1st, Short Category 2006 - Lesley Kelly

A seafarer furnished my house

with a well-travelled nautical clock
right twice a day
and tightly wound as an argument
ready at any minute
to fling its springs
high in the air
like an old man's cry for his nurse.

Lesley Kelly

Judge's comments

This grew on me slowly but steadily, and continues growing. It does what every poem, and certainly every short poem, should always do, and makes every word, every syllable count. That the lack of punctuation is not merely an affectation is highlighted by the line-breaks, which are perfectly placed to guide the rhythm and heighten the tension. Best of all, despite the tight control that the poet exerts over the writing, the reader is still left plenty of room to get inside the poem and create their own background story, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable to re-read again and again.

2nd, Short Category 2006 - Jane Williams

Kate's Socks

I remember the special way you used your baby feet
to wriggle free from those two-inch-long pink woolen socks.

You'd scrape your tiny wiry toes persistently against your heel
peeling the limp sock down past your ankle, over the arched instep,
that bridge to a tender sole not yet familiar with unyielding rock.

One foot released, the rest was easy.

Now older you retain the serpent art
of casting off a skin,
slipping from the past.
Moving on.

Jane Williams

Judge's comments

The differing line lengths are used beautifully by the poet here. The detail packed into the longer, flowing early lines perfectly enact the outpouring of love in the parent’s reminiscing, while the second half of the poem creates a poignancy and perhaps a certain amount of mystery simply by shortening the lines and changing the pace. The language throughout is plain, but never prosey, and if "serpent art of casting off a skin" is excellent, "bridge to a tender sole" line is even better. A very close second.

Matt Merritt

3rd, Short Category 2006 - Gail Lee

A Holy Marriage

I'm no angel you say, but I find
The orphaned, flightless feathers
Nestled in the shower;
The golden hairs scribbled on your pillow
And the shiny hoop-la ring on the bedpost.
The bed bears no body print
From one that strides on clouds
And in all of God's houses,
Your gaze guards me
From a thousand painted panes.


Judge's comments

This is full of fine images that both raise a smile and stick in the mind, but if I had a favourite it’s the "golden hairs scribbled on your pillow".


There’s something quite enigmatic about the last three lines, too. I’ve already read them several ways, and so this boasts the same virtue as the other two winners, an open-ness that keeps the reader’s interest long after first sight. That’s a difficult task to pull off in such a short poem, and so all the more praiseworthy.

Matt Merritt

Highly Commended, Short category 2006

These poems received Highly Commended listings from judge Matt Merritt. We can't reproduce them here, because that would make them ineligible for further competition entry, but here's what Matt had to say about them:

Last Act - Sally Flint
I thought starting a ten-line poem with two two-line questions was brave, but they’re made to work well by what follows. The "I want to believe" line is great, and the theatrical and Far From The Madding Crowd allusions take the reader in all sorts of unexpected directions.

Milko - Matthew Stewart
I liked the idea behind this one, the stories contained in the changing size of the milkman’s delivery, but there’s a lot else to admire too. The way "chimed", err, chimes with "pints", for starters! Simple and straightforward, but well achieved.

the diver - Catherine Edmunds
I don’t mind admitting I’m still trying out different ways of reading this, but that was one of its appeals, along with its reminder that sound is every bit as important to a poem as sense. I liked the playing around with repetition and elision, and the surprise of "laugh" in the last line, which can still be read several ways.

Matt Merritt