Hay Writers’ Poetry Competition 2018
by C. Harris
The judge this year was Libby Houston. For the first time this competition was open to selected non-members, those who had attended our very successful poetry workshop in February of this year, and this undoubtedly enhanced the numbers. The workshop was not only a useful educational exercise, but also a chance to meet other writers and to boost our membership. We plan to organize more workshops in the future. Check out our website Events Page for details of workshops and competitions.
Libby started her feedback by acknowledging that responses to poetry were highly subjective. However, when she outlined some of the criteria by which she judged the poems, it was clear that she had been meticulous in her assessments. The criteria included choice of form, use of language, and the sound of the poem. She gave some very helpful pointers on line-breaks, on how the poem is laid out on the page and on “the pitfalls of rhyming”.
She then went on to discuss each poem individually. Although her comments could occasionally be a little astringent, the criticism was always constructive, identifying not just weaknesses, but strong points and effective language. Importantly, she gave suggestions for possible improvements in each poem, making this a highly effective learning exercise.
In first place was Corinne Harris’s “Golden Rose Synagogue, Lviv”, a pantoum about a holocaust memorial, with a “sustained and elegiac mood”. This was followed closely by Emma Van Woerkom’s “Water Break-its-Neck”, an energetic poem about a waterfall, with a “profusion” of effective imagery “that responds to the waterfall’s violent name”. Third place was tied. Jean O’Donoghue’s “Sciurius,” with its flouncing lively squirrel, and with imagery “mirroring the creature’s jumpiness”. Ange Grunsell shared third place with “Absence”, a melancholy reflection following a visit by her grandchildren that had a “flow and sound like natural speech”. Three wildlife poems were highly commended: Emma Van Woerkom’s “The Weaver Bird’s Nest”, and “Adder” and “Hyena” by Corinne Harris.
It is clear that there is a wealth of poetic talent around. In a sense the competition is not just about placement, as this is clearly subjective, but it is an opportunity to share work and, importantly, to get useful feedback from an experienced poet and tutor. Our thanks go to Libby Houston for her careful analysis and her constructive suggestions.