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Celebrating the life and work of Ted Hughes 


The Elmet Poetry Prize 2018


Elmet Poetry Prize 2018 

 

Adjudicator: Yvonne Reddick 

Yvonne Reddick won a Northern Writers’ Award for her poetry in 2016. Her poetry pamphlet Translating Mountains (Seren Books, 2017) won the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Prize. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Stand and Shearsman. She is Research Fellow in Modern English and World Literatures at UCLAN, where she researches literature’s engagement with environmental issues. Her book Ted Hughes: Environmentalist and Ecopoet has recently been published by Palgrave Macmillan.  Yvonne’s comments on the entries to the 2018 Elmet Poetry Prize were: 'I was extremely impressed with all the poems I read for the Elmet Poetry competition. There were some fresh and highly original takes on the themes: ‘Epiphany’ inspired poetry about geckos, hunting, homelessness, urban vixens, Egyptian foxes and Turkish dogs.Ted Hughes would be delighted that his legacy continues to inspire so many people’.

 

 

Elmet Poetry Prize 2018

 

Winner – Anna Crowe

 

The Gecko

in memory of my sister


Behind the closed door of the sitting-room

the television blares the stored

heat of the day, and our parents’ traded venom

feels its way like a plant towards us

where we stand on the dark stairs.

This will be our final conversation.

 

While you talk, voice cracking with strain,

I stare at a tiny gecko splayed

against the window. How have you clung

so long to the slippery pane

of glass that is the family? Dun-coloured,

almost transparent in the naked

 

glare of the bulb in its wrought-

iron cradle blotted by moths,

the gecko is motionless—

but for the tongue, fast-forwarding

towards death; a flicker

each time I almost miss,

 

intent on your catalogue of grief.

I hear how you’re racked, caught

between love and duty, taut

and sickening in that atmosphere.

I must hang on, low and fierce.

I have to hold it together.

 

I stare at the lidless eyes, the delicate

feet; its toes like tiny spoons

pressed flat against the window.

The gecko, says my book, adheres

to a vertical plane by means

of minute platelets armed with hairs.

 

But how did you stick to that joyless

touting of timeshares— your smile stretched

improbably into the ample storage space

where all your words would soon be lost?

You may have thought you could lessen

the pressure of debt (the pain in your chest

 

we’re about to learn is a clot on the lung), but

I think I’m losing my husband, you whisper.

I turn to look at you, and you’re weeping.

And when I look back, the gecko is gone.

 

 

Comments by Yvonne Reddick: ‘The central image of the gecko haunts this beautiful poem of separation and mourning. Clinging to the window, keeping its precarious toeholds, this little lizard is a brilliant metaphor for the drama that unfolds. ‘This will be our final conversation,’ the poet writes partway through, with a novelist’s instinct for foreshadowing. The final lines deliver devastating news with astonishing poetic force. Shock, empathy and tenderness are handled with consummate skill’.

 

 

Runner Up – Roger Elkin

 

Fox-Spotting Epiphany

Hotel Fort Arabesque, Hurghada   

           

I can see it in the way their eyes glaze, the way they turn

their heads away, and change the subject,

that folk don’t believe me when I tell them about the foxes.

 

They tell me that what I say is their yelping

that low moaning skirl

origin beyond the palms at the back of the hotel

and sounding all the long balmy night

is the visitors’ lift in B Block, rising and falling

by the Pavilion Suite, as guests return from discoing

and this being Egypt and nearing the end of the summer season

it stands to reason its machinery needs seeing to.

 

And they don’t believe it when I say

that the groundsman

with his emerald green overalls

and his too-big galoshes

leaves the water-sprinkler dripping on purpose

for their sipping every day.

 

Don’t believe I’ve seen their sneaking dance

a skitter-trotting-stop-then-streamlining-glide 

through the bougainvillea hedge stems

and across the cropped grass

to reach that sunken copse of young palm fronds

between the two hotel wings.

 

Don’t believe I’ve seen them gambolling

their apricot and tawny brown camouflaged

in the colour and rhythms of sand

on the outcrop mound beneath the name-unknown shrub

with its crown of lemon-yellow trumpet blooms.

 

But they come

as regular as the Suzuki pickup

with its teetering stacks of towels

that the Egyptian room-boys unpack

in staggering feet-high piles

they come,

an hour or so earlier

when the morning sun squats its fat orange

just above the horizon.

 

They come. My foxes come.

 

Comments by Yvonne Reddick: When a poet begins with ‘folk don’t believe me when I tell them about the foxes,’ we know that these foxes are every bit as real as Ted Hughes’s thought-fox was to him! This poem combines a fascinating poetic form with some dynamite images – ‘a skitter-trotting-stop-then-streamlining-glide’, ‘the morning sun squats its fat orange.’ The poem is set in Egypt, and the sense of place was so vivid that I felt I was right there at the Hotel Fort Arabesque’.


 

Third Place – Aaron Cass

 

Bosphorus dogs

 

Istanbul. Brilliant sun, wind from the sea.

They met us by the serpent column,

by the blue mosque,

on the grey paving of the hippodrome,

where once horses burst their hearts

running for the prize.

Three of them, circling at first,

as if they had been waiting especially.

 

The head dog, the colour of sand,

black eyed bit my trouser,

telling me to follow,

that leading is knowing

what it feels like to be led.

 

Beneath blue sky and trembling planes,

they walked along side us,

guardians of the unknown guest,

difficult to say who was at heel,

the length of the plaza, past the obelisks,

and the yearning minarets,

past the early morning queues at Aya Sophia,

where two more joined the pack,

a black and white and another,

mongrel descendent of the wolf-killing Karabash,

the ones who always find their way home.

 

They barked at anyone carrying a bag

a young man shrank away

clutching his knapsack,

an old woman cursed,

swung her shopping skyward.

 

Shopkeepers stared at us

obvious foreigners with our walking shoes,

made to make every road the same,

mountain path or hotel lobby marble,

cut so as to expose its heart,

the electricity of not quite fitting in

about our bodies and our eyes

unable to meet with anything that could return

the gaze, our bewilderment.

Intrigued too at our strange escort,

the strays and undisputed natives,

who made us royal, ennobled us

beyond desert, for doing nothing

but turning up.

 

Guide-dogs for the almost blind,

they stopped at every crossing,

waited for the green man, Al Hizir of the junctions,

halted at the red,

shot easy diagonals over tram tracks,

dodged through spice scented crowds spilling from the bazaar,

the horns of urgent taxis, the cries

of simit sellers and the weary citizens

on their way to work, their forest of feet

perilously criss-crossing this way and that,

then down the winding streets to Eminonu

and the waiting boat that frayed

at the edges into seagulls and sunlight.

 

At the shore they disappeared

as quietly as they came,

true to the ancient compact,

leaving us to imagine we had got here ourselves,

on our own two legs.

 

 

Comments by Yvonne Reddick: ‘This fascinating long poem presents an innovative take on the theme. A pack of friendly strays take the speaker on a tour of a hippodrome ‘where once horses burst their hearts’, towards the Aya Sophia and the simit sellers. I could see the minarets, smell the spices and feel the history of Istanbul unfolding in this gorgeously evocative poem’.

 



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