• Binsted Arts Poetry Competition


        In the 2016 competition, two hundred and sixteen original unpublished poems were submitted on the theme:

        A way through the woods

        The winners will receive their prizes at the poetry evening during the Binsted Arts Weekend, 
        in Binsted Church, West Sussex, BN18 0LL, on Saturday 11 June at 7.30.
        Click here for details and to book tickets for any of the Binsted Arts Weekend events.  

        The Winners and those with Commendations will read out their poems,
        supported by a commentary from Maggie Sawkins.

        The competition judge, Maggie Sawkins, won the Ted Hughes Award for
        New Work in Poetry 2013, 
        for her Live Literature production ‘Zones of Avoidance’.



        First Prize: 

        Rose Bray, from Steyning, West Sussex, for ‘Raising the Bowman’

        Second Prize:

        Margaret Jennings, from Waterlooville, Hampshire, for ‘Bramble’

        Third prize:

        Ken Sulllivan, from Reading,  for ‘Congo Boy’



        Geoffrey Winch, from Felpham

        Malcolm Watson,  from Hull

        Michael Langrish, from Walberton, West Sussex

        Pat Murgatroyd, from the Isle of Wight

        Claire Pankhurst, from Brighton

        Phil Vernon, from Tunbridge Wells

        Mark Haworth-Booth, from Swimbridge, Devon

        Sue Davies, from Fareham, Hampshire

        Dana Littlepage, from Exeter

        Jenna Plewes, from Alvechurch, Worcs

        Maggie Sawkins comments on the competition:

        A Way through the Woods

        'Tread softly because you tread on my dreams,' wrote W B Yeats in his beautiful poem, 'Had I the Heavens Embroidered Cloths'. Judging a poetry competition is an onerous task. So firstly I would like to thank the 140 poets who submitted a total of 216 poems.  I want you to know that I became acquainted with all of them.

        I imagine there are as many ways of writing a poem as there are of navigating one's way through a wood.  The poems that grabbed my attention were those that dared to stray from the well-trodden path, the ones that dared to sprout wings and fly.

         It was fascinating to see how the theme was tackled.  Little Red Riding Hood and wolves appeared in various guises. There were poems that used the theme to explore mental states:  the labyrinthine worlds of dementia, mental ill health, and sexual  abuse. Others addressed ecological issues while some used mythology and folk lore to find a way in. There were many interesting settings from Binsted itself to Austria and Sweden and even the Congo.

        The poet Douglas Dunn advised his students that 'a good poem should work in the mind, in the heart and in the ear.' I would add that a good poem should also work on the eye.  The process of judging, especially of poetry, can never be entirely objective. But I believe there are some givens.  Firstly, does the way it's been laid out on the page appeal? Secondly, does the title provide a hook - did the writer even give it a second thought? And, thirdly, what about that vital first line - does it entice you to read on?

         I ended up with three piles. The last was the one I took with me to bed. These were the poems that entered my dreams, the ones I didn't mind waking up to. After a process of close reading and reading out loud the pile had whittled down to 20. I was left with the question: which were the ones I could spend my life with?

        What I was looking for was an element of surprise, some clarity of thought, a poem with the ability to move me.  Most importantly, did further readings reveal at least another meaning?

        The winning poem, 'Raising the Bowman' intrigued me with its gripping first line: 'If her father had not fancied mushrooms for breakfast ...' The following three stanzas continued in the same questioning vein allowing the narrative to unfold slowly. The ending made me want to read the poem all over again. 'Raising the Bowman' succeeds because it creates its own believable world.

        I settled on 'Bramble' as a runner up because of its clarity of diction, the way it skipped logically from stanza to stanza, and because subsequent readings offered up another meaning. Like many of you, I imagine, I've been following the saga of Rob and Helen in The Archers. For me this poem captured the zeitgeist of domestic abuse in an original way.  That 'Bramble' of the poem could have been Helen!

        Choosing the third prize winner was more problematic, and all of the commended poems were strong contenders.  The one that won me over was 'Congo Boy'.  It was a joy to read out loud and the imagery was surprising. To be honest there were bits of the poem that I wasn't quite sure of, but in the end, I believe, it's what works on the heart that matters.


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