Thursday, 23 November 2017

THE WINNER OF THE 9TH FORTNIGHT POETRY PRIZE IS...

Kierstin Bridger!





Congratulations, she wins publication of her poem on this blog, and £140 to be paid immediately via PayPal.

There are two runners up this time, tied for second place:

P.C. Vandall for 'Wintering'
and

Greer Gurland for 'That tree is empty, my son tells me'

All the rest listed below were very good poems also.

Bridger is a Colorado writer and author of 20117 Women Writing The West's Willa Award for Demimonde (Lithic Press 2016). Her full collection is All Ember (Urban Farmhouse Press). Winner of the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, the 2015 ACC Writer’s Studio award, an Anne LaBastille Poetry residency and short-listed for the Manchester Poetry Competition in the UK, Bridger is both editor of Ridgway Alley Poems and Co-Director of Open Bard Poetry Series. She co-hosts Poetry Voice with poet Uche Ogbuji. Find her current work in December, Prairie Schooner and Painted Bride Quarterly. She earned her MFA at Pacific University. Kierstinbridger.com


WINNING POEM:


Of Arc



Stepping across the threshold
I take a long, smoky pull
from the August dark, 
try to memorize dirt and water
all that holds me on this blue orb 
every boy I met at midnight 
every car I pushed down the road 
revved like thunder
leaned into bend and turn
to escape the rearview 
bridges snapping
rope and board 
peripheral flickers of constellation 
bigger than the small grip of control
it took to shut out the lights
lock the door, 
secure the privacy settings. 

In this brittle haze of nostalgia 
I remember another mad man is in charge
but this time I have a child asleep 
while I secret this drag. 
Listen,
my curated walls are enflamed
my zip code could be nuked
just like that it could be gone.
I have to take off my specs--what you do before a fight--
My opponent will blur
the way they did for Artemisia
and for Joan.

This is how to stand like a knight 
only a slim blade against the dragon
of this time:
Hold my light 
I'll whisper into the legacy of stars
to the wind and crescent moon
handover my glowing ash and lick of flame.
Every uprising takes a curve of trajectory
and a practice run.
Every revolution starts with one woman
turning inward, holding court with herself.


copyright Kierstin Bridger, 2017, published with permission of the author


Judges's comments (by Todd Swift)

This was an impressive field of poems... I read through over 350 poems to select 16 that stood out. To generalise, never too wise with poetry, the poems were either heartfelt and evocative of a looking back to childhood, or ahead to death; or they were anti-Trump in nature (and good for them); or, zanily surrealist. I would gladly publish any of these poets, based on this quality of writing. McColl and Finnegan, for instance, both presented powerful and moving variations on the theme of childhood remembered.

The three that finally emerged as top managed to somehow combine wit, feeling, and some sense of politics, in very human and humane ways, that seemed resonant with the Thanksgiving and wintry mood.

Vandall's poem is deliriously bold and feminist, with her celebration of a woman's body, self-reflected upon in a bathtub. In fact it is mostly a celebration of her "beaver" - and one of the funniest poems I have read.  I include it in full below.

Gurland's untitled poem seems  perhaps slight, at first... it is certainly traditional, and gentle. She studied with Heaney at Harvard, and it shows.  The poem's crafted subtleties yield to a sense of a deep sense of what poetry's more modest phrasings can achieve, and I found myself returning to its humane depths. I also include it below.

The winning poem seemed to me brilliant. It explores nostalgia, revolution, feminism, the current political crisis facing America, but also includes funny, and sometimes lovely, moments and images, as well, and ends with a surprisingly well-turned metaphor, as it were - the arcing power of Arc, potential in each person - each woman, at least, as the poem says.




