Poetry Competition: October 2021 Winners

We’re delighted to announce the winners of the 2021 Autumn Voices Poetry Competition.

We’d like to thank our lovely judge, Chrys Salt, for her tireless work in sorting through over a hundred entries to the poetry competition! Here’s what she had to say about this years entries.

It has been my pleasure to judge the entries of the Autumn Voices Poetry Competition this year. 

So how to choose? 

This is an international competition, poems coming from as far afield as the USA.  My selections are as widely spread as Arbroath, Manchester, Sheffield and Brecon. 

For several weeks on and off, I sat waist deep in poetry, sifting poems into piles of NO, Hmmmm, maybe. Like this but is it really about choice? Love it… Changing my mind… And I loved quite a lot of poems, but somehow after living with them for a few weeks just a few stayed in my mind, and trusting the authority of my senses, those are the ones that landed in the winning pile. 

These poems are MY CHOICES. Another judge might have made very different ones.


Highly Commended

CRUMBS by Christine Williams (80)

Christine Williams is also fine-art painter using beeswax as her medium and a published poet. Apparently this is the first time she’s ever entered a poetry competition! Her poem Crumbs is deceptively short and simple, using cake as her metaphor. The poem embodies how we make choices  – the ingredients we need for writing poems, how we write, how we choose those we love. I found it quite haunting and it stayed with me like the succulent crumbs in the cake in the first stanza.

Funny how crumbs from a particular cake
allowed to drop indifferently
are thumb-and-fingered
onto the anticipating tongue, each one.

Taste-buds are tear-jerked
into full alert, and every microscopic
morsel savoured, till the last echo
of flavour disappears.

And on the other hand 
funny how any other cake,
a good thick slice of chocolate fudge,
or lemon cheesecake,
apple tart, plum fruit cake,
fresh cream scones,
though offered on a plate of porcelain,
will be declined and
         “perhaps some other time”
murmured in vague apology,

and so it is with words,
and so it is with love.

About Christine

Born in West Wales she is a fluent Welsh speaker who lives in Brecon, Mid Wales.  She is married with three children, all of whom work in the arts.  

Christine has written poetry most of her adult life and has read many times as an invited guest poet at various venues. 

She has been the featured poet at the monthly Writers’ Forum in Brecon and has been published in The Works, (editor Nigel Jenkins) and Sextet (the anthology of the Breconshire Stanza group).  

When she submitted a poem to the Autumn Voices ‘Choices’ competition in 2021 it was the first time she had ever entered a competition with one of her poems.

She is a fine-art painter using beeswax as her medium and sells her work as Melangell.


Highly Commended

Hygge by John Ling (75)

Apparently Hoo-gue (had to trawl google for the pronunciation for that too) is a Danish word meaning a sense of cosiness, togetherness and well being, appreciating the simple thing in life – spelled HYGGE – just the kind of poem I thought  we needed in these lockdown times. I love its light touch, captivating images of a flawless, idealised, impossible midsummer day and its sardonic, kick in the teeth ending.

If I could choose my birthday
it would not be in winter
wearing warm clothes
breathing clouds of moisture
staring at bonfires
munching burnt sausages.
It would be in June
in my room without a roof
amid clematis and buddleia
beanstalks and thrusting rhubarb.
The weather would be wearing us.
Bare skin would be toasting.
Summer would become us
as roses to the cheeks
or as wine to the tongue.
Anarchic kids playing house
in the willow wigwam,
cats would loll in the dust,
neighbours would break habit,
stroll smiling up the garden.
Trays of spicy salad and cakes
would float amid the flower beds.
Young men and sons would stand
wearing shorts and beer cans,
talking like new met strangers.
Trains would jolly over the viaduct
full of noisy boozy cruisers.
And I would sit on my high bench
smiling like a lord on his subjects
waited on by admiring minions
lovers, exes and sons, and all
grinning through gritted teeth.

About John

John Ling is a former teacher who now works as a freelance mediator, mainly with special needs cases, helping parents in conflict with their schools or their local authority over the support needed by their disabled child.


