Massive thank you to our guest judge.
Before we go ahead and announce the winners of the Summer 2018 Chapbook contest we would like to take this opportunity to offer our massive thanks to our guest judge Vivian Jones. Judging a contest of this calibre is no easy task and Vivien comments on this in her judges report below. We are also taking this opportunity to invite all our subscribers to enter the next round in the series which is announced in this issue. It is important to note that all poems were read blind so Vivien’s comments are purely on the work and not on the poet.
Do all competiion judges say how difficult it was to choose the winners, how high the quality of the submissions, how broad the genres, how brave the subjects tackled ? Same story here. I found it extremely difficult to arrange the sixty submissions in any sort of order, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that depending which criteria I applied, I ended up with a different order each time. So I thought about the nature and function of the contest as a starting point. I think of chapbooks as an introduction, often to a new voice, to me anyway. I liked that many of the submissions were semi-themed so moving from one poem to another felt like a flow. Some individual poems were captivating but didn’t sit so well with the others submitted so in the end I chose the submissions I thought held together as a group. None of the submissions was less than interesting, many of them, including several with no placing in the competition, would merit publication in any national magazine.
The 1st Placed Winner (Debutante)
Ruth Quinlan lives in Galway, Ireland. She won the 2018 Galway University Hospital Arts Trust – Poems for Patience competition, the 2014 Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award and the 2012 Hennessy Literary Award for First Fiction. She has also been shortlisted or runner-up for other competitions like Cúirt New Writing, Francis Ledwidge Poetry Awards, and Doolin Writers’ Weekend. Her work has been published by the likes of the Irish Independent, Crannóg, Skylight 47, and has been nominated for the Forward Poetry Prize
I loved the simplicity of this writer’s vocabulary, never narrow he/she seemed to reach for just the right word to convey meaning and emotion. In particular the fond observations of family life, in all its rawness and clumsiness, sounded honest. This collection demonstrates the value of careful recall with meticulous note of detail in everyday things – just what I would remember too, for example, in Family Car Number One, and otherwise in capturing moments we all experience but hardly remark as in Taking a Moment. There’s lyrcism in the ease with which the writer converses, as if they know their subject is the universality of joy in the everyday and there is hardly a need to indulge in elaborate language to share it.
1st of eight poems submitted
Small Acts of Anticipation
I pour boiling water into a ceramic mug,
watch tannins bloom from the paper pyramid,
restrain myself from stirring, from hurrying
the prescribed pace of brewing
I save the last chocolate caramel
from Christmas selection boxes,
freeze the last mince pies to crumble
clove-scented festivity into February
I wait until Friday to crack the seal on Shiraz,
decant to a glass, let it breathe in the humid kitchen
before taking that first warm sip,
testing for spice and olive in a black grape
I set a timer to allow roast chicken to rest
before carving, wrapping it in tinfoil, leaving
the unopened gift dripping meat juice
onto a channelled wooden board for gravy
I bake soda bread for forty-five minutes,
then fold the loaves tenderly in fresh tea-towels
to steam the crusts, prop them against my granite mortar
until ready to eat, cooled, with softened, salted butter
I see the advantages in Kavanagh’s communion
of black bread and sugarless tea, sanctity in denial,
but I prefer the creed of postponement,
of finding small gratifications after waiting
The 2nd Placed Winner (Debutante)
Bernie Crawford is from County Galway and is co-editor of the popular poetry newspaper Skylight 47. In 2017 she won first prize in the Poetry Ireland/Trocaire poetry competition. In 2018 she was shortlisted in the Fish Poetry Competition and in Poems for Patience competition. Her work has been published in many journals including Mslexia, Crannog, Boyne Berries among others and has appeared in a number of anthologies. She is currently working on her first collection.
These are poems of family life, this time a family with an adopted child.. The writer explores matters arising in such a family with intensity, examining the sometimes strangeness, the unrelatedness of their family dynamic, before making the child her own through the close focus of her observations, as in I Didn’t Name You, surely the first intimacy of a ‘natural’ parent. In the wonderful Queen of Snow, the mother traces the difficult path for her black child in a largely white school until, as the star of the show, she claims her rightful place. In I Give You Back Mother’s Day, accepting the gift of her adopted daughter she speaks to her ‘natural’ mother in terms of raw gratitude. These poems answer all the questions those with no experience of cultures other than their own, might ask and they do it in straightforward, honest language.
1st of eight poems submitted
How I envied those laughing women
who came into the coffee shop
after their ‘Mums-to-be’ yoga class
in their bright, multi-coloured clothes.
I pictured myself in purple tights
with layers of black-and-white cotton tops
wrapped around with long scarves
and my belly swelling week after week.
All that doesn’t matter now.
I didn’t have a swollen belly
wrapped in colourful cloths
but I swathed you in a scarlet and yellow chitenge
and carried you snugly on my back.
You pressed your right cheek
and your two tiny-fisted hands
between my spine and shoulder blade.
Your ear sought the love-dove
lub-dub of my heart.
I felt your heart beat too
as you tuckled down
into your woven amnion.
Together in the long afternoons
we journeyed under mango trees,
rested in the handcrafted wicker chair
to the buzz of bees busy with fallen guavas.
The current is strong
and there are many waves
to take you
to the Foundland of Mothering.
The 3rd Placed Winner (Debutante)
Finola Scott has been published in The Ofi Press, Obsessed with Pipework , Clear Poetry, and Ink, Sweat and Tears among others. Liz Lochead mentored her on Scotland’s Clydebuilt Scheme. She recently read at The Edinburgh Book Festival.
Quite the wordsmith and has a broad reach of subject and approach.
1st of eight poems submitted
My arms remember.
This grandchild’s soft
Milky breath nuzzles,
her pearly skin part of me.
Memories of midnights flare.
I’m here and back –
in my Glasgow tenement.
On the phone-in programme
all-night souls whisper.
It’s hard … money an that …
‘specially on ma own when
the kids are down.
They’re missing their Da.
He’s awa – bit bother
to a sleeping world.
Stars pierce the dark.
My child swaddled in my lap;
we cuddle by the bold fire.
Sparks of love flame our den,
sweet oasis in the careless city.
The DJ searches for lullabies:
high rise harmonies.
Now another bundle flashes
the same smile.
My heart: empty of secrets
my lap’s cradle, full again.