Wintering



I’m crouched in the bath, a sinking feeling
much like the slow drain of pigment dripping
off the landscape into clean sheets of snow.
Under the skylight I glimpse a twinkling

strand beneath folds of water like tinsel
tangled in the scrub brush. I'm mortified.
My beaver doesn't give a good gawd damn,
has high-tailed it out of there and has left

a badger to burrow in the dark roots.
Do I pillage the village, torch the fields
in hopes of a better crop? Who'll dine
downtown if there's too much salt and pepper

on the table? Who'll choose shepherd’s pie
when there's cherries left to pluck? I don't want
my fair lady in waiting to fold up
like an accordion box, a windbag

croaking refrains of —Roll out the Barrel.
What I need is a fur trapper to hunt
this silver fox that trots the snowy
tundra of my crotch. I'm hunched in the claw

footed tub watching my camel-toe turn
pigeon-toed. In the unfurling twilight
an old crone comes from the mouth of the cave,
chipping away at my clitography.


copyright 2017 PC Vandall




'That tree is empty, my son tells me.'

That tree is empty, my son tells me.
It is October. Where do I begin explaining
just how wrong and right he is,
and then how little right I have to tell him
what a full life is? I am shocked every year
at how bright the world appears
and for such a short time.
I am the opposite of a child
in this one way: what I see, I have
a hard time believing ever fully goes away.
Yes, the tree is empty of its leaves,
but it is also fully changed by having
shed them, and fully ready for an answer,
ready to receive the snow, your question,
ready to be seen-- and prepared to hide again
in beauty, come Spring—just wait with me.

copyright 2017 Greer Gurland


The full 16-strong shortlist is here:

1.     Audrey Malloy – ‘Getting out of here’
2.     Greer Gurland – ‘That tree is empty, my son tells me’
3.     Henry Stanton – ‘I Forgot Who Told Me This’
4.     James Finnegan – ‘I was in Lanesborough today’
5.     Jane Burn – ‘Leith Harbour’
6.     Joe Lines –‘Interior’
7.     K. Faust –‘ The Eccentric French Song and Dance Man of Grand Rapids’
8.     Kierstin Bridger – ‘Of Arc’
9.     Laura Seymour – ‘Smile house’
10. Marisa Silva-Dunbar – ‘Discordia’
11. P.C. Vandall – ‘Wintering’
12. Rennie Ament – ‘In America’
13. Serge Neptune – ‘Cathedral’
14. Stephanie Roberts – ‘I imagine’
15. Susan Baller-Shepard – ‘He did what I told him to do’
16. Thomas McColl –‘Guess Which Hand’

THE TENTH SPECIAL CHRISTMAS FORTNIGHT is coming soon!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

GUEST REVIEW: PAUL S. ROWE ON BEN MAZER'S SELECTED POEMS


Possibility Glimpsed Through Windows: A Review of Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems


Ben Mazer. Selected Poems. (Ashville, NC: MadHat Press, 2017). 248 pp., with a preface by Philip Nikolayev.

 
A project that has been incubating since his debut collection White Cities (Barbara Matteau Editions, 1995), Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems (MadHat Press, 2017) has arrived. Spanning over twenty years of zealous creative output, this volume begins with three euphonious glimpses of Mazer’s poetic career. To read these early poems is to peer through the ornate window of some far-flung edifice to discover scenery and situations ripe with the allure of intrigue and espionage, as in the poem “The Traveller”:
 

                        In a strange country, there is only one
                        Who knows his true name and could turn him in.
                        But she, whose father too was charged with murder
                        And, innocent, went to the electric chair,
                        Believes in him, convinces him to trust.
                        It is the tropics where they make their tryst.
                        They sip refreshing drinks beside a terraced
                        Pool where he is thought to be a tourist.
                        To clear his name, and find who killed his pal,
                        In a dark passage he finds hope and will.
                        What once had seemed exotic now seems near
                        Because he wished to be her prisoner.


The locale, the narrative intricacy, and the musicality of these lines prophesize the languid cinematic quality of Mazer’s mature poetry. The poem’s secrets are representative of the untold histories of lives: the quiet tragedies and comedies of the human experience. The legacy of romantic quest narrative here mingles with the poem’s nostalgia for a time that may or may not have ever existed, but which manifests the mystery of the most profound human motives and desires. Even this early in Mazer’s career, phonic echo is employed to enhance our sense of the places where life and art’s similarities meet differences. Consider here the “trust” and “tryst” that become conjoined through desire, the fugitive disguised as a “tourist” that becomes “terraced” by his own trauma and passion, at once seeking freedom yet desiring “to be… prisoner.”

