We are delighted to begin sharing with you the first three of our five highly commended poets in the Charles Causley International Poetry Competition 2016. Our head judge Sir Andrew Motion singled out these poets as having signs of strong potential in their writing. They will have the opportunity to take up a virtual mentoring session with one of our writers in residence with a view to improving their work. They will also be gifted with a small cash prize in acknowledgement of the standard of their entries.
Our first highly commended poet is Victor Tapner with his poem ‘A Gap In The Field’. Victor Tapner’s latest book, Waiting to Tango, is a Templar Poetry Straid Award collection. His first full collection, Flatlands (Salt), was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize and won the East Anglian Book Award for Poetry. A chapbook, Banquet in the Hall of Happiness, won the Fool for Poetry competition in Ireland, and he has also won the Cardiff International Poetry Competition and Scotland’s Wigtown prize. He lives in Essex.
W. G. Grace, 1848-1915; G. F. ‘Fred’ Grace, 1850-80
For me, that day, the wicket couldn’t have been kinder
and you were never steadier,
one foot back, as Uncle had shown us,
when you took that high catch off Bonnor
right on the boundary.
The ball hugged the air so long
the bloody Aussie had turned from his first
and everyone on the pitch
thought it would slice through your hands.
As Midwinter said,
you were the best deep field
a chap could have.
When we were boys,
practising with stones at Downend,
you could hit a sparrow from thirty yards,
though I always roasted your bowling.
One day, I remember,
I’d been at the crease in the orchard
slapping every ball you sent.
Alice and Blanche were fielding,
Edward, as usual, with his umpire’s hat,
and you got so mad,
the chaffing they gave you.
I declared at lunchtime
and you held the wicket all afternoon.
You even refused
when mother called us for tea,
and we hammered on till you forced a draw
when rain stopped play.
Believe me, Fred,
runs don’t come easy
when it’s your waist that’s padded.
The bat’s straight, though,
and somewhere I’ll find a gap in their cover.
You know, down at the Vauxhall end
I can still see that ball,
suspended in sunlight,
almost, for a moment, challenging gravity.
Our second highly commended poet is Theresa Lola with her poem ‘Portrait Of Us As Snow White.’ Theresa Lola is a British Nigerian Poet. She was shortlisted for the 2016 Bridport Poetry Prize, 2016 London Magazine Poetry Prize and was one of the winners of the 2016 Magic Oxygen Poetry Prize. She is the 2017 Hammer and Tongue National Slam Champion and is a Barbican Young Poet Alumni.
We inherited black holes for eyes,
so light was the benchmark we measured the beauty of skin against.
We sat in our dorm room
and discussed who the fairest of all was.
The Igbo girls claimed they could be cast as foreign
as long as the sun didn’t betray them.
The girls with skin the shade of the bronze masks
our ancestors carved directed the conversation.
The myth was that backstage curtains are dark colours
so that dark girls can camouflage into them.
We never said the word ‘race’, substituted ‘yellow pawpaw’ for ‘white’
as if we knew the word ‘white’ would peel our tongues down to a seed of guilt.
My bow legs hung from my bunk bed like question marks.
I was unsure of which shade my skin will grow into,
so I could not be the lead role in this fairy tale.
Now I know our ignorance is a kind of bacteria
bleach multiplies instead of killing.
One of my dorm mates used ‘Papaya Skin Lightening Soap’,
the scent was like every other soap,
she rubbed it on her skin until
she was cast as Snow White in the school play.
The myth is that despite all the light on her skin,
her soul remains a backstage curtain.
Our third highly commended poet is Jill Munro with her poem ‘Le Nez’. Jill Munro has been widely published in poetry magazines and long-listed three times for the National Poetry Competition. Her first collection ‘Man from La Paz’ was published in 2015 by Green Bottle Press. She won the Fair Acre Press Pamphlet Competition 2015 with ‘The Quilted Multiverse’, published April 2016. She agrees with Charles Causley; without writing poetry, she would ‘explode’.
To: The Master Perfumer, Parfums Givenchy, Rive Gauche, Paris
You may not remember me – I wrote to you for my English project in 3E –
The Art of Perfumery. You kindly sent to me, in a jiffy, a regiment
of small glass vials: lavender, citron, frangipani, patchouli, neroli,
rose absolute and helpful notes on their particular use in your art.
My mother was so grateful for my cast-offs – she pulse-point
pounded them for weeks. I’m back to ask a favour all these years later ─
I do hope you’re still with us ─ I’d like a distilled essence of Him.
It will need ambergris, verdigris, vertigo, ylang ylang, musk of civet,
crushed garlic, spilt sauvignon, Daz-scented sheets, dank underground,
that small green conifer that rocked back and forth down dark lanes,
the whiff of fear of his wife, tincture of Travelodge, l’eau du Serpentine,
Pink Himalayan ground salty tears, a taste of metal in my mouth after
eating the rails on Hungerford Bridge. I’ll only need one small bottle,
half-empty, stoppered, crushable.
We will be sharing our final two highly commended poems with you in the coming days. We hope you have enjoyed reading them and once again, congratulations to the winners and thank you to all who entered their work.