October 2016 Competition Results
Isabel Rogers, Hampshire Poet 2016, commented that she was looking forward to reading all of the entries when she adjudicated the competition for October 2016. ‘Inspired By Hampshire’ inspired our members to write a poem within the 300-word limit. Isabel has chosen the winners and shares her thoughts about them below.
1st Place: Scratch (Peter Hitchen) – New Forest UXB: ‘Historical’
2nd Place: Hilary Hares – Hampshire
3rd Place: Sally Russell – The Bull of Bull Drove
Highly Commended: Sue Spiers – The Alcorns and Avril Stephenson – Hampshire Haven
New Forest UXB: ‘Historical’ by Scratch (Peter Hitchen)
Isabel Rogers: This poem sustained a metaphor brilliantly throughout, as well as rooting the subject deeply in Hampshire locations. I loved the playful approach to language, teasing with multiple meanings of words, which brought out the deeper theme of the work. It conveyed a complex situation with huge economy and skill.
Jonny lit a blaze
in his father’s inclosure
then dashed to the front line
of his anguish and lobbed an F-bomb
that didn’t go off
he forsook his skateboard
for an unbridled pony
tacked his own pilgrimage out west
and made a small contribution
to the pink pound while he waited for
his pollarded psyche
to show signs of regrowth
regardless of grooming
sparse coppice was
the best it could manage
it aped charred furze
until he espaliered it onto
a stockade against pannage
it became a life’s work
sometimes he fantasised
about going back
maybe on a sunny
All Saints Day afternoon
they’d meet in the demilitarised zone of
a Burley tea shoppe
but he’d have dredged the F-bomb up
and have it with him
just in case he needed to
explode it at the precise moment
to cause maximum damage
Hampshire by Hilary Hares
Isabel Rogers: I enjoyed this poem’s use of repetition and carefully controlled lines and stanzas, and the deliberate relaxing of line length – just once – to bring out some dark humour. It was an almost cinematic tour of the many aspects of our county, creating many images I loved.
That spits its history into its ports
like an indentured midshipman,
that hides its secrets under a hill
where a tunnel carries them to London.
That challenges France from
the quenelles of its downs,
that grew rich on milk and wheat,
that fattens its ponies on gorse.
That abolished its trams,
that closed its dockyard
where a siren released a flock
of black bikes every weekday at four.
Hampshire, where Gormley stands
in the crypt of the cathedral,
that boasts two kings, that despairs
of its trains.
That excels at sea, whose knights
are legend, that bred Brunel,
that guards its coast
with abandoned forts.
In a Hampshire keep a damsel
lets loose the tresses of a fable.
She writes behind a door
that once she painted green.
The Bull of Bull Drove by Sally Russell
Isabel Rogers: This poem described a rich snapshot of the old Bull Drove open air swimming area, with a lot of vivid glimpses of character drawn with economy. The ending, encapsulated in the final two stanzas, is as disturbing as I’m sure it is intended to be.
She teeters on the Bull Drove river bank
like a riparian wood nymph.
Messy dark blonde bob, thick cut fringe,
hand-me-down seersucker costume
the colour of waving weeds.
Frayed straps cut her pubescent shoulders raw.
Her naked heels are rooted in mud,
a shaggy grass rag rug tufting between her toes.
She hugs herself with pipe cleaner arms,
pale and goosebumped, fingertips blue.
A cacophony of children bob up and down
like jumping fish, splashing, dive bombing,
shooting dank-smelling froth over her skin.
Her eyes dart about, searching for
the bulls of Bull Drove. Languorous swells drift past;
pondweed tendrils flutter like watery windsocks.
A submerged shoal of teenagers ripples past,
picking freckled, age-worn pebbles
from the river bed, while shafts of sunlight
pierce the cloudy depths.
A bull-shaped head breaks the surface.
He rolls his neck, shakes a Catherine wheel
of water from his shaven scalp.
He smiles and grasps her hand.
Her mouth opens in a silent scream
as she leans away. He tugs. She slides
down into hostile waters.
It is her turn to learn to swim.
The Alcorns by Sue Spiers:
Isabel Rogers: A beautifully drawn portrait of grandparents, with tender descriptions shining through what must have been a hard life for Lily. The final stanza is heartbreaking, with its mention of money almost as an afterthought but providing the emotional after-kick of this poem.
Gentleman Jack they called him in The Crown,
always wore a jacket and bow tie in the pub.
On Sundays my cousins and I sat outside
with a bag of crisps and a lemonade each,
giggling at nan’s ‘fag-ash Lil’ nick-name,
a cigarette bobbing on her lip, scattering ash.
I never knew she was disabled, she had thin legs
and one Frankenstein shoe with a platform.
She got her shoes on the NHS, custom made.
A work pair in black and a best pair in fawn.
Sometimes she’d let me fix in the rod
and lace up the strap under her swollen knee.
Grandad showed me his Readers Digest books
pointed out countries in the World Atlas,
talked with me about the photos in the zoo book
colour photos of leopards, dolphins, anemones,
given to me when he died because my cousins
showed no interest in that kind of stuff.
Their son died in infancy, around the time
granddad was living with another woman.
Lily took him back against her brothers’ advice.
Their third girl was born a year later.
I calculated their first was born six months
before the date on their wedding certificate.
Lily wouldn’t let doctors tell him he had cancer,
convinced them to diagnose tuberculosis.
The sitting room became his sick room for a year.
She got it nine years later, gave up within a month
owing £40 to the co-op. £400 to bury them together,
to get her name added to his headstone.
Hampshire Haven by Avril Stephenson
Isabel Rogers: This was a delightful sense-fest, with rhythm and internal rhyme combining to create a cascade of a prose-poem. We are shown a beautiful day at the beach and its surroundings. I could almost taste the salt spray.
Sunbeams stridently escape the clouds, glinting, hinting at long summer hours, easy days, lazy crowds, loud laughter, raft of strong shadows
Glimmering horizon shimmers through the heat haze, terns swoop down, skimming the waves, follow shoals swimming, dip for a tit-bit, gone in a flash, dash away, specks in the sky
Skin blushed by the kiss of sun, massaged with balmy lotion, notional protection from fearsome rays, motion of the ocean, soothing the soul, whispering lullaby held in a spell
Cool off in the water, gently enter in, deliciously fresh, coldly shocking, sparkling wavelets rapid racing, bracing, slowly succumb, enticing arms enfolding, holding, beckoning “come in!”
Close to nature, buoyed up by the water, darting like a fish, relaxing with the waves, vista of hills rising steeper in the distance, broad shoulders standing importantly in line
Pebbles worn smoother than a ping-pong ball, crunchy sand crystals nestle between toes, seaweed blisters hold bladders of water, optimistic sand hoppers bounce amongst driftwood, leaping along with unharnessed glee
Tang of dried flotsam, fish and driftwood, taste of salt carried on the breeze, jellyfish remains, transparent, rubbery, tentacles menacing with suckers underneath
Cliffs wear drifts of purple heather, rusty bracken slackens, bows to the ground, feather ends brush on dry sedge grasses, worms slither sinuously along the sandy soil
Excited children’s voices waft across beaches, chirping like birdsong, mixing in a melody with whispers on the wind
Broody chalk-white needles rise majestic from the sea, aloof from the island, distant, mysterious, boldly guarding the twinkling bay
Motorboats and ski-jets rudely intrude, disturbing the calm like hornets at a picnic, fumes race away in the breezy summer air
Kite-surfers skilfully use nature’s forces, powerful as horses, gliding, turning, racing, embracing silently the power of the wind.