These impressions of shared history push against Mazer’s sense of selfhood as a poet. Time and again, line after line, cultural experiences coalesce with what is personally influential. Mazer’s streets, shops, gardens, and corridors are imbued with collective meaning, memory, and potentiality as in Mazer’s poem “The Double” from Poems (Pen & Anvil Press, 2010):

                                         intelligent inscriptions

                       
in very dried out blue gray ink. Lots of dumpsters. And seagulls.
                        Or are they pigeons. They seem related, as the air is to the sea.
                        When it gets darker, or foggier, it is a really big soup

                       
of souls, works of art, time tables, the hour before dinner,
                        theatrical enterprise, memories of things never happened,
                        warnings spoken in a voice familiar, a keen and quickened sense

                       
of possibility glimpsed through windows.

Things that never happened—threads either cut off from us by some mysterious cosmic force —are intimated by the poet’s consciousness of history, nature, his ongoing relationship with both, combined with his artistic sensibility. Throughout his Selected Poems, Mazer’s readers become alive to the poet’s understanding of “Time / as a movie.” These lyric windows reveal the lives we might have lived as “The closed world adumbrates the snow” in “Rhapsody on a Winter’s Night” and “Beneath the porcelain awake / tidal waves of other lives / and unburied memory” lie for us to feast on. The past, present, and future are “resonances” that “freeze” for us, every line, every echo, capturing and reconstituting some deep human impression, revealing some strange rendezvous between reality and perception. Consider this dizzying phonic whirlwind:

                        And the sleeping melodies

                       
of motionless uncertainties.
                       
And the sleeping melodies
                       
of abandoned vacancies.
                       
And the sleeping melodies
                       
of forms and structures without cease.
                        And the sleeping melodies
                        of abandoned centuries.

                       
And the streetlight on the street,
                        the absent tread of absent feet.

This cyclone of repetition and variation reminds me of Wallace Stevens’s “Domination of Black,” its leaves, peacock feathers, hues, and planets in sonic orbit, yet the objects of contemplation in Mazer’s poem set in motion, with mesmerizing force, the images and sounds of earlier days faced with scenarios of the poet’s dream life. As this vortex of potentiality spirals phonically outward through Mazer’s interplay of trochee and iamb, assonance, and rhyme, memories and imaginings court one another in an oneiric song worthy of a place beside our great modernists.

Yet Mazer’s later work takes on elemental Romantic themes of love, madness, and the frenzied compulsion to compose. Travel again comes to the fore as Mazer’s theme of the lost soul attempting to carve out a home through song emerges during the finale to The Glass Piano (MadHat Press, 2015):


                        The headlines of the newspapers averred
                       
a unified delight in the deferred
                       
long hour of homecoming. All were heading home:
                        by days, and hours, changes at railway stations,

                       
out to the provinces, with a little patience.
                       
He closed his book, and leaned back in his seat,
                        and saw the thousand images repeat.

                       
For him there never could be going home.
                        Th
ere was the eucharist. There was the poem.

These stories in the papers, sights and sounds of bustling life, are reminders of a dim reality outside of the poet’s inner bog of potentiality. The return to garden-variety existence can never occur for the poet. Mazer’s ritualized process of inspiration is as undeterred as the “deferred / long hour of homecoming.” A “thousand images repeat” and the emerging poem takes on spiritual significance as “the eucharist,” something that enters the poet and his readers transubstantiated. The machine of poiesis becomes engaged even as the train makes its stops. Despite the other passengers getting off at their destinations, for the artist “there never could be going home.” One cannot will back a lost lover or estranged spouse, and so Mazer graciously urges readers in December Poems (Pen & Anvil Press, 2016):

                        Start with the rain. The day starts with the rain.
                        The Sunday rain. Another Sunday rain.
                        Let it go on and on and on like pain.
                        Thus find your elemental theme in rain.

And later in the poem:

                        The calendar with love has been cast out.
                        The vows and promises another route
                        have taken, not what might have been.
                        The soul is empty underneath the skin,
                        the faithless lover lies in naked sin.
                        Just so. With rain you let the day begin.

