|Our 5th Fortnight winner!|
Sprouls' poems have appeared in Field, Map Literary, The New Yorker, The Stinging Fly, and elsewhere. She lives in New Jersey, USA.
Her winning poem 'Chatter' - she gets £280 as this was a double-fortnight contest - appears below.
The runners up are:
Meg Eden, for her poem 'spirit house'
Anders Howerton, for 'An Original Series'
In general, this was a very strong field of poets, and poems - over 350 - one of the strengths of this particular prize is that we receive submissions from across North America, but also the UK, Ireland and beyond.
Howerton's modern sonnet was contemporary, quirky and compelling in its digital age syntax - an original lyricism emerges here.
Eden is clearly a fine poet - her poem - long and discursive, filled with rich questions and surprising imagery, was both clever and profound - not easy to pull off.
Either could have won - however, having to choose among my three top poems, it came down to a sense of overall achievement - and by a hair's breadth, on this day, I chose 'Chatter'.
This poem's appeal and impressive tonal range is easy to see - it finds a very persuasively contemporary, personal, funny, but poetically savvy voice, and then extends, in quasi-Homeric, or shaggy-dog fashion, an exploration of lyric narrative and self-expression, in a way only the very best contemporary poets can manage. This is fluent, intelligent, skilful, and wonderful writing. A poem to share with friends and fellow poets, as a way to do poetry, thinking on one's verbal feet...
and the ending is so lovely, with its knowing echoes of Frost and Ransom.
No one has lived here in decades, but now I do,
so I shift the bookshelves when it rains
to catch soup from the ceiling, catch punch.
I nail the upstairs blankets so the top one falls loose,
like a focusing hood, letting me under to revel privately
in the bareness of the ocean. As temperatures fall,
the dog and I keep bonding, folded up like tacos
in comforters and wool. He’s smart enough to stay there
while I boil water and crouch in the bath before work, keeping on
and steeping my sweater, listening to the plastic on the windows
not do its job, not hold out the outside air. Some kook left a perfectly good—
only slightly rusted—fifty-millimetre telescope here,
so the other night as the moon, like an unfelt cut, cropped up,
I climbed to the roof of a neighbor’s, a house more abandoned just newer,
and shimmied, scrunch-faced, outside the atmosphere. In the distance,
a humid light swallowed me. Then I swallowed it. But how to show this?
In summer, when eyelashes reflect inside your shades,
only thick as tree trunks, and you become a river observing
some arid basin it once carved…. This morning the wind has knuckles,
and the knocking sounds urgent. It may be time to nail
more blankets up, say so long to daylight’s stencils on the floor,
exaggerating paned openness, as my friend up the street claims
people in this town keep doing to his rear. He sees
more than I do and suffers for it, aware that we do not belong
by the shore, can’t afford it, simply put, not even at medium wage,
not the way most bosses micromanage. Just floating in the surf,
he gets screamed at by fishermen, their rods rigged
with invisible flags of dominion, flags that can’t but whip
a light-footed sloth, an unambitious moss, in the face,
as it gets colder and colder then warmer then snows.
poem by Bridget Sprouls, copyright 2017