Young Poets 11-14 Winners

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 Ted Hughes Young Poets’ Awards were: 'The standard of the young people’s poetry was exceptional. A passion for ecological issues comes through in their poems. We can look forward to hearing much more from these budding poets in the future. Ted Hughes would be delighted that his legacy continues to inspire so many people’.

Winner – Martha Blue

Against Manufactured Nature

 

Eagle wings,

beat hard,

beat wind,

wind moans,

who wins?

 

My mysterious life is shot forward like a series of true arrows -

but what bow-twanger sets it straight, what crow-quiverer decides the target,

what fox-skulker hunts me down, what twig-splitter knows

me?

 

I look from my window and do not see what only

my sloth-like memory recalls to me:

to me my spirit dances on desolate open wild massive moors

where, to me, silence and emptiness are beautiful,

and my heart feels most alive with the whistling breath of winds

and roughened stone walls are ribs to my lungs;

vast skies are my eyes which open and close by palest of days

and by blackest of nights as I sleep and am wakeful.

 

I crave and seek the loneliness of the bleak barren spaces;

here, where time no longer exists other than

as the sweeping to-froing of nowness;

these lands are nameless places

or they are called me without name.          

 

I dance amongst silhouettes of sky larks

and lapwings tangle my wind-swept hair.

 

I am mischief: a golden sun yellowing the fur of a leaping hare

whose stare is a blur of star;

but it is no more than a streak

like a flow of spilt milk.

Here I am sneaker-peeker, now here now there.

 

They say September is my month when I turn a page,

but my page, if it is so, would belong to others, too

and so I should look elsewhere.

 

My fingers, which write on this age, harden every year

like dried pasta curled tight and hard-sharp at the ends –

or the long finger nails of my

great-grandmother Alice who has gone

like the pale yellow light of every morning sun

that goes away …

 

but I am ever distracted, ever open to reflection,

especially to sapphire drops glinting through the skies – like a vision

forming puddles of coloured jewels

shining like a pearled mirror-pool.

 

Days ago I was a swan that glided unseeing across a rippled dark lake,

while all around the edge was decay and reflection of this ballet.

 

Yesterday I leaned against a propped ladder puzzled why I should climb it.

 

Today I look out from my window,

hemmed in by desolate tall angry townscapes, tall as giants,

that cast unmoving shadows which roar like constant trains,

and I am stuck in the foreground,

surrounded by crowds of cold upset busying people, scurrying as a rustle of litter.

I mingle like the wind but leave no footprints.

 

And my tattered kept diary is a record of this dirt and muddle.

And my greatest fear is being stuck in this mud, fossilised.

 

But for now, I am raised above on an eagle’s wind.

 

 

Comments by Yvonne Reddick: ‘A wild music of crow-quiverers, fox-skulkers and twig-splitters lures the reader in. The hare ‘whose stare is a blur of star’ is a metaphor that Ted Hughes would have been proud to have written!’

 

Runner Up – Rory Lewis

Heart to Heartwood

 

Voices you planted there,

On that day by the pond,

When we lay on our backs,

And watched the dragonflies,

Dip and circle like aerobatic biplanes,

With azure fuselage and leaded glass wings.

 

I could not learn by bark, or leaf, or winter silhouette.

You did not fret. “Listen,” you said. “Listen.”

 

“Welcome,” murmured the sage voice of the stately oak,

Omnipotent earth Mother of the trees,

Acorn-bearing matriarch, resonant she spoke,

Protecting her charges in the tender, summer breeze.

 

Then the plane, his wide trunk camouflage-flaked,

‘Get in line boy!’ he barks his orders,

From his lichen-bedded barracks he quakes,

The uncontested captain of the garden borders.    

 

“Och, pipe down!” scolds the lanky Scots pine,

He whispers, “Wee bairn, don’t you mind him.”

Wiry and whiskered, a crow perches his shoulder-line,

As he pirate-balances on his one remaining limb.

 

The black spotted sycamore with the widespread palms,

Is a scientist, an inventor, she energetically toils,

‘Admire my creations!’ she proudly proclaims,

As they helicopter spiral onto the warm, wet soil.

 

Thorny hawthorns gossip spiny insults, they moot,

“She should be embarrassed by those leaves, that dress.”

While the froth-bloomed bird cherry will be laden with bitter fruit,

And sends up runners in a clear sign of distress.

 

As the horse chestnut mourns her two long-dead sisters,

While the stoical ash was battered in the storms of ’89,

“You know they died of sap-spewing canker blisters.”

Brittle and cracked, he creaks, “but I’m still fine”.

 

Not so, the weeping silver birch, whose ghostly bark,

Is adder-marked, ethereal in full moonlight.

He rasps and chokes through his wraith filled husk,

“You’ll never dream silent now.” His words tinged with spite.

 

I shiver, and turn to the hazel’s plump embrace,

Replete with round nuts in fat green hats.

“There now,” she murmurs, her gentle green nursery face,

Cheerful in springtime with her drooping yellow plaits.

 

And now you are gone, but these voices remain,

A cacophony. I knew from then on I should,

Cherish their sappy whispers, their mellifluous refrain,

From that day when my heart changed from a heart to heartwood.

 

 

Comments by Yvonne Reddick: ‘This poem gives voices to the trees – and each has its own accent, attitudes and character. I was enchanted by the miraculous transformation at the end’.