Rain brings on the new day, and the devotions of the wayward spouse have washed away. Even so, a new day must begin. The day here “adumbrates” the point where the joys of poetic creation are shot through with the painful light of sincere anguish, “Caligari, tortured in oblong angles, / beer garden, mental institute, who mangles / memory.” Yet “There is a lot to see / in first encountered shards of history,” and:

                        After awhile the branches blue and thicken
                        with winter darkness, stillnesses that quicken
                        the senses, and an orange light comes on,
                        a single flare that signifies day’s gone.

Now that day is gone, blighted material revivified via poetry might flourish in the winter darkness of these lines. Though all light appears to have been drained from the speaker’s life, the world forever turned upside down by the utter disintegration of love’s security, these “stillnesses… quicken / the senses” and the sensibility.


Less than a year after this poem was published, Mazer’s February Poems (Ilora Press, 2017) provides us with a noteworthy sonnet:

                        Hands that are old and trivial, never be old
                        too much to remember these flashing scenes:
                        fainting in the parking lot on your wedding night,
                        the lawns of Claremont and their gossamer sheens;
                        the great joy, running away from the crowd,
                        to the celebratory nuptial garden,
                        the twin exits where lovers disappear,
                        or the calm of breakfast, away from the strangers.
                        Hands that rest in my hands, what is a year,
                        to the inexplicable, docent memory
                        of a thousand nights, and a thousand days,
                        Italian restaurants after the plays,
                        or the garland of flowers, dried and withered,
                        carried by hands to place on the graves.

This apostrophe to the hands of the absent lover, these warm memories themselves now like the “strangers” the lovers flee from, the command to “never be old / too much to remember these flashing scenes” all forebode “the garland of flowers, dried and withered, / carried by hands to place on graves.” The hands that carry one another through a brief period of love, elegized by these lines, are the same hands that place the flowers on the graves. Mazer reminds us that our “shards of history” are refracted with both light and shadow, love and grief.


Paul S. Rowe

Saturday, 11 November 2017

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN


THIS MAN KNEW WHERE ALL THE BODIES WERE BURIED IN HOLLYWOOD....
I was sexually harassed by an actor when I was a young teenager, after going to an audition with him, so the recent revelations about the great and the good of Hollywoodland and its outlying tar pits were hardly going to leave me cold.  Like a lot of people online at the moment, each accusation against a star, producer or TV actor, ricochets all over the place. But none of the downfalls has hurt as much as Kevin Spacey's.

I have taken flak online the past week for criticising the cynical, and to my mind, Orwellian, decision to reshoot film history and cut Spacey out of the new Ridley Scott Getty film. The Onion had a joke about the whole industry being repopulated with Christopher Plummer clones (some began to misbehave). Even to mention sadness at the news that Kevin Spacey's acting career is over was apparently tantamount to mourning the death of Satan.

However, I have a long and complicated relationship with Kevin Spacey - as an artist, not a person (having never met him in the flesh, perhaps a good thing). I do not think it condones molestation or sex crime to say that it is a melancholy and perhaps tragic event, when a great genius is cut off in their prime. And to my mind, Spacey is a genius.

I saw him in his first roles, on TV in Long Day's Journey Into Night; then, in his run of classics, which, unless someone buys and erases them, will be among the great films of the last century - Glengarry Glen Ross, Se7en, The Usual Suspects, LA Confidential, American Beauty; and, then playing Lex Luthor, after a decade or more of rather mediocre film work, but brilliant directing and acting at The Old Vic in London; and then in his triumphant return for 5 seasons of the remake of House of Cards, virtually turning Netflix, overnight, into a mainstream player.

No one acts like Spacey on film. His acidic, acerbic, diamond-sharp malice and malevolent charisma was built for villains, lowlifes, and creeps - but bad guys with balls and a whip-smart tongue. His machine-gun fire delivery was as fast as the screwball comedians' of yore, but he spewed a rancid dialogue, usually, of repellent, or cruel, or mocking jibes.

Spacey was always snakelike and weird onscreen - his almost-handsome features ruined by a sense of danger and menace in whatever he did, which made him a lousy lead actor in happy films and family-aimed comedies, but made him one of the greatest screen heavies of all time. Looking back on his career, it seems he was always really a character actor. Like Philip Seymour Hoffman, almost his contemporary, and also a genius of stage and screen, he battled demons, but often brought his A game to a performance.

