The winners of the 2020 Hay Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition are:
First prize – Emma van Woerkom – ‘Blackberry Seed’
Second prize – Angela Grunsell – ‘Autonomy’
Third prize – Katy Stones – ‘After him’
This year our judge was the wonderful Kate Noakes. She generously took the time to comment on individual poems and obtaining such critical feedback from an established and gifted poet is the major benefit of entering this competition.
We are extremely grateful for Kate’s painstaking and constructive input. As well as the individual commentary, she made some general comments which are of great help to all poets, these are reproduced below.
“Thank you so much for asking me to judge your poems. It is an honour to be trusted with your careful work. I have read an enjoyed them all. I thought it might be helpful to set out a few general thoughts. These are only my opinion, and I don’t legislate on poetry, so feel free to ignore or contest them. I have put some individual thoughts on each poem also, and suggested some edits, but again, feel free to dispute them; they are only one reader’s response.
1. Many poems capitalised the first word in each line – this is rather an old fashioned approach and most poets don’t do this these days as it draws rather too much attention to that first word. You can switch off this function in Word if you don’t want it.
2. Punctuation in poetry should follow the same rules as prose, unless you are deliberately not punctuating at all, in which case you might use the triple space, and/or make your line breaks work really hard – Adrienne Rich is a good example of a poet who excels at this, if you want to take her as an exemplar (she is wonderful for other reasons obviously, also).
3. Syntax should follow the normal English sense -it is really jarring to the contemporary ear to twist it around to fit the rhyme.
4. Adjectives and adverbs should be used sparingly. Please consider them carefully and don’t over use them.
5. Titles – these are tricky and I suggest spending more time on these as they can do a lot of work for the poem. Think about whether, if you opened a book of poems and saw the title in its list, you would want to turn to that page and read it.
6. Form – it was really lovely to see so many poems using form and rhyme. These are a challenge to write and I appreciated these very much.
7. Cliched subjects/imagery – there are a lot of poems out there about bees, moons, fairies, rainbows, frost and the like, as well as a long list of over-used words and images in poems – try this list for examplehttp://www.pretendgenius.com/banned.html– so it you are going to write on these topics or use these words, try to do something different with them, or at least be aware that they might be cliched. (sorry I can’t put the accent in the right place!) You might like this blog post on the subject https://robinhoughtonpoetry.co.uk/2017/09/15/those-poetry-banned-words-again/or this https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=45206
I hope these thoughts help.”
Kate Noakes is a prize-winning and widely published poet who set up Boomslang Poetry to facilitate poetry readings and workshops in the UK.
Kate was founding President of Paris Lit Up, a not for profit literature organisation in the City of Lights in 2012. She reviews poetry for Poetry London, The North, Poetry Wales and London Grip.
Kate is a trustee of writer advocacy organisation, Spread the Word. Her practice is focused on contemporary culture and environmental matters.”
Kate’s published poetry:
Ocean to Interior, Mighty Erudite, 2007.
The Wall Menders, Two Rivers Press, 2009.
Cape Town, Eyewear Publishing, 2012.
I-spy and Shanty, corrupt press, 2014.
Tattoo on Crow Street,Parthian, 2015.
Paris, Stage Left, Eyewear, 2017.
The Filthy Quiet, Parthian, 2019.
Her much-anticipated non-fiction:
Real Hay on Wye –
forthcoming title from Seren, 2020.