The winners of the second Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Prize are:
- First Prize: Judith Tremaine Drezin, The Ferryman
- Second Prize: Chris Considine, Mothers
- Third Prize: Donald Adamson, Flickering
The competition’s judge, Alison Brackenbury, commented on the exceptionally high quality of entries and we will be publishing her report on the competition shortly. You can read the three winning poems below.
In addition to the winners, the shortlisted poems were:
The Call of the Wild Keith Hutson
Claritas (old weird America) Mara Adamitz Scrupe
Talk of her Katherine Stansfield
Notes about West Wittering Beach, Summer 2016 Dilys Wood
It Starts with Pigeons Peter Wyton
They rewarded the ferry
man with a silver coin, it
being a daunting task to carry
the dead across the water
such black churning water
with the half-light pewter
like a ripening bruise
and the Underworld a stark
destination. Dark, dark.
When they came to fetch
you, oh my dear one,
it was a raw morning
the thin rain scratch
ing at the window. Three
ferrymen there were, black
suited, expressions bespoke,
acknowledging the solemnity
of the occasion, until
the youngest, a buccaneer
still with stud and ponytail
blurting the words said
I will be gentle,
Gentle with the dead.
His colleagues frowned
their face-masks cracking,
rituals should be observed,
emotion was out of place and
would not do. But had I a
silver coin then, I would
have pressed it into his hand.
Judith Tremaine Drezin
The rat slid softly under the gate – the stone step
hollowed by centuries of footfall. A mother perhaps,
scuttling to forage for her brood.
rats about that year, and the next.
(Get rid of them before the children come!) I blamed
Ronnie’s barn downhill. I’d have to call in Richard
and his blue poison.
The log-store was half full with Cocker John’s
spruce — not much needed that spring. One day
the wood was chirping. If I hid and waited
two blackbirds came
taking turns, swooping their clean curves to the low entrance.
And in the dimness, on a cut log
a palisade of nest, small squeakings.
Three mornings later
the browner bird was there in the yard
alone. Hopping, fluttering, crying out
in a hoarse voice. All that day and all the next.
Maybe all night –
I kept away. But when, in the end, I looked:
no nest, no tiny open beaks. The log’s yellow circle
swept bare, and the mother bird still on the flagstones
making that ugly noise – like the dry-throated calling
of the ewes that clustered on the track in summer
above the farm where their lost lambs
had last been sighted.
She had mislaid him,
her husband of fifty years,
left him by the roadside in
the shattered city
of her memory.
Amid the rubble
she saw a door that looked like hers
and opened it. He was there
in the kitchen, making breakfast,
rinsing the coffee cups.
Weeping, she said to him, ‘Are you dead?’
And surely he must have been dead
for them to be in this place
of things that always needed done:
the daily chores, the shopping list,
the bill to pay, the library book to return,
the children to be nagged
to finish their homework
in time for the school bus:
of actions past, flickering in the mind
and felt by loving, felt as if
they hovered close and wanted to be found.