I found his delivery and confidence riveting. I studied how he spoke and held himself, and used his delivery to help me become a world class debating champion.  Everything I learned about public speaking came from Thor Bishopric, Ted Koppel, Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Spacey.

To me, Spacey has been as much a part of my life - films and theatre are about 20% of my life's interest (poetry, politics, art and music filling the rest) - and he was my favourite actor for the past 22 years - so I guess that means he was pretty much representative of 8% or so of what meant something to me, for a long time. If that seems an odd way of saying he was a hero, then yeah, put it that way.

Some of my other male heroes have had feet of clay - notably Oscar Wilde, Martin Luther King, Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, and Ezra Pound, who each had issues with their psyches, sexuality or politics, of course. My female heroes - Ida Lupino, Plath, Dickinson, Meryl Streep - seem less compromised. Regardless, I have learned to try and separate the personal lives of great saints, artists, actors, from their works.

It was once a fact that theatre people were not viewed as respectable, and in Victorian times, they lived in a shadowy demi-monde of scandal, yet were paid to perform by a public that understood the haunted and strange profession of being an artist on the boards. In fact, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Spacey's first triumph, is a play about the damaging ghosts of the theatreworld, and how acting has infected and destroyed a family, with its sins of drink, fornication and even opiates.

It is maybe unfortunate for Spacey that he lived in an age where actors stepped into the daylight, out of the limelight, to try and lead more normal lives, of respectability. In the past, and this is not to celebrate or forgive, but to historicize, his actions would have been seen as unsurprising for a flamboyant movie star millionaire. Charlie Chaplin was obsessed with pre-pubescent girls. Erroll Flynn was a priapic predator. Walt Disney... well.  Howard Hughes used to buy women's contracts to control them. Sinatra, Heffner, John Lennon, Elvis...

Yes, it is probably a good thing that the coruscating light of Twitter is now able to expose the foibles, sins, crimes, weaknesses, and sometimes, merely bad habits, of famous creative persons. It is perhaps less good that the exposure comes with 100% condemnation, and no tempering filters of sympathy, or understanding, and no offer of a helping hand. No love, just rage, blame, and hate.

One of the ironies of child abuse victims is that when they grow up to sometimes offend themselves, they tend to lose all support from society - they are suddenly only a monster. Yet, from what we have heard, Spacey's father was a true "monster" - he raped Spacey's brother, and beat them and abused them both, and forced pornography into their lives, as well as a far-right politics that is shocking. If Spacey was damaged by such a childhood, which is likely, none of that seems to matter to those who have immediately bayed for his blood.

If I was Spacey and had lost everything, I might consider suicide. He is being treated, and even that is being laughed at. Far from being an apologist for the defeated, wounded humans that often commit such sexual crimes, I come, as a Catholic, with merely the sense that I too am a human, a sinner, and capable of failings and imperfections. Most people, if they were worth £60 million pounds, and world famous, might, when drunk, make some awkward passes. In time, such celebrity behaviour can spiral downwards, as in this case. A society that prostrates itself before celebrity certainly can tempt even the strongest will, I suspect. What Spacey needs is a good priest, as much as a doctor.

If Spacey has done all he has been alleged to have done, it may be right he stop acting for a time, to face his demons, to face trial, and to heal and make amends. Still, it is unclear how cancelling a TV series loved by millions, that employs hundreds, will help anyone. Cancelling the movies he had already filmed or signed on to do also seems overkill. I suppose the view is, it will send a clear message that no longer will behaviour of this kind be tolerated. Maybe that is why it is being done. It looks and smells a lot more like a cynical ploy to cover some assess, and whitewash a bigger problem.

Spacey is not the worst person in Hollywood... more revelations are spilling out daily. Whatever the merits of this immediate turn against Spacey - and who since Wilde has fallen so far so fast from the stages of London and beyond? - I will not entirely abandon my acting hero. He will always remain a great actor, on stage and screen. I know now he is not a "good person" and he may have acted badly in his private and professional life. But, so did Kennedy, Picasso and almost every Jazz musician I adore.

If that is cultural compartmentalisation, so be it.

