First prize: The Friday Group Hike (Auldearn), by James Andrew
Second prize: Fire Juggler, by Lyn Moir
Highly commended: The Story of Silence, by Sue Hubbard
Highly commended: Of Fools and Angels, by A. C. Clarke
It was a pleasure to read these hundred poems from older poets. I could feel the maturity and conviction in them, the interest in people and the world, the good nature. While some poems were not as tightly constructed as they might have been, perhaps with overstatements, indecisive endings, or ragged narration, the total effect was impressive. From the shortlist to the four top poems, all to professional standards, I picked the calm, outgoing poem about a walk through the Scottish countryside, its first word Rain but its atmosphere positive, its vision crisp as it melded history with the present, taking the reader along in its company, for the first prize. This turned out to be by James Andrew. Congratulations to him. Lyn Moir came second with her vivid, defiant and colourful metaphor of the fire juggler, almost dangerous, almost angry, about the sense of being ‘very old.’ The two highly commended poems came in very close to the winners: an intellectual and playful discussion of fools and angels, from A. C. Clarke, and Sue Hubbard’s shining fantasy of finding peace at the sea’s edge. A great clutch of poems, and thanks are due to everyone who took part in this civilised competition.
The Friday Group Hike (Auldearn)
Rain swarms down like a hostile horde
of barbarians, as our road passes
a quagmire of tractor tracks and puddles,
There would have been a view of a fort once;
now a grassy mound and an abandoned doocot
stare back from its space.
There would have been a view of a battle once
where two ideas slogged it out,
blood the victor.
Now one foot leads the other,
one piece of conversation follows the other
on our path through the present.
A swan upturns in a pond,
as a crow rasps a rough file through sky.
Red berries soften the spike of holly branches.
An SUV sounds the alarm bell
of its engine, its lights sweeping
at us like cutlasses.
We pass the bareness of birches,
and the crowding of houses
as we reach the village.
Our path has curved round on itself
as we return to the car park
and make geometry of our day.
Now I am very old I want to juggle fire,
toss flaming balls from hand to hand,
have passers-by stare open-mouthed
at my dexterity.
I want to see the sunflower heads of flame
fly carelessly in rising arcs,
bridges between steep banks of words.
I’ll burn my bridges with blazing balls,
catch sparks which in their turn will light
a second generation of wild fire,
spin to infinity.
As comets trail a feathered tail behind
I want to leave my mark, a cloud of glowing lines
spinning like fireballs in the dark.
by Lyn Moir
Of Fools and Angels
Fools rush in. Angels do risk-assessments.
Over the dangerous threshold goes the fool.
You were warned say the angels.
A fool and his gold … Angels are tightfists.
You won't catch an angel trading in
a milch cow for a handful of beans
or jumping off a cliff on plummeting wings.
No angel would strike sparks from flint
without extinguisher to hand
nor climb into a logboat, paddle off
to Lord knows where without compass
or lifebelt. A smug life being an angel
knowing nothing that happens is your fault.
A mug's life being a fool, knowing you started
the forest fire, drowned your passengers:
If only is your constant refrain
If only you'd looked first, thought harder,
not been so damn cocksure. But then
you'd not have scaled the giant beanstalk
brought home the inexhaustible goose.
The Story of Silence
Because it has not turned out how I dreamt,
to lie against another’s backbone in the dark
listening to the suck and blow of their dolphin breath,
I return to the edge of sea, sky and land,
where dawn is washed by rain-soaked night,
to reveal a tattered wedding veil of mist
covering the morning’s face.
Far from the city’s buzz and blur,
the constant ticker-tape of news,
I am postulant to the weather-god,
genuflect to the pull of tides,
whisper rosaries to a glassy moon,
and great Atlantic storms.
At break of day I light a beeswax candle
so, solitude becomes a form
of holy erudition,
the I an eye, before I merge
with the savage silence.