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.