I refuse to turn my back on every person who is found out to have acted wrongly, even terribly.  Just as families of criminals do not always disown their own, even while condemning the crimes, I will seek to hate the sins of Spacey, but love the sinner.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

THE 21 BEST POETRY BOOKS OF THE 21 CENTURY



THE PRIZE
FOR THE 21 BEST POETRY BOOKS OF THE 21ST CENTURY, IN ENGLISH

is a one-off major international award, to be judged by a large panel of many leading poets, critics and scholars. It will identify, celebrate and reward the poets and publishers of small, medium and large presses who have created the very best poetry collections in the English language in the past 17 years.

Shortlisted poets and their publisher will both receive £250 each, and an invitation to read at the gala awards ceremony in the UK, AT Pembroke College, Cambridge University, 2018.

The BEST BOOK OF THE 21ST CENTURY will be awarded £2,100, ADDITIONALLY.

ALL 21 winning books will be on display at the gala, and widely publicised at our award-winning blog, and via social media. Submissions close LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY 2018. The shortlist will be announced no later than TWO MONTHS FROM FINAL CLOSURE OF PRIZE.

The judges have been selected to represent all schools and styles of contemporary poetics, and hail from Australia, America, Canada, India, Ireland, and the UK. The full list of judges is listed below, with bios to follow.

ALL SINGLE-AUTHOR POETRY COLLECTIONS, including pamphlets, PUBLISHED 2000-2017 are eligible; this includes all poetry collections, including self-published books (in which case the author would also win the publisher award). The publications must have appeared in physical form on paper, PRINTED in whatever format (i.e. from perfect bound, to loose sheets in a box).

Poets, their publishers, and members of the public who wish to submit (in other words, nominate) a book may do so. Publishers, poets, and the public are free to submit/nominate as many books as they wish. You may nominate your own work.

Once a book has been submitted, it will be publicly recorded (title, author and publisher listed) on our WEB site WITHIN 48 HOURS – duplications will be refunded. Each book will require one copy to be physically submitted within one month of submitting the name. All books are to be posted to the Eyewear postal address: Suite 333, 19-21 Crawford Street, London, UK, W1H 1PJ.

All shortlisted books will go to the judging panel. All other books will be donated to charity shops.

The sifting panel will consist of the Eyewear editorial board, including Todd Swift, Alexandra Payne and Rosanna Hildyard, in consultation with members of the final judges' panel.

NOMINATE HERE: https://eyewearpublishing.submittable.com/submit/85269/the-eyewear-prize-for-the-21-best-printed-poetry-books-of-the-21st-century-in-en

The final judging panel comprises*:

  1.  ALEX HOUEN
  2. AGNIESZKA STUDSZINSKA
  3. ANTHONY CALESHU
  4. CLEA ROBERTS
  5. COLETTE SENSIER
  6. DAVID MUSGRAVE
  7. DAVID WHEATLEY
  8. DIANE BRADY
  9. EDWARD RAGG
  10. IAN BRINTON
  11. ILYA KAMINSKY
  12. JAN OWEN
  13. JOHN GREENING
  14. KATE NOAKES
  15. KAVITA A. JINDAL
  16. KIMBERLY CAMPANELLO
  17. MARIELA GRIFFOR
  18. MARK YAKICH
  19. NIGEL MCLOUGHLIN
  20. PATRICK CHAPMAN
  21. PHILIP HIEBERT
  22. REBECCA GAYLE HOWELL
  23. RISHI DASTIDAR
  24. SEAN SINGER
  25. SHANTA ACHARYA
  26. TIM DOOLEY
  27. TOBY MARTINEZ DE LAS RIVAS
  28. UMIT SINGH DHUGA
  29. USHA KISHORE
  30. ZATA BANKS



* The panel of judges may change, without invalidating the competition, as the large pool of judges guarantees a degree of continuity.



Guidelines

• Submissions must be made via Eyewear Publishing Ltd’s Submittable page. The fee to submit each title is £20. This will help defray the cost of the prize.

• Books must be original work, by a single author, published in the English language in the years 2000 to 2017. There are no restrictions on style or subject matter. Eyewear staff encourage writers from diverse backgrounds, as well as indie and small press poets, to submit their work. SELECTEDS, COLLECTEDS and WORKS OF TRANSLATION will not be considered. POSTHUMOUS collections may be submitted.