Runner-up

Epictetus Rides Again by Al McClimens (65)

So who the hell is Epictetus? Had to look him up.  A Greek stoic philosopher it seems – famous for such sayings as ‘Don’t explain your philosophy, embody it’. Then I trip over prohairesis – oops! A concept generally translated as “choice” or. “moral purpose I discover. Of course you all knew that didn’t you?  Don’t usually go for obscurity but once I got a handle on this one, its clever  two line structure, its rhymes and enjambments – with yes, the concept of choice embodied in the poem, it was not just clever, but irresistible first person narrative.

Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it.
Epictetus

I told her I was a writer. Well, she asked for it.
Oooh, she said, with three ‘o’s. Oooh, I do a bit 

of typing too (double-o, standard sarcastic
spelling). What you ‘writing’ now then? Smart Alec

air quotes and enough body language to choke
a dictionary. A poem on Epictetus, I said. Greek,

Stoic school. If she’d been a cat she’d have purred.
I am soooo (count them) impressed. But, she demurred,

isn’t he a tad niche? Maybe if she had stopped there?
But no. She pouted. Can you wite about me? Reader, 

I didn’t marry her. That missing ‘r’. I mean, puh-lease
(two syllables). I considered explaining prohairesis

and the choices we make but in the end I just said, No.
She looked at me gone out. Oh, she said. Just one ‘o’.

About Al

Al McClimens is old enough to know better. Indeed by the time the prize giving takes place he will be days shy of collecting his bus pass. It is also true to say that he has been writing for so long he really should be better at it by now. But hard work and dedication were never his strong suit.

After a long and undistinguished career in the NHS and later in H.E. he took early retirement to polish his sonnets. Don Paterson has never heard of him.

He lives in Sheffield, the capital of the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire, where he plans to grow older disgracefully. He will work for food. Please give generously. His first full collection, published in 2021, ‘The Other Infidelities’ is available via Pindrop Press. You should buy it. No, seriously, it’s actually very good.


Winner

Her Choice by Ann Craig (70)

This poem remained a clear winner throughout. I loved its dramatic flair, the story only hinted of a woman’s opportunities lost – maybe an illegitimate child?  Love gained, but in a very different life she might have imagined. There is humour there too. And the only poem submitted in Scots. I loved it – could imagine it being performed, so it was no surprise to discover that Ann is also an actor who trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and wrote and performs a popular one woman show about a local Victorian woman, who was also a poet.

He used tae watch her come aff the bus, 
heid doon, then guessin 
he might be lookin, she wid straighten
her shooders, wave, she’d waanted 
to emigrate, start ower, sever her ties 
wae a lang distance knife, but things 
conspired, she’d goat tired and
leaving wiz an effort.

Oan a Friday she’d buy him aw the comics,
wae a Five Boys bar o` chocolate,
she never missed it even, when the shillin
ran oot fir the meter, she’d say,
The wean needs somethin tae look forward tae,
she could sell oanything, she used tae boast, 
son, ah could sell a toothless wee man, a hard bit o` toast.
He’d seen her dae that.

She taught him aw the auld songs, how tae work hard,
that maist folk meant well, that poverty o the mind 
wiz worse than hivin nothing tae spend, 
she wiz bonnie, hid been a bit o` catch in her day,
great red curls, lang legs, an could she dance?
Aye, like Ginger Rodgers, but she never goat a Fred Astaire,
when she came oot the birl, naebody wiz there,
only him, she’d say, way a cuddle.

About Ann

I love poetry, reading it, and of course writing it, and I think it is a great way to explore all aspects of life, and the world in intense short bursts. 

No matter the topic, I feel a bit of humour tends to creep in from my Glaswegian upbringing, where I saw how dark humour got us through difficult times.

I have lived for the past forty six years in a very small fishing village perched on a cliff on the north east coast of Scotland and the two very different environments are reflected in my writing.

I have work in anthologies and a variety of publications and recently was shortlisted in the Wigtown Poetry Pamphlet competition for my pamphlet Glasgow Angels & Witches.

I trained in drama at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now The Scottish Conservatoire) and I wrote and perform a popular one woman show around my area about a local Victorian woman, who was undoubtedly ahead of her time and who was also a poet. Some of my poetry also lends itself to performance.


Congratulations to all our winners and thank you to everyone who submitted poem entries and made this so enjoyable!

The prizes (in addition to the cold, hard cash!)

Thank you to the very generous publishers for donating these lovely prizes.

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