Autumn Poetry Competition 2019
Highly Commended Poem
Louise Charlotte Ballantine for 'A Pause'
Cool to my touch
Mark my transition;
To cool green underworld,
Sun heated traffic
Replaced by birdsong,
and the stutter of leaves in the breeze.
White stones and straight paths,
Yet trees soar unchecked
My heart lifts to
The canopy of branches above me.
Dear William Boyd still sleeps
Beside his son and infant daughter
Gravestone faded by sun and rain
Our lives passing swiftly
Trees reaching, stretching
I stop to rest my hand
On furrowed bark
And I breathe the damp leafy air
I just exist
Judge Charlie Durante's Comments:
"Blake once wrote ‘There’s a moment in each day which Satan cannot find.’ This poem celebrates one of those moments. The speaker leaves the busy world behind and enters a graveyard where birdsong and ‘the stutter of leaves’ are the only sounds. The poem begins rather forbiddingly with the ‘Iron-black gates’ but the ominous colour gives way to ‘blue anchors’, reminiscent of the sea (are we in a cemetery where naval personnel are buried?) and then to the white stones of the tombs. The meditation dwells lovingly on small but intimate details: the mention of ‘Dear William Boyd’ with his son and infant daughter personalises the poem, and the general observation that ‘our lives (pass) swiftly’ is contrasted with the ‘living slowly’ of the trees. The poem is beautifully spread out on the page with short lines emphasising the different stages of the speaker’s thinking. As we approach the close of the poem we encounter truncated lines ‘I just exist/for/this/moment.’ The single words read like an epitaph: we are resigned to the idea of death, burial but also undisturbed peace."