Eligibility

All poets over the age of 18 from anywhere in the world are eligible.

Code of Ethics

• All entries will be screened by the Eyewear Publishing Ltd staff.

• Given the large panel size, there are no limits on submissions relating to connections to a particular judge, since we will require each judge to recuse themselves from any decision involving a former or current student, friend, partner, family member, or close colleague.

• Authors’ works of poetry published by Eyewear Publishing Ltd are not eligible.

This prize is given in a spirit of open reflection and welcome, and acknowledges that prizes are by their very nature somewhat invidious - but the alternative - to not seek what appears most worth reading - in an age where the poetry book is always potentially at risk from competing forms of entertainment and media - seems more so.

Note: Eyewear Publishing Ltd reserves the right to cancel the prize due to unforeseen circumstances at any time, at which point, all monies and books submitted will be returned within 3 months.

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Winner of the 8th Fortnight Poetry Prize is...

ANNA DE VAUL FOR ‘Broken Up’

Our 8th winner!


RUNNER-UP: GLEN WILSON – ‘Mouths To Feed’

 THE SHORTLIST

1.      DENIS BERNICKY – ‘The Moose And The Coyote’

2.      ANNE CASEY – ‘Metaphoric Rise’

3.      COLIN DARDIS – ‘Look Out’

4.      ANNA DE VAUL – ‘Broken Up’

5.      JAMES FINNEGAN – ‘Ghost Effect’

6.      SEANIN HUGHES – ‘A Collection Of Small Things’

7.      JOE LINES – ‘Crossing Harbour Street’

8.      SHEY MARQUE – ‘Unpicking A Bird’

9.      JESS NIEBERG – ‘Cherries’

10.  ROCHELLE POTKAR – ‘Atonement’

11.  CARRIE RADNA – ‘Studded Buddhas’

12.  LAURA SEYMOUR – ‘Dry Stone Waller’

13.  MADELEINE STEVENS – ‘The English Student’

14.  GLEN WILSON – ‘Mouths To Feed’

 

Anna (A.E.) De Vaul pictured above writes both prose and poetry. Some of her recent work can be found in The Fenland Reed, Under the Radar, The Literateur, Wasafiri, and The New European. She is also an editor of the literary journal Lighthouse. Her chapbook in progress is Cosmonaut.


Broken Up
 
 I.
 
And so I stand
intestines spilling from my fingers
heart long scattered
to wind and the beaks of birds
who circle now, who see
the blood and the absence
spilling across the pavement

 

II.
 

They've come home to roost
feathers sticking to ribs
and sternum, wingtips poking
liver and spleen
talons curled around collarbones
when they hang to sleep
like bats; some are bats
I can hear the rustle
in my chest, almost rhythmic
I can almost feel the warmth

  

III.
 

When I open my mouth
to sing mites pour out
trickle up my face to my hair
find homes, build nests
wave their legs in time
to the keen of jetplanes
and my battered ukulele

 

IV.

 
There's a sparrow
lodged in my throat
She shivers when I drink
sparkling water, screeches
at Oban and Laphroaig
but she likes the peat and sweet
of Lagavulin, coos and curls
herself into a ball so small
I could almost start eating again

  

V.

 
It's hard to ride a bike
when you've got birds
in your lungs
I cough up pinfeathers
and the hulls of seeds
on the bus, try to hide
my spattered hands
from the grandmothers
sitting silent around me

 
 

VI.

 
Pebbled eggs slip down
through my esophagus
tip and tilt from vertebrae
squeeze past my stomach
and through the ruins
to the cradle of my pelvis
I walk with hips held forward
to protect the fragile shells

 
 

VII.
 

In this city that lacks
the songs of birds
they're the last
of their kind, refugees
bearing witness
to a history
we’d rather wash clean
I can’t help but cling
to their tiny bodies
can’t help but feel
the urge to nurture
to never let them go



copyright 2017 A.E. De Vaul

 

JUDGE'S COMMENTS BY ROSANNA HILDYARD:

And still, poets return to Greece. From Sapphic verses and dactyls – the very structure of English poetry – to Ocean Vuong playing Telemachus, so much comes from the Ancient Greek. And the winning poet this week begins with an image of Prometheus, the god who loved humans so much that he gave us fire, and was cast out of heaven for it. 

