Poems by our 2021 Prize Winners – Ojo Taiye, Stewart Roberts and Ange Grunsell

We are delighted to showcase some of the work by our 2021 Poetry Competition winners.

Ange Grunsell secured Third Prize with a poem inspired by time spent olive picking in Palestine with the Zaytoun, a Community Interest Company and social enterprise founded to support Palestinian farmers through fair trade.
She has been kind enough to share some of her photos of the experience for inclusion here.

Olive Harvest 2016

In January 2021 the Israeli Occupation Force uprooted over 3,400 trees from land belonging to Deir Ballout, a village on the West Bank.

Old trees like old poems, speak new meaning to every age 
collecting time and histories in our branches. 
Destroy us at your peril: we are your lifeblood.  

Under the dense curtains of the family olive tree, heavy with fruit, 
older than grandma’s grandmother,  
one of just four shaggy giants in the field 
the dusty black sheeting is spread. 
Young Mohamed is helping:  
it is his first harvest in his third year.   

As fast as we 
stroke the branches 
dropping handfuls of smooth pellets  
of fruit into the bucket, 
Mohamed upturns the bucket 
with a grin. 
The olives roll down, snuggling  
into the folds of the ground sheets.
gleaming shoals to be gathered later: 
nobody minds. 

The older children 
swinging on the other side of the tree, tug at the branches  
strip off the olives in pelting cascades 
pattering on the ground. 
Mothers gather up the fruit into sacks 
checking the while the dinner trays stay covered 
away from fly or nimble fingers. 

The bright new ladder with two sides  
raises two fathers together to new laughing heights, 
the long sharp pruning knife
lies on the ground below. 
Khadiga observant, swift, 
outflanks a tottering Mohamed.   

Old trees like old poems and new people 
collect new meaning as we grow 
cradle time and memory in our branches.

By Ange Grunsell

Second Prize was taken by Stewart Robert’s wonderful poem “A Bigger Splash“. When the winners were announced at the zoom meeting, Stewart remarked that this was the first poetry competition he’d ever entered. Congratulations Stewart – what a way to start!
The inspiration for his poem came about during the first UK lockdown in March 2020.

A BIGGER SPLASH

The pool attendant is resplendent in his black uniform,
trimmed with gold.

His post is voluntary though he and his family,
receive board and lodging in return.
The customers acknowledge his position.
The rules are not written down, but clearly understood.
Only one individual must bathe at a time.
All sizes, all ages, all genders are catered for.

No water fights, no jumping or diving.
Everyone waits their turn patiently
and leaves promptly.
Some are hesitant to enter the water at first;
probing the temperature before immersing themselves
The larger bathers often spend longer in the pool
and prefer the deep end.
They can make quite a splash.

Occasionally there is a new visitor,
who doesn’t know the procedure.
So the pool attendant lets them know
In no uncertain terms.
He tut-tuts loudly at those who leave debris in the pool
And shoos away those who stay too long.
All are welcome; large and small, young and old,
black and white, coloured or grey.

Some are a little shy,
Hiding their bodies or sneaking in
When no-one is looking.
The attendant only works daylight hours
But the pool is open 24/7.
At night there is a different clientele,
that come and go under the cover of darkness
But we won’t mention what they get up to.

The blackbird Pool Attendant works for handouts
and sings his praises from on high.
Thrush and robin busk alongside him.
Magpies and jackdaws flash their coloured notes.
The collared doves and pigeons coo their thanks
While blue tits and wagtails pay in kind.
Collecting greenflies and other insects.
A garden pond is a community asset.

By Stewart Roberts

Ojo Taiya won First Prize with his evocative poetry sequence “Conspiracy of Silence / Moira Camp: The New Colossus / Let Me Tell You a Different Story / Listen“. With this success, Ojo has entered his poems into another competition, so they cannot be printed here, but to satisfy our craving for his words here are some links to his published work online as well as details of his books.

http://malarkeybooks.com/poetry/prosthesis-by-ojo-taiye

https://icefloepress.net/2019/12/08/four-poems-by-ojo-taiye/

Podcast:

http://strangehorizons.com/podcasts/podcast-poetry-of-the-nigerian-sff-special/

Book:

Congratulations to all our winners and everyone who entered our 2021 Poetry Competition.

Look out for details of our up and coming Non Fiction Competition to be announced shortly.

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About thehaywriters

The Hay Writers : a highly active & forward thinking writing group based in Hay-on-Wye, the world famous 'Town of Books'. ✍️ In 2019 we celebrated our 40th anniversary.
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