Prize Winning Poets and Poems – 2022 Poetry Competition Report

We are delighted to showcase the winning poets and poems of our 2022 Poetry Competition.

Huge congratulations to 1st Prize – Michelle Pearce, 2nd Prize – Jean O’Donoghue and 3rd Prize – Jaz Slade.

1st Place Poem, on reading ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ in 2022 by Michelle Pearce was described by our judge, Dr Jack McGowan as, “a tour de force of careful imagery. Like all good poetry it provokes contemplation, in this case the degree to which the pastoral idyls of the Romantics and late Romantics are dead and gone: unsustainable in a contemporary world of consumer capitalism, climate change, car parks, and species extinction. The fact that it does this in such a contained space, and with such keen ekphrastic understanding, is a testament to the skills of its author. This poem is a worthy winner, and one that has stayed with me long after reading.”

on reading ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ in 2022

Dear John, dear dead boy, fast-fading violet

in your beechen green’s numberless shadows –

yearning for your beakerful of warm South

to purple dying lips, bubbling lungs,

dreaming yourself forgetful with your immortal Bird,

Coleridge’s merry nightingale in

its grove of neglected underwood –

moon-bathing’s plaintive anthem, hawthorn, rose.

We are his countless generations of man,

we your emperor and your clown,

we the hungry ones have trod him down,

tarmacked your beechen green, his underwood,

punched holes in your immortal Bird’s black night, red-listed his lover’s eggless flight.

2nd Prize went to Dream Home by Jean O’Donoghue. Our judge wrote, “Dream Home invites its readers into a memory, deftly articulating a domestic space that is both airily familiar and at the same time intensely personal. It is this tension between the public and the private that powers this poem forward. The final image of tears flooding the house, filling its niches and nooks, neatly captures the sense of the speaker who is half in and half out of a dream. I applaud the author for their care and insightfulness as well as their poetic craft.”

Dream Home

In the calm grey of summer dusk

I sleep

or rather, I think that I am sleeping

or, maybe, dream that I sleep ….

The clock ticks slow and slower

There in the living room dart the shapes of children I once had

in my bed lies the ghost husband

in the garden our dead black cat stalks shadows

The kitchen smells of curry, bacon and cherry and almond cake

All the knives lay safe and pans gleam softly

Through the window the scent of fresh mown grass blows in

and downstairs the washing machine hums ….

There is a soapy necklace in the bath

and an old record plays in the lounge

The record stops.

I wake from the dream

Or,maybe, I dream that I wake

Or, perhaps, I dream that I am sleeping at last …..

My heart yearns for the time of the house

My heart yearns for the time

My heart yearns …..

And, all the long while,

My tears fill the pans on the stove,

     the bath and the sink,

            the shallows of the sofa

                        and the hollows in my bed

And I wish the house “Goodbye”.   

Swooping in to win the 3rd prize, The Journey Home by Jaz Slade.   “The journey home delivers crisp and compelling imagery from the opening simile and refuses to yield to cliché or abstraction,” says our judge. “It skims between thoughts and observations, alighting on rich details: ‘the wet hiss of the wheels’, ‘the low slinging sycamores and bloodless fens’ before bringing the poem to a tidy conclusion. The whole poem has the feeling of authentic, lived life, and demonstrates the author’s keen eye for uncovering moments that are otherwise hidden, delicate, and beautiful.”   

the journey home

your bike is rattling like it’s halfway to the grave.

i am thinking of snow,

the train back home from London after midnight,

your soft leather coat, your nails painted pecan,

the wet hiss of the wheels that dash by us

like they have somewhere to be. in the weeks before,

we would have taken the path through the rye fields,

past the low slinging sycamores and bloodless fens,

but you tell me a story about a friend of a friend

who broke two ribs running from a stranger

in the darkest stretch of the trail, and so we drift together,

slipping under the streetlight

as if it is the shadow of God.

Two poems received commendations from the Judge, Frameless by Helen Smith and Reunited by Mark Bayliss. Both these poems, their Judges comments, as well as the general competition comments from Dr Jack McGowan will follow in a separate article next week.

In addition to her £100 first prize, Michelle Pearce also becomes the inaugural winner of the Hay Poetry Cup. A new award presented annually to the winner of the Hay Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition.

With special thanks to our amazing judge, Dr Jack McGowan, all our winners and to everyone who wrote and submitted their poems. Our 2022 Poetry Competition received the most poems ever and we delighted in each and every entry. Thank you.

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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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