Winning Poems in the Adult Category


Autumn Poetry Competition 2018

Winning Poems in the Adult Category

Overall Winner and Best Poem in the Spanish Language: Levi Attias for 'Esclavo en La Infancia'.

¡Muchos! Más que muchísimos.
Millones, aún con escasos años;
millones, forzados a superar lo insuperable.
Millones, atormentados por maldito engaño
sentenciados a campos y minas,
fábricas de alfombrillas,
a la fiebre, la escarlatina y la sangre,
encadenados al telar que acribilla.
Como perros en vertederos de basura
rebuscan para matar el hambre.

Coagulados reclutas, niños soldados,
sonrojados rifles en rojas manos,
el tórrido tormento desconsolado.
Olor a sangre; escombro de sudor,
enredaderas de lágrimas
en púrpuras canteras de lodo
y almohadas de barro amargo y pavor.

El amanecer parpadea.
El lucero se arranca los ojos por no ver.
Hoy, como ayer, toca bajar a la mina
para picar murallas carcomidas
como picotea una gallina.
Hoy toca rebuscar en el fango
y nada importa;
ni la edad de los esclavos,
ni el dolor del alma que ya no sueña.
Mafiosos carniceros pasan todo por alto
porque nada importa
en la búsqueda por cobalto.

Sacude violento el ébano de noches decapitadas.
Esclavos de párpados mojados, en la mina.
Yugo sobre el cuello de la autoestima,
flaqueza desnudada de afiladas heridas sepultadas.
Débiles huesos esqueléticos
replican entre pétalos de crisantemos.
Jóvenes sirenas esclavas, vertidas cada día
en las cicatrices de la monotonía.
Coletean antiguas historias que no se relajan:
críos que nacen para ser esclavos,
esclavos que no saben ni para quien trabajan.

Judge Conchita Triay's comments:

Esclavo en La Infancia has as subject matter one of the scourges which the most unconscionable forms of capitalism inflicts on the very young- mine work, in this case in cobalt mines. The poem starts with an exclamation   ¡Muchos!- Many! establishing from the start, the emphatic, declamatory tone which it maintains throughout, berating the " carniceros" who sacrifice all  "en la búsqueda por cobalto." The narrator depicts the brutal existence that millions of these children are subjected to, their life being one of disease and blood and tears, of relentless suffering.  He uses striking images which help us visualise the sheer misery he is trying to evoke: “Como perros en vertederos de basura/rebuscan para matar el hambre.”

The four stanzas which make up this poem use a very effective combination of literal and metaphoric language. Powerful images forcefully expose the brutality of this exploitation of childhood. We are told that the universe itself shies from the  vision of these torrid  scenes…"El lucero se arranca los ojos por no ver.” Avoiding the constrictions of a fixed rhyme scheme, the poet nonetheless creates fluidity in his lines, and a sense of cohesion, through the use of occasional rhyme and assonance “ …niños soldados/sonrojados rifles en rojas manos/el tórrido lamento desconsolado.”
In this poem, Levi Attias has once again broached one of the burning issues of our age and has created a poem which is dramatic in its condemnation but which avoids the pitfalls of being didactic

Overall Runner-Up: Elena Scialtiel for 'Guilty Dark Pleasures'.

Undress slow. Very slow. But not too slow.
Tease me with your spicy scent – friend and foe.
Go on! Tear your papery overcoat, and drop it
Creased, tatty, torn, crumpled – on the counter top.

Your gold-foil frock shimmers like the midnight sun.
Snug, tight. It bursts at the seams, it crackles undone.
Peel it off your shoulders! And reveal your glossy skin.
Quick! But not too quick! Swirl me in your dark sin.

Sculptured frame, smooth complexion to my lips,
Ignite me, excite me, as I run my hungry fingertips,
Indulging on your every curve, dimple and fine line,
Knowing that soon but not too soon, you’ll be mine.

I caress you. You snap, crack, crumble and melt,
Like sweet lava: dense, intense, devilish and svelte.
I lick, bite, gurgle and surrender to your embrace,
As you trickle down my throat, oozing black grace...

You titillate. You excruciate. You intoxicate.
You: my queen-size bar of bitter chilli chocolate.

Judge Jackie Anderson's comments:

This is a teasing poem with a humorous reveal at the end. The poet displays some lovely use of language and applies techniques such as enjambment to move the poem forward, assist the flow of words and pick up the pace towards the conclusion. The poet uses words of the senses and in particular of sounds: "You snap, crack, crumble and melt, like sweet lava: dense, intense, devilish and svelte", for example. The poem is peppered with little hints throughout that lead to the reveal, and its twist, at the end: "paper overcoat", "gold-foil frock" and "swirl me in our dark sin." Super use of language and a worthy runner up.

Winner Best Poem in the English Language: Rebecca Faller for 'The Quandary'.

I see Africa from my window
And Spain through the patio door,
But a voice from afar keeps saying
“We’re not in Europe anymore”.

As I float in the Mediterranean,
Watch its wave collapse on the shore;
An autumn sun blares relentless;
We’re not in Europe anymore.

“We’re not in Europe now!” They say,
Any doubters will be shouted down.
But I’ve got ten euros in my pocket,
Which i can spend in the neighbouring town;
I can walk to another country,
Be protected by the law,
Move freely with friends unhindered.
We’re not in Europe anymore.

We’ve been told the dark days are behind us.
We evolved from the horrors of the war,
We shook off false pride and exclusion.
We’re not in Europe anymore.

