South Downs Poetry Festival Competition 2020
The Binsted Prize
We are pleased to announce the competition results, as judged by Stephanie Norgate. The poems by the three Binsted Prize winners are to be found below, as is the judge’s report.
The winning poems and the poems of the Highly Commended and Commended poets will be published in the competition anthology, which will be available for purchase. We are hopeful that the poetry evening to celebrate the winning poems and hear the poets and the judge read may be held later in the year.
Bulletin from Blue Yonder
Teaching Refugees in the Church Hall
Mandy Pannett The Bird of Vesuvius and a Pearl
Roger Elkin How you doing she asks
Dave Swann Midsummer on Tenantry Down
Jane Joseph Small Green Australian
Pat Childerhouse derive
Shelley McAlister Screens
Sam Hickford On Rivers and Pandemics
Theresa Gooda On my Watch
Mandy Pannett Only the Walkers
Diana Mitchener Breaking Ice
Miriam Patrick St Ethelflaeda
Michael Jenkins Accommodating You Anyway
Sue Spiers How to Find the One
Carolyn King Jam
Richard Stillman Hyacinths
Shelley McAlister Flags of the Russian Federation
Ava Patel Afternoon Tea
Geraldine Cousins Saturday Workshops
I enjoyed reading the South Downs Poetry Festival competition entries. All the poems showed some interesting engagement with poetic forms and dramatic revelations or epiphanies.
Mary Oliver, says, ‘Attention without emotion is just a report.’ I agree that attentiveness is essential but needs to embody an emotional journey. The winning poem, Bulletin from Blue Yonder, beckoned me instantly with its combination of narrative, imagistic scene-setting and metaphysical questioning. The poem unreels like a short film which I want to rewind repeatedly. The second prize winner, Teaching Refugees in the Church Hall, uses finely observed imagery to show through different time layers how we endeavour to help each other against the odds. In third place, Stonewalling evokes a lost relationship through the making of a drystone wall; the mesh of the man-made and natural was powerfully rendered.
Many congratulations also to the writers of the Highly Commended and Commended poems, which early on found their way from the ‘Possible’ to ‘Yes’ folder. I read the last fifty poems repeatedly to arrive at those selected for the anthology and enjoyed the variety of approaches.
For the first time, the South Downs Poetry Festival created a Young Poet’s prize for poets in our region. Although this prize attracted entries, unfortunately, those shortlisted for the YP prize were ineligible, location-wise. Poems by the two younger shortlisted writers are commended and included in the anthology but, sadly, we are unable to award the YP prize this year without contravening our own rules. Nevertheless, many congratulations to the young poets who entered and to SDPF for their aim in encouraging younger writers.
In this time of lockdown and fear, it was heartening to read so many good poems and find that poetry, as ever, is the fittest form to respond to the complexities of our private and public worlds.
Stephanie Norgate, May 2020
The Winning Poems
Bulletin from Blue Yonder by Dave Swann
Only moments ago, I’d seen the swimmer glance back
at the woman he’d been reading beside
before slipping away into the sea, and already now
he was lost, torn by wild currents towards rocks,
from where frantic figures had thrown down ropes
that would smash him on the basalt, if he held them.
Swim away! they cried, into the roar. Loose now,
he was stuck, no route to the beach, nowhere safe on the cliff.
So it dawned, the long hour of his dying,
when he rose and fell on the waves, his battered frame
laid bare by streams of light that poured down
through the ocean, putting some strange permanence
on the scene, as if, pinned there – upright, immobile –
he’d found the means to accept his ordeal, and relax,
so that acceptance might save him. But the sea
was buckled now with swirling holes, too deep
even for the brave lad who surfed out to save him. No use.
We watched the boy flail ashore, and knew only
to busy the wife in gathering her husband’s shoes
and the novel I’d seen flicker at his side, Hotel New Hampshire
by John Irving, dog-eared at page 124, which I held
in the cliffside café while we waited for the helicopter.
‘My husband wants never to be in jail,’ she said,
in quiet, trembling English. ‘Wants always peace, freedom.’
When they arrived at last from the island’s far coast,
the rescue team lowered a hook into the maelstrom
and winched the swimmer aboard, and it was hard to know
whether he’d made it, but strangers were arranging
to ferry the wife to his bedside when the owner’s thrill
made the shack flinch. El vive! he cried, lifting his ‘phone
in triumph. He lives! Our joy at the message was wild.
Strangers embraced, a hat went flying. The woman smiled
as we waved her off. Meanwhile two new arrivals
strolled, puzzled, past the bar. They were heading down
to the beach, empty again now, as it had been
when we’d first seen it. Aimless after disaster,
we followed them, understanding the promise
that shone in their faces as they gazed from the cliff.
Call it blue yonder, that place we’re all after.
Unspoiled, unpeopled. Life wouldn’t mean as much
if we never aimed for it, but you could cross oceans
to find nothing waiting, only the end
that gave shape to your getting-there. While the swimmer
must have been dying in the sky, we watched waves
breaking like buildings on the ramp of black sand
down which he’d walked his final inches.
Did he reach it, before the sea killed him?
Maybe when the wave lifted his body
and he grew still and stood up on the water?
