Excavating the Terracotta Army by Glen Wilson
The eyes could be his, even in oval blankness
and no iris or pupil dilating, I see him,
the son I wasn’t allowed, the brother
that would only play in shadows.
And each of these soldiers bears the face
of lives cut so incredibly short,
from Hainan Province to Heilongjiang
the policies halved us.
We loved your older brother
but our hearts could have stretched to you.
I continue to brush long past
the dust’s denial of grief,
row upon row
all waiting to march.
Judges' comments: This poem is excellently constructed and shaped, a tight piece of writing that creates a powerful metaphor which works on several successive layers. The Terracotta Army is simply the way in to the poem, the 'dust's denial of grief' providing the perceptive reader with a more fulfilling and meaningful central theme. The brevity of the poem is one of it's main values - the poet knows just how much to say, how much to leave to the reader's imagination. A fine piece of writing.
SECOND PLACE: Last Samaritan in Paris by Simone Mansell Broome
Rene Robert, a Swiss photographer famous for his images of Spanish flamenco stars, died in January 2022, in Paris, after a fall.
Not stripped, robbed, beaten this time. Not left
at the side of the road that runs
from Jerusalem to Jericho.
Left for dead. Not this time.
urban abandonment, half a world,
two millennia away. Nine hours
on a cold January night, between
the Place de la Republique and les Halles,
a route he knew well, his bedtime stroll,
A dizzy spell,
a trip, a slip, a fall and a man is down,
alien, anonymous. These priests and Levites
tonight are again too busy, too wary to bend
to check. Look the other way, cross over,
pass by, lost in our own concerns.
It takes another invisible one
to call at last for aid, (maybe another
of those six hundred who’ll die
on France’s streets this year).
Help comes too late.
If we’d had time,
had known his fame, weighed up the passion
of his art, would he have seemed at last
like one of us?
No ass or inn this time.
Just absence, indifference.
Judges' comments: This is a poem with a strong narrative thread, a good idea that links the Biblical image of the Samaritan with modern day life and reality. The poet has managed to create a metaphor that is highly effective.
THIRD PLACE: Half-Renovated by Sarah Leavesley
From the coastal path, our ‘new house’
is green fields and blue sky framed
by scaffolding, rafters and breeze blocks.
Workmen have left jagged walls – a part
peeling back of older structure,
releasing rotten wood and ghosts.
It’s not the home we had planned,
more like a picked scab, a broken
dream that seems beyond mending.
The view though from the other side!
A butterflied cliff edge gives way
to endless miles of pulsing ocean.
Untamed waves thrill and surge,
rushing towards us with surf-frothed tales
of drama on far-off shores.
In time, the late supplies will arrive,
our contractors return. New tiles
will take their place. This brick shell,
shiny with brine and longing,
will fill again with the bustle of life,
and the clatter of our belonging.
But for now, we imagine that this too
is how it’s meant to be: home’s wild heart
open to the sea breeze, sky and light.
Judges' comments: This was a well observed piece of writing where the word pictures were strong and central to the main concept. It was/is a highly personal account or observation but the crafting of the poem makes it accessible to all readers.
The following three entries fell into the 'almost but not quite' category, poems which on another day could well have achieved a higher placing:
All three were well-crafted, each containing memorable lines and images.