31st March - 31st October 2018 Call Us Email Us

2018 Poetry Prize Winners

Winner of the Mirehouse Poetry Prize 2018

Topiary

You trimmed me back to the shape of love,
yet it does not adequately describe me.
I am not you, I cannot display your need.
All through Winter I gave a little colour.
I was loose leaved but willing, and now
when I feel Spring leaking in my veins
my bulk flushed out, emblematic
ready to run with the vetch and trefoil
that trawls and binds in carefree chaos,
I am caught between blades. Unclothed,
the light digs deep, checks my hardened core.
I catch my breath; I cannot exhale.
This summer I will give you nothing.
Release the sweet white bells within me.

Alison Carter


'Show me a day when the world wasn't new'
Sister Barbara Hance (1928-1993)

Show me a day

when blackberries don't taste like a stolen prize
taken from the hedgerow as if for the first time.

When the goldfinch at the feeder doesn't amaze
with how many sunflower seeds he can swallow

and the cat doesn't look like she never found
such a delicious fire to warm her belly by.

Show me a day when the stars - you look up at the sky
as you walk to the front door after a hard night

and suddenly feel like a child, held in a blanket
so easily forgotten, sequined with silver, safe as home.

When the wait for news is harder than the news itself,
and you surprise yourself with how much you can bear,

how lucky you are, despite everything, to be here.

Jacci Bulman


Moonshadow
after Cat Stevens (Teaser and the Firecat)

The summer my colours all run dry
it lands at my feet, spins like a sleeping
yo-yo with an invisible string.
Before long I learn to Walk the Dog.

Sometimes, the Moonshadow multiplies
before me, a constant stream of bubbles,
fizz rising from leaves of waterlilies
when they rupture in the spring.

It can navigate with precision, is indicator
and wing mirror for my father
as we walk the endless hospital corridors.
Without Mum he has many blind spots.

Drifting under the low slung tunnel
of the Dunkirk annexe, my Moonshadow
winks, lifts my sightline above scarlet tiles
running a major artery along the walls.

Morphing to crystal ball, it swirls with futures,
draws parallel rays of light into rough focus.
I fear the four red owls who steal my moon,
tie it up in a white napkin with their beaks,

fly off into the endless dark. I hear it snap
into its blue black socket where I can't reach.
But today I watch the firecat and Teaser
ride the river on that disc of light and the sky

is dizzy with spinning fishbones, licked clean.
There is no question mark in their arrangement,
how they channel earthwards, how they hit
the ground as backbeat, how they build to song.

Alison Carter


Fabrications from a train

Five minutes past goodbye. The train pulls out the threads;
we are unravelled. Skeins of memory
loop over boarded factories, empty matchbox streets,
a canal swatched with rainbow death,
dead angels playing trumpets into hell.

The first real houses scamper up; proud gardens,
bunting babygros, an old man's vest, that tired blouse from Marks.
It's all so normal. Inside the train, I weave us, you and me,
in that London park today, with April sharp around us,
drowsy lawnmowers, girls in citrus trousers.

Yet now these shuttered car parks speak of loneliness.
For so long we wove Love into the fabric of our lives,
the flowers you sent, lamplight, Brahms, scraps of poetry.
The train runs on its shining rails,
stitching up the seams, between the houses and the streets,
where kindly people live and don't tell lies.
The needle stabs.

You will go home, slip into something comfortable,
and say: 'London? Oh, it was hot today. I saw the queues for Renoir
as I passed. Women sunbathed on the grass;
flowerbeds a picture. You would have loved it.'
And I, going home, will say the same.

Angela Locke


Shawl Song

I

Taps pour women-talk: a sick-child gurgle,
the freeze of bare pantry. They gather there

- one tap to six houses - wrapped
in their crocheted wool shawls, purple, blue, grey,

serviceable for streets of mud and coal.
They laugh about all the egg sandwiches

at the Sunday school picnic, how they shamed
the blacklegs with their serenades;

know that just a single wall-knock and her,
from the next one-up, one-down,

will come in to stare at the blackened grate,
listen to the hissing kettle

together, through the watch and wait.
On fine nights they stand, shawls loose,

by the lean-to sheds, look beyond
chrysanthemums, chickens, leeks and pigs,

find gold in the winding gear's halo,
see crimson candy floating

over the waste heap, think the pit might
be more than the filthy machine

that puts bread in the belly, fire in the hearth
and mangles the souls of their men.

II

And then the bulldozers come, flattening
the old colliery's breath with a fresh breeze

over green fields. But no-one picnics
with ghosts. The women move

to the next town, to new homes,
mod cons. And their shawls

lie folded on wardrobe shelves.
A century of life compressed

in paper folders in the archive.
The village that died, the cuttings say.

In a loft, an inscribed Bible - musty, cold,
from the laying of the church foundation stone;

in a bin, a shawl with uncrocheted holes,
mangled memories, almost forgotten.

Maggie Davison


Request Stop

On this line lies the unanswered question
of our returns. Being there and also here,
and never quite so between. Like a fish snaps at
another's tail, twins look into each other's eyes,
for what? A pause in the reddening of a leaf,
the deep-etched rough of bark, scratching
at something that might be really here.
Our human endeavours, earnest and meek:
like nostalgia for a branch line, for diesel trains,
the bricks of old stations blackened but firm,
the coal-faced timbre of local voices.
From a clarty carriage window, the mountains
Never rising, just there, ever,
a horizon, clouds stroking across their contours. Request stop.
Shops boarded up, the kinds of faces you once
might have known now gone. Aye and the
people you once would meet. That mist-mizzle
embrace along those last miles of shore
and the cormorants combing out their wings
on this shallow edge of land. And the little
dunlins lifting across a lace hem of tide.
A plastic wrapper crinkling and slippery under
my boot. Rucksack laden with yesterday's
ideas. Wondering what words might be best,
soon, when we see each other again,
and then how the birds got there, if I'd missed
them before, if they were really here last
time, if they will send me off tomorrow

Martin Bewick


Mementoes

I met a fraction of myself
in a box of carefully horded mementoes
A white envelope containing a kiss-curl
now aged to an unexpected yellow,
my name an evidence tag on the outside.
Bits and pieces forgotten about,
an embroidered apron in blue gingham,
its ties went round my waist twice.
Class photos marking the end of summer term
in still-life sequence.
This tracery catches me by surprise,
my memories are of other things, of classrooms,
birthday parties and broken bones.
But I am also here,
collected up and curated
in neat brief descriptions
by my mother's hand.

Jackie Garner


Scent of Change

One deadly eye,
black, unblinking

projects an image,
weeps a paralysis,

time like a shadow
touches the planet.

I look up to the sky,
try to navigate this landscape of loss,

yet there's something in the air
which isn't about to give in.

The clouds cough, yet no one looks up
from what they are doing,

what's left of the day
is hardly worth mentioning.

Yet somewhere far beyond
street lights are singing an unfamiliar song,

tail lights are grazing the horizon.
The scent of change is closer than we think.

Claire Louise Hunt


Tinnitus

….

silence

where there is silence
I will you pure silence

where there is a triad
I will you beatless concord

and I will you a clash of cymbals
so crisp the canals are frosted

and a roll of drums, the traps
distinct and rapt

and the bright sing of the glass
rimmed with a cool finger

and beyond the coda
I will you

silence

Mark Carson