Was it there he found it? His peace, his freedom?
Teaching Refugees in the Church Hall by Pat Murgatroyd
Someone circa 1960 tried to cheer up the panelling
with tomato-soup-red gloss. Even then it would have clashed
with eau-de-nil emulsion, lugubrious bottle-green dado and doors.
Now, scabbed with blu-tac and liver-spots of damp
it has a down-at-heel air of apology unredeemed
by crayoned pictures of Jesus in the Sunday School corner.
At the window end four steps lead up to a wooden stage,
where there never were curtains, suggesting long gone
public jollity. Scouts’ vaudeville or Girl Guides’ pantos perhaps.
Stashed underneath, odd paraphernalia from a millennium purge –
cobwebbed tape-recorders mute with dust, boxes of old prayer books,
broken pews ready for a revival the vicar hoped would come.
We keep our stuff in a room marked ‘Cloaks’. Here
in a random jumble of bygones we store our pens, worksheets,
dictionaries behind a trellised arch with crepe paper roses.
Ali chants his morning prayers to Allah while Salma makes tea
in the frowsty kitchen. They’re always first in. The hall yawns wide.
We secure our space like pioneers drawing wagons into a circle.
We drag out whiteboards to screen us off, erect school-dinner tables
that shape up with a thumb-crushing snap, arrange tatty plastic chairs.
Around us I sense the echoes of previous occupants: rustle of bran tub
clacking wheel of fortune. Miracles happen in the church next door
but we have our moments. We try to make sense of the inexplicable.
Same job really if you think about it.
Stonewalling by Sue Davies
In skeins of dust, I shadowed your
hands, like Sisyphus’ your body
tense, sinews taut. We hammered
and spliced, thrust and nudged
grit and pebbles into cracks, our
shoulder blades aching, hands raw.
In time, we forgot to eat, we forgot
to embrace, love, smile, and sing,
begrudging sun and moon, arrival
of spring. In bed, we lay like effigies,
the wall naked between us, its stones
bearing down on our blunted tongues.
That summer, toad flax, angel-hair,
milkweed seeds blown from fields,
fell on barren stones, but the wall
spun a heart around itself, salvaged
moss-pulp, lichen skull caps, fledgling
feathers left in empty nests. The house
nearby shed its ghost bloom to drift
like the stars and the stones turned
blue with the moon’s erasure. Our
endeavours at an end, you left me
to fend for myself. I let the stacked
topping stones lie idle for years in
wild witch-grass, unforgiving as scars.
South Downs Poetry Festival Competition - 2020
Our 2020 Judge was Stephanie Norgate
Stephanie Norgate is a poet and playwright, with plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Her poetry publications include The Blue Den (Bloodaxe Books, 2012) and the Forward shortlisted Hidden River (2008).Formerly programme director for the MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University, she edited the Chalk Poets anthology (Sarsen, 2016) and a book of essays on Poetry and Voice (CSP, 2012). She is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow and is working on her forthcoming new collection.
Original unpublished poems on any theme are invited for the
Binsted Prize: £250, £150, £50
South Downs Young Poet’s Prize: £50.00
(for poets resident or studying in Hampshire, West and East Sussex and aged 16-30)
£5.00 for the first poem, £4.00 for subsequent poems, but poets aged 16-30 can enter for £3.00 per poem
Post poems, with entry forms and fees, to:
Shirley Park, Yapton Lane,
Walberton, Arundel, BN18 0AN
to arrive by the closing date of Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Prizewinners will be invited to read their poems in Binsted Church (BN18 0LL)
during the poetry evening, one of the events in the 2020 Binsted Art Festival,
on Friday 12 June, 2020 at 7 pm
For full details of the Binsted Arts Festival 2020 and the South Downs Poetry Festival visit
The Binsted Prize – South Downs Poetry Festival Competition
Entry Form 2020
Address, with Postcode.............................................................................
Email............................................................... D.o.b (16-30 yr old entrants only)………….
Title(s) of poem(s) submitted
Send 2 copies of poems, each on a separate sheet, with entry form, to:
Competition Secretary, Shirley Park, Yapton Lane, Walberton, Arundel, BN18 0AN
Entrants eligible for the Young Poets Prize should indicate this by writing YP in the top right hand corner of their poems (and complete d.o.b on this entry form). All entrants will be eligible for the Binsted Prizes, but can be awarded only one prize across both parts of the competition.
Poems must be the original work of the named author and must not have been previously published or won a prize in any competition.
Poems must not exceed 50 lines, must be typed, single spaced, in Times New Roman 12 point.
No author names on poems - personal details to go on entry form.only
Poems being submitted to other competitions can be accepted subject to withdrawal if another prize is awarded before winners in this competition are notified.
The judge will read all entries and her decision is final. Copyright remains with the author.
Entry fee: £5 for the first poem, £4.00 for subsequent poems. £3.00 for each poem if 16-30 yrs old.
Send cheque/postal order with poem(s) OR pay on-line at:
www.thenovium.org/sdpoetry and then write your reference number below
I enclose a cheque or postal order payable to Binsted Arts for £....................
OR I have paid online and my reference no.is ………………
Further copies of this form can be downloaded from http://www.binsted.org/poetry-comp-20