Remaking the classics with originality is not easy. What de Vaul has done, impressively, is to take the idea of Prometheus’ protective love, sacrifice and obsession to create a poem that manages to encompass childbirth, fear of death, and the ecosystem in its exploration of a singular image: that of a body containing birds. The ‘Pebbled eggs’ which: 
 
slip down
through my esophagus
tip and tilt from vertebrae
squeeze past my stomach
and through the ruins
to the cradle of my pelvis
 
are both baby and the circular cells of cancer, the image of swallowing eggs allowing us to hold both alien body and pregnancy in our minds. It creates an unsettling idea of invasive foetus, an refreshingly honest view of how pregnancy can feel. And simultaneously, suggests a poignant irony for a body blossoming with cells, which cannot sustain itself, let alone any other life.

Fragility is a theme in this poem, evoked with ‘pinfeathers’, tiny bodies and their tenderest parts, sticking-out hipbones and lungs. The careful descriptions serve as a meditation on the speaker’s own body, and reveal her fear of sensuality and physicality. Indeed, many of the poems this fortnight are reflective of a time when we live longer than ever, yet are therefore more concerned with illness, and have become more and more obsessed with avoiding all reminders of death and decay.

Googling symptoms is normal behaviour, as is following the latest trends in exercise and eating for self-improvement, having plastic surgery and mechanical implants, and buying bloodless, heavily packaged meat. Poems dealt with hypochondria, sense of dissolving self, or the death of something symbolically fragile – there were several about the death of beloved cats, animals which describe the tension between fragility and resilience, or innocence and callousness.

Seanin Hughes’ ‘Cats Get Killed All The Time’ was a worthy contender, however, her poem ‘A Collection of Small Things’ stood out. The repeated thump of the refrain ‘small things’ echoes in the reader’s head. In a long poem the insistence small belies the speaker’s compulsive need to constantly reiterate words and phrases, and is revealing of her mental state. Italicised in a way that goes against every schoolteacherly convention of poetry, the speaker’s restrained desperation is truly evident.

The runner-up, ‘Mouths To Feed’, [TRIGGER WARNING FOR CAT LOVERS LIKE THIS EDITOR] is a deceptively simple poem named for a common figure of speech. Like Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Early Purges’, Glen Wilson deals with the drowning of cats on a farm and the uneasiness produced in an observing child.

Kitten murder is, of course, no laughing matter, but this poem has a particular sense of threat, with an almost medieval atmosphere. The rhythm is built on downbeats: ‘Calloused hands / red with the cold, caked in dark clay’ relies on alliteration for its aural power – it is like Old English poetry, reminiscent of dark battles and binary figures of darkness and light.

The poem as a whole is structured on half-rhymes: ‘behind/stride’, ‘hour/raw’, ‘him/shins’. Each one falls short of what the reader expects. It trips us up. Within the poem, the character of the uncle is strangely unsettling. He is always described with movement, with ‘wriggling’ kittens, ‘ma[king] his way’ down to the brook, his ‘stride’ cowing the dog at his heels. In contrast, the boys in their bedroom and the aunt in the kitchen (domestic slavery) are compartmentalised, powerless.

And, in this poem, stillness is death. The kittens take up ‘circles’ of space, their markings described through movement as ‘runs of ginger’. The shock of their death comes in the description of the empty sack that held them: ‘neat, folded’ – not moving, ‘wriggled and bunched’ as earlier in the poem. Wilson described an ordinary, necessary culling but creates a sense of overhanging menace; there is a feeling that for the parentless boys kept in the bedroom, all does not bode well.

There were many excellent poems this fortnight, carefully crafted voices, and, believe it or not, much humour, which is a bonus for anyone judging a literary prize.

THE 9TH ITERATION IS NOW OPEN, BEING JUDGED BY DR TODD SWIFT!

THE WINNER OF THE 9TH FORTNIGHT POETRY PRIZE IS...

Kierstin Bridger! Congratulations, she wins publication of her poem on this blog, and £140 to be paid immediately via PayPal. ...