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Highly commended + AdrienneWe welcome our judge, Adrienne Dines and heartily thank her for her hard work. Also, three of our runners up have managed to get their photos to me in time to post…Claire Dyer author of Thinking of Manatees, Audrey Ardern- Jones who wrote Front Line and Joanna Tulloch, with Open for Business. The fourth poet, Jeannie Steed remains a visual mystery though her poem Evening at the Temple which also shares fourth place and appears here.

In no particular order the poems are shared below along with Adrienne’s adjudication comment:

Thinking of Manatees  by Claire Dyer

And when the thunder comes I think
of the Everglades and manatees,
how boat propellers bite

chunks out of them leaving
teeth marks like in apples, 
and when the thunder comes 

it rolls insistent in its purpleness,
making sounds like release,
like sex does, and when 

the thunder comes I watch the clouds
collide, banks of them soldered
by lightning, by the fall of rain 

and how car tyres slick the road
and I remember you, the shape of you
naked in front of the mirror 

as you checked your phone
for messages, your head bent
and the lamplight bright on it.

And Adrienne says: Here the strength is in the poet’s ability to create atmosphere and control the pace of our reactions – building tension as the thunder increases with enjambment and repetition and then the release of a woman naked with the lamplight on her hair.Wonderful movement. There is no punctuation at all until the end of the seventh line, so that we have to keep reading breathlessly. The sexual allusions are so subtle that we don’t realise we’re begin played till we get there ‘…it rolls insistent in its purpleness/making sounds like release/like sex does, and when the thunder comes…/’

An Evening at the Temple by Jeannie Steed

How soft  the light that shines upon his temple
Burnishing timbered architraves and arching domes
Mirrored candles flickering in the windows
Glow like gemstones, gold as nimbus

In  that sacred silence lingering still
Choir of voices soaring to the spire
Swelled by the echo of a thousand congregations
Thrumming in the incense-laden air

Touch now the fingered leather tomes lined upon the shelves
Words remembered like a mothers kiss tumbling from your lips
Whispering breezes murmur on your cheek
Tiles cool as sand beneath your feet

How soft the light that fades upon his temple
Promising soon how clear the stars will shine
Please, may the glow that tints his house so gently
Shine brightly and fade softly over mine

And Adrienne says: The rhythm/music of this poem is reminiscent of old prayers, psalms and the words – burnished, soft, temple, tomes, tumbling, murmur – like a list of the English language’s most beautiful words, suit this hymn of praise perfectly. I would love to hear this with a musical accompaniment.

The third of our highly commended poems is by Audrey Ardern-Jones
Front Line

Shocked, aching limbs, part mute –swearing in
local lingo they puncture blisters on angry feet;
close by their silenced comrades lie in neat
rows swaddled as babes, names fixed by a pin.
At dusk an old man is seen holding a glass jar
flamed by a candle counting the dead – bodies are
hidden in dust filled ditches in sweltering heat,
here shadows act as ghosts beneath a bombed street
where no birds dare to land –  this landscape is new,
yellow ochre skies with marigold lips, a city pensive
torn apart – a soldier mutters, he’s dreaming of blue
open skies and that he’s washing strawberries in a sieve. 

And Adrienne says: Front Line for the perfect and shocking evocation of war. The opening line reminded me of the opening line of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est with ‘Shocked, aching limbs, part mute – swearing in /local lingo they puncture blisters on angry feet…’ The imagery is shocking and graphic but so skilfully worded. The juxtaposition of the image and what it describes makes it all the more effective – ‘…their silenced comrades lie in neat rows/swaddled like babes, names fixed by a pin…/ The clarity with which the poet shows us that old man with his glass jar with the light in it – and then the poet’s image of sunlight in an English kitchen. Fab fab fab.

 So we come to the fourth poem sharing fourth place, written by Joanna Tulloch –Open for Business

The gates stand open
on to a courtyard
surrounded by a crumbling wall,
its ancient stones battened
in places by beams of wood.
Overhanging this wall there is a tree
in blossom, promising cherries
all in their due season.
For the moment there is no fruit,
just the spatter of dark pink petals
punctuating light and floating in puddles.
The courtyard is muddy
and you would do well
to put on your Wellingtons.
And you may need your cardigan, dear,
because the spring sun is cool yet
and you don’t want to catch a chill.
There is work to be done here
but you can’t just pick out the best bits,
cherry-picking from the whole,
because as I said
the fruit is but a promise for now.
But the gates stand open
and you may enter in your cardigan and wellies
and get down to work.

And Adrienne says: It’s the voice that carries this poem. With the exactitude of a gardener who knows what needs to be done, where and when, the phrases are precise and the tone patient. It’s a gentle admonition that life, and nature can’t be hurried, a sentinel to man’s brevity…

Thank you and congratulations once again to these fine poets for entering the Paragram Poetry Prize. I can’t wait to (hopefully) hear them read their work at our event early in 2014 and to see it printed on the pages of the anthology Slants of Light  due out in November.

To read the winning entries and see our judges comment, log on to this blog tomorrow…