East Coker Poetry Competition 2021   -     'The Elements'        Our judge this year was poet Gill Barr


The winners this year are Juliet Lacey and Maya Pieris

Juliet Lacey wins the 'long poem' category with 'Cliff Fall,  Jurassic Coast'  :-


Cliff Fall,  Jurassic Coast

Four thousand tonnes stacked for aeons 
- mud, rock, calcite -
at a stroke cracked
let loose, let go, crashed down -
a monster stash for the sea to nuzzle at.

And here we come swarming with little hammers and loupes and sieves
over the awesome crumble (boulders big as cars!) 
to scoop up creatures suddenly laid bare for us
to hold up to the same sun that saw them calcified

then we're scuttling home with bagged mementos 
- clunking carapaces of molluscs
once buoyed in gentle gyrating oceans -

knowing that our bones won't lie down for two hundred million years
printed out in stone 
and beautiful
as glinted ammonites and sea lilies and fishy stars are beautiful

and that nothing will stay uncrushed or unsifted 
in the great fall of our bodies
when we go into air, earth, water, fire.


Maya Pieris wins the 'short poem' category with 'Today' :-


the horizon was a long purple kiss
stretched across like a lipstick line
smooth, straight, evenly applied
and I looked at it placed as always 
in that space between sky, land and sea
and how I’d watched day’s gold emerge
through the crack in black night
and those other times blurred by rain
or whipped wind slicing its line
days when distorted, erased by fog
or etched by sharp burning sunlight 
and always at that point in distance
never closer however one tried


East Coker Poetry Competition 2020

On a theme of ‘Portraits’

As always, the competition produced a lovely range of poetry covering a wide variety of styles and interpretations of the ‘theme’.  

Congratulations to all the winners!


1st    Iona Lambe  with Portraits from the Past

2nd   Chris Salberg  with La Pittura

Joint 3rd   Heather Murphy  with Portrait of a Boy

                 Anna Webb  with Portrait of a Friend


This year our competition was judged by a group from the Wells Fountain Poets, 'The Fountain Pens' led by Ama Bolton.   Our thanks to Ama, Jinny, Rachael, Michelle and Morag for taking on this difficult task.


Here are the winning poems:-


Portraits from the Past      by Iona Lambe       (1st Prize)


The wordsmith has lost his words.

The ringing hammer-blows, the fire’s flare,

The cacophony of new ideas at work

And the bellow’s powerful breath

   Are quiet,    all quiet.


                    I remember a gangly girl, pen poised,

                    Sitting at a spill of homework.

                    “How do you spell,” she calls, “imperiously?”

                    The answer rapid-fires from behind the Irish Times.

                    Then, action-replay,  slower, patient and correct.

                    His gift, when I left home,   a dictionary.


                    I remember an upright man, black-haired,

                    Standing in a field of rippled wheat,

                    Cap pushed well back, warm in sunshine,

                    Grinding golden grains in work-hard hands.

                    He blows the chaff away, chews some kernels,

                    And knows tomorrow’s gift,   a harvest.


His implements are quietly put aside.

The apt, the pithy and the well-shaped phrase,

The blades of humour ( rusted now, and dull ),

Meaning, rhythm, rhyme, the joyous flow of words

   Are stilled,    all still.


    Once well-worn handles

    With no hand to heft them,

    And I am left

   Talking to a wordless man

   Where once my father stood.





La Pittura     by Chris Salberg     (2nd Prize)


She stands before you, you are her mirror,

figuring quite where she should draw the line

both on the canvas that’s in front of her

and too within the strictures of her time

to depict the modestly dressed body

and show the flagrantly naked talent.

In her honesty there’s not much beauty

about her face, yet she proves in treatment

of the texture and folds of her clothing

and light animating the flesh and bones

of the focussed form at work emerging

out of earth sepia and umber tones

to be so much more than just someone’s wife

as she in deft oils brings herself to life.




Portrait of a Boy     by Heather Murphy   (Joint 3rd Prize)


Sitting in the back seat

I can see his face

in the car wing mirror.

Sun shines through glass

on drooping eyelids

hiding his big brown eyes.

His neck looks thicker,

strong jawline, Adam’s apple.


That hair of his has

a mind of its own

refusing to conform.

He towers above me now

and I remember 

his gangly legs

heading straight for the 

biscuit tin and lemonade

like a heat seeking missile.


We bump over humps

jolting him awake.

Once more, the friendly chatter

Always genial, never complaining,

still unaware of my gaze.

A young man is emerging

breaking through from the child.

Visions of the toddler are

forever etched in my mind

and dance in my head.


Pick me up Grandma


Will that young man still

let me hug him close

or will he brush all 

my kisses away?

He fills the house with

laughter, leaving echoes 

when he’s gone.



Portrait of a Friend   by Anna Webb    (Joint 3rd Prize)


The canvas sits on the easel,

The figure posed,

An outline, faded jacket and jeans.

The face is blurred.


Ten years since her death

And I still cannot define her features.

Travelling companion, flatmate,

Author of unnerving adventures.


I have her photograph in front of me,

Stunning was the word most used.

Heads turned when she walked into a room.

The change was gradual.


‘Uppers and downers’

Took away her freedom.

Found slumped on the floor,

Her generous heart had stopped.


Her sisters asked me to write a eulogy.

To them she was a nuisance:

A pariah after her gradual

Descent into paranoia.


The funeral was conducted by a priest.

Afterwards we went to her favourite restaurant.

I still cannot visit to this seaside town,

The sense of loss, too great.



Several of the other poems were rated in the top three by one or more of the judges but did not achieve an overall placing and I have listed these as ‘shortlisted’ poems :-

From the Heart    by Liz Pike

Family Group      by Janet Lailey 

Portrait of Anthony McGill   by David Cloke

Portraits    by Margaret Hamilton

All the entries will be published in our ‘Competition Entries’ booklet 2020, which will be available shortly (details in the next Mini-newletter – lockdown permitting!).

Many thanks to everyone who entered the competition this year, providing such a poetic lift in a very difficult time.

David Cloke