The whitewash from the Whitehall insults us,
We are caught in a net which they threw.
It’s all England and Ireland and Scotland and Wales
But Gibraltar was part of it too.
Gibraltar who filled up the ballot box;
A unanimous, clamorous roar
Which fell on deaf ears and then vanished.
We’re not in Europe anymore.

We’re leaving, we’re out, it’s going to be fine,
We can be self-sufficient and slowly with time
We’ll be rich, independent and most of all free!
But none of these things really matter to me,
Or to you, or to us, who are continent bound.
We’re not an island, we share the same ground 
As our brethren from Europe,
We cannot cut loose.
We are stuck in a quandary:
Guillotine or noose?

Judge Jackie Anderson's comments:

Sometimes the most effective way to write about a complex subject is by paring it back to its basic concepts. There are few contemporary subjects more complex than Brexit and yet this poet has managed to capture the bewilderment to ordinary people that is being caused by effects of Brexit. The poem flows beautifully with a regular rhyme, its repetitive of the line "we're not in Europe anymore" reinforcing the absurdity of the situation that is being forced on Gibraltar, which is physically a part of Europe but which is politically being wrenched away. The gentle humour of the poem disguises some clever barbs: "the whitewash from Whitehall", for example, and "a unanimous, clamorous roar which fell on deaf ears and then vanished." The stark reality of the situation for those who live land-bound to a Europe that politically is being rejected is highlighted with effective simplicity: "...we'll be rich, independent and most of all free! But none of these things really matter to me, or to you, or to us, who are continent bound", and the poem ends with a serious message. The final line presents the quandary: guillotine or noose? Fate is inescapable.

Spanish Poem Runner-Up: Mark Montovio for 'El Beso Que Nunca Di'.

Como recuerdo ese beso
El beso que nunca di
A las puertas del denuedo
Ese beso lo perdí

A penas a dos pasos
Y con la mirada al mar
Sin que tu boca acariciara
De mis labios fue a escapar

Como preso condenado
Recordando en el olvido 
El tatuaje imperecedero
De ese momento furtivo

¿Qué hubiese sido de ese beso
Si ese beso hubiese sido?
Hubiese sido flor de un día
Con pétalos de melancolía.

Pero sigue resplandeciente
Aunque seguro ya en tu olvido
En mi alma aun consciente
Co-existiendo conmigo

Es el beso en el que pienso 
Cuando me ahoga la pena 
Y como si estuviese perdido
Yo recuerdo esa condena

Y esa es su fuerza fundida 
Como hierro ardiente en la fiera 
Ese beso que aun me da vida 
Se quedó sin que naciera

Judge Conchita Triay's comments:
This poem, made up of seven verses, maintains a rhythm and rhyme throughout which imbue it with a great sense of musicality. Although the rhyming scheme varies slightly from verse to verse, the overall impression is of a patterned form. The subject matter is about a kiss which was never given and about how this “beso que nunca di” still has such a hold on the narrator “ Es el beso en el que pienso/ Cuando me ahoga la pena.”

In this poem the poet clearly plays with the sound of words: “¿Qué hubiese sido de ese beso/ Si ese beso hubiese sido?”  The repetition of the soft sounding “beso”, in several stanzas, and the recurring use of assonance further enhances the lyricism of the whole.  This poem speaks of the power of the memory of a transient moment, which in fact never even took place. The contrast between the kiss that never was, and the fixed memory the narrator has of this missed opportunity is very effectively captured: “El tatuaje imperecedero/De ese momento furtivo.”

Mark Montovio has written a  poem which strikes the reader with the romantic quality of its content  and  the fluidity of its form.

Spanish Poem Highly Commended: Bathsheba Peralta for 'Mi Niñez'.

Pienso, Pienso en mi niñez
En las tardes de inocencia
Cuando jugando queríamos 
Cambiar el mundo al revés 
Y ser mayors.
Estar libre para vencer
Los gigantes del bosque
Imaginarias también.

Las sillas del comedor
Se convertían en vagones de tren 
El tren de la ilusión
Donde mis primos y yo
Viajábamos a países lejanos 
Donde todo es bueno
Y nada es malo.

Mis trenzas negras y largas 
Brillaban con el sol
Y yo me sentía estrella
Estrella de la ilusión 
Con sombrero de ala ancha 
Y zapatos de tacón.

Hay una niña jugando 
De trenzas largas y cortas
Y un pájaro la está mirando
Entre rejas de amapolas
Niña juega, juega niña 
Pero juega tu a solas
Que el camino es muy largo
Y la vereda muy corta.

Tu primo te está esperando
A la vuelta de la esquina
Con zapatos de charol 
Y camisa blanca fina.

Judge Conchita Triay's comments: 
This poem speaks of childhood memories and it effectively evokes the innocence of past days,  “ tardes de inocencia”, through the use of some striking descriptive details, “Mis trenzas Negras y largas/Brillaban en el sol.” Visual images such as this, tangibly recreate a distant memory, powerfully depicting scenes long gone. The “zapatos de charol/Y camisa blanca fina” are two other graphic details which bring this past very much to life.
 Most of the five stanza poem relies on the use of assonance, rather than rhyme, to create a sense of fluidity, though it also uses alternating rhyme in two verses to good effect.
Anybody familiar with Lorca cannot fail to recognise echoes of the great poet in these verses, both in the images used and in the cadences of the entire piece. The sense of nostalgia in this poem, which portrays the limitless imagination of childhood, is movingly rendered by Bathsheba Peralta through the lyricism of its language and the beauty of its images.