We welcome Vivienne Vermes author of the winning poem Mrs Pan, Ian O’Brien whose poem Sunlight, Eston Street was placed second and Doireann Ni Ghriofa who wrote Mother Moth, the third placed poem in the Paragram Poetry Prize 2013.
Congratulations to all three for their brilliant poems which rose above the rest to claim the top three prizes in the competition…and as Adrienne Dines, our judge said many times, it was not an easy journey.
The poems and the adjudication comments follow in reverse order beginning with, in third place, Mother Moth:
Light leaks from the crack under his door.
I hold my breath and tiptoe over the threshold.
Under the day’s debris, my feet search for floor
between piles of plastic dinosaurs, crumpled clothes, tilting towers of Lego.
Tonight, his light shines from elsewhere—there— the tented sheet.
Underneath, a torch glows. He is awake, sounding out new syllables,
his narrow back bent over a book. I hear him breathe.
He turns a page, deciphers new words with his fingers.
I remember that world, where sheet is sky and torch is sun,
where new words hold lamps to stories, illuminating dark.
Cocooned in glowing white, his metamorphosis has begun.
I stand outside. Apart.
The dark makes a mirror of his window tonight.
I see my reflection there— brown moth, drawn to his light.
And Adrienne says:
– because this poet has captured the poignancy of that moment when a mother recognises that her child is separate. The language is simple and accessible and every mother will recognise the way you have to pick your steps carefully across the floor of a little boy’s bedroom. But it’s not just the fragility of the movement. This mother is witnessing, for the first time, her son in a world which excludes her. He’s reading, ‘decipher(ing) new words with his fingers ‘(what a perfect description of the way a child reads so tentatively) The image of moth to light is perfect – used in a way that renders an familiar image fresh. It’s a very physical description and it’s a very physical poem, even in the placing of the words. When the mother realises the ‘otherness’ of her son she says, ‘Cocooned in glowing white,
his metamorphosis has begun/ I stand outside. Apart/
Everything about this poem works for me. It’s simply and skilfully wonderful
Moving on to Ian’s second placed poem, Sunlight, Eston Street:
Cold light bleeds over rocks and heath,
the cryptic landscape cradles Keith
Bennett, emptied into soil.
There are goalposts painted on a Longsight street,
fading prints, pale scars on brick,
where you used to play.
The unconcerned city caul of traffic shrouds
the ghost road;
you wouldn’t recognise it now.
We do not name our children with her name
yet cannot let her go, she seeps
Mugshot eyes in a city’s retina
Dirt beneath a fingernail.
Sunlight sets across a moor,
draws shadows along roads,
gilds a city skyline,
rests on painted brick.
And Adrienne says:
Sunlight, Eston Street is sparse, haunting and every word works. On first reading it’s not complicated – If Keith Bennett were to return to his childhood area he would find it changed. But it is in the sense of this poem rather than the meaning that the strength lies. This poet is a genius at word selection! Images nudge and unsettle one another, from ‘..cold light bleeding’ to a ‘…cryptic landscape which cradles a lost child. I particularly like ‘We do not name our children with her name…’ The poet never names his subject yet she permeates/haunts the poem as she does the landscape from the Moors to Eston Street, as she does those who recall the horror of the Moors murders. The poem is sad, poignant, sinister and beautifully controlled.
And. at last, we present our wining poem for 2013 by Vivienne Vermes, Mrs Pan
Trust me – always did attract weirdoes, this one beats the lot:
Look at him – his curled yellow fingernails,
His jutting horns, his cloven hooves – a goat in rut.
He says he’s in love, he screams my name to the treetops,
“Syrinx! Syrinx!” Buzz off, I tell him. I am queen of the woodland,
I like things delicate, like leaves, sylvan.
Buzz off. He won’t listen, his howl becomes a roar,
The lout thinks he can get me with his hairy power.
The fool. I lure him down to the river
From the ripples, I summon my silver girls, blind nymphs
With drops of water for eyes, white eels for arms,
They coil around him with the slither of their spells.
Now, behold, the ugly brute’s a willow reed, one of many.
How we laughed at him, until the moon rose,
How we danced, under the shimmer of stars
Then we heard it – faint, at first, not his usual coarse cry,
His voice muted by pain, syphoned into a single sound,
A flute at one with the whole whirl of worlds,
And he, and me, and my disgust, and all his rampant greed
Made beautiful by his grief.
I fell in love with him then.
I turned him back into his horny self.
When people ask what I see in him,
I smile, waiting for the hollow of twilight,
When he plays me like a reed
When beast becomes all beauty
And dark turns inside out
And night is light.
And Adriennes says:
– because this poem has voice and the poet uses it to draw you in. ‘Trust me…’ she says, and I do. I trust her absolutely as she describes a loathsome creature and I laugh with her as her nymphs get the better of the beast. The theme of the poem with its classical allusions might be difficult but the colloquial tone eases the reader into the world of the poet. We are safe with her, she speaks our language (‘this one beats the lot…buzz off’). We’re shoulder to shoulder with her as she teases the poor fool. We see what she sees and hear what she hears. And then you realise that everything you can hear is being controlled by the poet – the assonance/sibilance is a sound spell drawing you in – ‘With drops of water for eyes, white eels for arms/ They coil around him with the slither of their spells…’ And then all the sounds of his world and the poem are captured in the lines, ‘His voice muted by pain siphoned in to a single sound/ a flute at one with the whole whirl of worlds…’ and then, Pan’s voice, ‘…muted in pain…And he and me and my disgust and all his rampant greed/Made beautiful by his grief./ I fell in love with him then.’ For those lines alone I love this poem. This poet is totally in control of his/her craft and a worthy winner.
Watch http://www.Para-gram.com for details of the anthology, Slants of Light which will contain long listed, short listed and winning poems from the 2013 Paragram Poetry Prize and for news of the launch event when you will be able to hear the poets read their own work.