miniskirts,
black-bitty curled-up mascaraed eyelashes, bee-hive
brushed hair, ticked eyes and white-pink lipstick;
swanky boys wolf-whistled at us, their arms winging
sideways, hanging on to a metal pole on the jump on,
jump off platform of the bus; the conductress clipped
our tickets from a wind-up machine on a leather strap
round her neck, tinging the bell twice at the Odeon stop;
inside we queued under a chandelier’s broken shades
handing our money to a man smoking alone in a kiosk,
his yellow stained fingers counting up our change;
we flirted with boys with spiv hair and leather jackets,
chewed gum, popped pink bubbles with matchsticks,
puffed halos in the air — fags from a packet of Players;
in the hall — posters of previous movies: The Pink Panther,
Peter & David; Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey & George;
Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Jane & Marilyn; The African Queen,
Humphrey & Katherine; Pillow Talk, Rock & Doris.
We were shooshed in by an aproned usherette in a frilly
hat holding a torch that poked holes in the dark, and
with a no hanky panky look in her eye she pointed to row
P in the back, our seats with ashtrays on the corners lit
by a shaft of light from a projector now switched on;
we could see the velour gold-fringed drapes tied back
on the stage-screen in the red-velvet carpeted room;
a lion’s head roaring — turning — ready to swallow us up.
Audrey Ardern-Jones has been published in various anthologies and journals. She was shortlisted for the Flambard Poetry Prize in 2014. She was a prize winner in the Troubadour International Poetry Competition 2016. She is Chair of The Royal Marsden’s Arts Forum and is the founder member of The Poetry & Music Ensemble. She is thrilled to have a special mention.
Special Mention — Glass Footprints — Jo Hurst
From the Georgian window lens
Onto the damp street below,
Like the cells of a Disney animation
Freeze frame by freeze frame I see
The lives below pass through and on and up
St Andrew’s Hill.
Yet, opposite the enamelled windows of
The church, half a millennium old
Watch steadfastly still.
Contained within that glance
The sands of Happisburgh and so
Fragments of footprints frozen an ice age
Those eyes had seen their own Jurassic Park-
Not T-Rex and triceratops but
Mammoths and parahippus softly grazing.
Those fleeting lives became the
Sands of time, illuminated jewels.
But what untarnished memories can I cast
Before the celluloid of life flickers
Jo Hurst read English at university before becoming an English teacher. She moved from the busy south east to Norfolk a few years ago and after attending the Cinema City Inspired by Film workshop has rediscovered the joy of writing, inspired largely by the beauty of the ever changing landscape in which she now lives. She enjoys reading a wide range of fiction and hopes to continue to develop her writing, in a variety of formats.