1st, Short Category 2010 - Kate Dempsey


Amsterdam Otto Recommends

And an emerald square cut, says Otto,
green for Ireland or something like that, offset just so.
Diamonds on black felt sparkle under
halogen lamps like a night sky in the polders.
We nod, dazed as the guilders churn
to madness. He tweezers the tiny stone, turns
so it glitters like Elizabeth Taylor's first;
one month's salary in one small burst.
Of course, in a few years, he says, glancing up,
but not at me, you can trade up.



Judge's comment:

Worthy of the first prize as it is a clever poem about several ideas. The comparison of the diamond to Ireland is deliberately off-hand yet subtly hints at the current decline of that country. The diamond is small yet a starting point on the acquisition of wealth. The romance is pitched in such cynical terms as masculinity is played off against the passively rendered woman. May be there is a further comment about Ireland as a violated woman. The global aspect of the poem with wealth and politics from afar affecting the local is captured in the title and the setting.

Daljit Nagra

2nd, Short Category 2010 - Ama Bolton


Adagio for Honda and Cattle

Meeting them head-on in a narrow lane
we stop the bike to let them pass.
Switch off the engine. Lark-song. A bumble-bee.
Soft patter of hooves. The world moves at their pace.
They lurch and lumber lugging heavy bags,
swish flies and snatch at mouthfuls of grass.
Behind them the white-face bull,
all maleness and muscular grace,
sleek-suited, light on his feet,
swings his brown purse.



Judge's comment:

A wonderfully witty poem where the richness of sounds, the dense rhythms and the tightness of the shape perfectly enforces the observations. The opening line is tactfully knowing as the bike meets the bull ‘head-on’ and pauses in admiration. The ritual of man and machine allowing passage to the cattle and bull shows a richly creative world is in turn being created by the poet and the poem. The ending is funny and yet respectful.

Daljit Nagra

3rd, Short Category 2010 - Chris Waters


Our Mothers Now

Day by day now
the mothers are leaving us:

paper-light on the draught
of a wing-beat,

casting-off the incalculable
weight of their stories,

they rise and scatter
into the illegible dark:

their pages flutter
beyond our out-stretched hands.



Judge's comment:

A subtly evocative lyric about loss that is very moving. The spacious form allows the white space to evoke the blankness of the loss which is picked up by the metaphor of paper and wings, and the lightness of the mothers’ departure. The simple language captures the despair and the mystery dramatizes a mind in grief.

Daljit Nagra