• South Downs Poetry Festival Competition

      The Binsted Prize

      judged by James Simpson

      James Simpson is a Jerwood/Arvon award winner and a prizewinner in the Thomas Hardy
      Society’s James Gibson Memorial Poetry Competition. He is author of several collections of
      poems including: The Untenanted Room (Agenda Editions 2011) and
      The Rhyme of the Reddleman’s Daughter (Hedgehog Poetry Press 2018).

      Original unpublished poems were invited on any theme.

      Twelve of the Prizewinners will read their poems in Binsted Church

      (BN18 0LL) during the poetry evening, one of the events in the 2019 Binsted Art Festival,
      on Friday 7 June, 2019 at 7 pm


      The Winners

      We are pleased to announce the competition results, as judged by James Simpson, whose report will be posted shortly. The poems by the three Binsted Prize winners are to be found below.

       The poems of the Highly Commended and Commended poets will be published in the competition anthology in time for the Binsted Arts Festival (June 7-9), and will be available at the poetry evening in Binsted church on June 7.


      First         Anna Kisby          Five Times Raccoon

      Second     Sylvia Oldroyd    Tribute

      Third        Eleanor Punter     Carols


      Highly Commended:


      Robin Ford                       Days without End

      Philip Burton                    The Cloudbuster

      Roger Elkin                       Credo

      Pat Murgatroyd                 Eating a Pomegranate with a Pin

      Anna Kisby                       A Candle burning down, rural France,1858

      Anna Kisby                       Bald Eagle

      Maya Pieris                       I Always Look

      Rosemary Black               Yellow Archangel

      Chris Warren-Adamson   When the child appears

      Ben Ray                            The thoughts of Charles Byrne




      Mandy Pannett                 Q and After

      Mandy Pannett                 The Last Notch

      Roger Elkin                      Starlings, gathering

      Philip Burton                    Moonlight Found

      Diana Brighouse              When did you last eat and drink, do you have any allergies

      Romola Parish                  Scop-sweg: The Beowulf  poet considers his composition

      Lin Lundie                        A love poem in the dark

      Ben Ray                            Winter at the Sands Café

      David Simpson                 You’ve ten minutes to cut my hair?

      Sarah Lundie                     Menopause

      Anthony Watts                  Friday Man

      Lizzie Smith                      Klimt Triptych

      Anne Stewart                     Going through the albums

      Judge’s Note

      The judging of the South Downs Poetry Festival Competition and the selection of The Binstead Prize was an unexpected pleasure. Without a theme to constrain the entrants the submissions were multifarious and varied in scope, subject and form. From over three hundred poems it was left to me to whittle down to a final twenty-six commended and winning poems.

      During the selection process I looked for poems with a distinctive voice, strong imagery and which attempted an exploratory use of the language. Most importantly I chose work that I felt sustained a vivid and continuous dream in the reader’s mind. What Coleridge calls that ‘Shaping spirit of the Imagination’. The three prizewinning poems in particular, were successful in achieving this.

      The best poems have a metabolic quality, they are living creations in their own right. In the ‘Place of the Imagination’ (the relational space where the reader inhabits the world created by the writer) the best work becomes a living visceral thing. The generative wildfire spark that is present in the subject, author and reader becomes embodied and heart-beatingly real.

      I like to think, that in these winning and commended poems, we have works which achieve in the ‘Place of the Imagination’ a union of inner and outer worlds and demonstrate a kindling of their own unique wildfire sparks.

      James Simpson   Heyshott   May 2019


      Five Times Raccoon                by Anna Kisby




      First thing this morning you tell me you can’t                     

      drive me to California after all and the reason is

      raccoons. Raccoons are impetuous, slyer than fox,

      mischief-creators. You are regretful, won’t meet my eye –


      raccoons came in the night, dismantled the VW.

      Of all God’s creatures they are most adept

      at unscrewing hub-caps; our wheels are rolling

      down our drive, worse –


      our seats are out of joint,

      our steering wheel stolen – it is spinning

      at the top of the neighbourhood stone pine,

      a distressed saturn.





      You tell me raccoons are survivors –

      adapt to the city, thrive in the wild –


      a plip-plop accompaniment of tears


      as I realise we’ll never make a den

      inside a redwood as we planned.




      Whoever is photographing us

      from the space station, yawns

      and looks away, we are so meh

      out on our front lawn, speaking raccoon,

      gesticulating in raccoon


      meanwhile under our soles

      nocturnal creatures in burrows

      are building war machines

      from what they’ve scavenged

      yada-yada-yada-squeak we say




      Remember that time we were speeding

      on the freeway and passed the car-struck

      raccoon? It was staggering on two legs, weaving

      in and out the road again.


      We should have stopped.




      Time passes and you can bend

      the dead, fix the little things.

      On this occasion I put

      my finger to your lips


      to shut you up, adjust the angle

      of your raccoon-skin hat –

      its brilliant tail, a talisman


      while how we split up

      rises to the heavens, joins

      all the other cute animals

      the balloon-man made, let-go

      afloat above America



      Tribute                 by Sylvia Oldroyd


      He was never a man

      to show much respect;


      would hardly have touched

      his cap to royalty.


      Trench-digging on the allotment,

      he heard the clip of hooves


      echo in the hollowed lane,

      but no clink of harness;


      straightened his back,

      thrust spade in soil


      with such force that it juddered,

      strode to the gate to watch them


      still keeping in step, pulling

      together to leave a straight furrow.


      In the distance a tractor

      droned like an irritating fly.


      He stood to attention, head bared,

      eyes front in the wind’s cold burn


      as the last pair of Shires from Trigger’s Farm

      came pounding proud up the lane to slaughter.


      Carols             by Eleanor Punter


      Dad likes it dark and bitter.
      Peeling back foil
      snapping off squares;
      a ritual
      to help him write
      his piece
      on Polish Catholicism.


      they drink tea, wash down
      sticky wedges of cake;
      hard as bone.
      They call my name

      but I am
      counting currants
      in my head,
      the sugar fizz rush
      on my tongue and


      when curtains will be drawn
      and sherry poured
      into thin stemmed glasses
      for clumsy hands
      like mine


      I will lie
      on my bed;
      a blown out egg
      listening to carols,


      the cadence
      of notes
      flutter light as snow
      falling softly
      one by icy one
      all over my skin.    


      Details of the Binsted Arts Festival 2019 programme can be found on


      and for the South Downs Poetry Festival on www.sdpf.org.uk/