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and the winners are…

It was a great privilege to attend a special ceremony at the Civic Offices recently where winners of the Mayor’s poetry competition were presented with their prizes.

The competition, which ran in December last year, invited young poets to celebrate the River Loddon through the creation of poetry, encouraging them to treasure their local environment.

The winners display their certificates with pride

The judging panel, myself included, had a tough job choosing winners given the high number of entries and quality of the poems. After much deliberation, we chose our winners, who were each presented with an iPad Air, and runners up receiving a £100 book token.  

Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane Cllr Onnalee Cubitt said: “We were blown away by the poems, particularly the emotion they conveyed, the interpretation of the themes and the range of styles that were submitted.”

You can read the winning poems on the Mayor’s webpage by clicking here.

Featured image L-R: Judges English teacher Jean Elliot, Mayor Cllr Onnalee Cubitt, publicist Atlanta de Jersey-Lowney and poet Vic Pickup (fellow judges English teacher Chris Fielding-Smith and bestselling author Lucy Jones not present).

Poetry

My New fridge

is taller than my head
wider than my wingspan
bigger inside than out.
 
You could keep a corpse inside
(once you’d cut it in half
and frozen the legs.)
 
My new fridge/freezer
was a rocket in its former life.
Smooth, sleek, white
various logos emblazoned
on its aerodynamic sheen.
 
Brace yourself and wear weighted boots
before you click open the door –
in tinted visor and factor 50, be prepared
for arctic blast and halogen glare
to bleach your earthly senses.
 
With gloved hand
enjoy the smooth, seductive glide
of durable plastic, translucent shelves
laboratory clean
 
no carrot top fronds
or congealed yoghurt crumble –
everything is
exactly where it should be.
 
If I move the wine rack up
and hold my breath
I can just about fit in
 
and close the door.                                                                                        

Photo by Trifon Yurukov on Unsplash
Poetry

What it meant for the girls

The women stopped wearing make-up.
They didn’t bother with the office clobber,
heels pushed to the back of the rack as
flipflops and crocs came to light.
 
They became flat-footed, slow treading feet
spreading against the laminate, the stone,
the grass. Some days they didn’t brush their hair,
roots reaching up from within, dark and natural.
 
They immersed themselves in old crafts;
crochet, knitting, watercolour – leaving the phone
to vibrate in another room. They began to read,
knead, blanch, blend, stir, separate and taste.
 
They planted seeds and couldn’t believe their eyes
when a seedling broke the earth. Taking delight
as they watched wild birds peck, take flight,
a fresh green tendril in an orange beak.
 
They stood outside in the world and listened
for what seemed like
the first time.

Poetry

The longing of Judith Kerr

Published in February 2020 on RiversSide by Two Rivers Press – Reading’s own publisher

What if you could give them back
their hats, coats, scarves? Place
a knitted glove onto each small hand.
Return their hair to them, for plaiting
and to entwine daisy chains made
in the meadow amongst the soft buzz
of furry bees. Pull out of the sack the
toy train, hand-carved, and old bear,
a travelling companion − exactly the one,
with a bright blue bow around his neck
frayed from feeling too much love.
Put them all back into the right hands.
Find the shoes, a perfect pair, buckle
the feet, all tucked up in woollen socks.
Fill their cheeks until red and ruddy, make
rounded tums and dimpled legs, scatter
freckles on faces with the touch of summer.
Then place in one gloved hand another,
bigger, a mother. Give them back a father
too, smiling down as button eyes look up
to find his in the glare of the setting sun.
Grasp that hand and step back on board
the train, this one with red velour seats
and a warm welcome from the lady
with the trolley, who offers jelly sweets
and apples and a story book,
about a tiger who came to tea.
the feet, all tucked up in woollen socks.
Fill their cheeks until red and ruddy, make
rounded tums and dimpled legs, scatter
freckles on faces with the touch of summer.
Then place in one gloved hand another,
bigger, a mother. Give them back a father
too, smiling down as button eyes look up
to find his in the glare of the setting sun.
Grasp that hand and step back on board
the train, this one with red velour seats
and a warm welcome from the lady
with the trolley, who offers jelly sweets
and apples and a story book,
about a tiger who came to tea.

Poetry

This Moment Too

will be forgotten.

Through the foggy bedroom landscape
and a muted dawn chorus
curtains grow lighter
as the prospect of another day looms
spent slumping over an empty coffee mug.

Snatched naps and
fearful awakenings,
numbed by a cool breeze.
The perpetual state of weary bouncing,
which darkness brings with hushed sing song,
lingers in aching joints.

And of you,
sacred, nocturnal child,
all I will take forwards
is the day you placed your hands on my face
and kissed me.

Poetry

The chicken that saved my children

Winner of the Café Writer’s Award 2009

Thanks be to the chicken, Haŝmeta,
Who came home with us in place of Sofia’s wedding ring.
She made do with a hard and dirty yard for her home
And as she scuffed and pecked and jutted
The hills rained bullets, the sky’s moan was shrill
Haŝmeta swivelled her head and saw my children crying
Alas, no egg would come.
We saved food, Nada and Almir grew thin
Their cheeks were hollow – not fat as children’s faces ought to be
Haŝmeta saw this. She worried so, her feathers grew thin
She picked at herself, hateful for the lost gold.
She stopped clucking those comforting noises.
She fretted and shook with every impact.
Then one day, I took Haŝmeta a slice of somun,
And noticed a beautiful thing tucked into the corner.
Haŝmeta scratched the floor, puffed her chest.
Sofia heated the pan on the stove
The children gathered to see the orange and white bubble,
The edges becoming crisp and brown.
Sofia and I watched as they mopped the liquid gold
Licked their lips, made lovely smacking noises
Their eyes grew bright, their faces warmed.
They stroked Haŝmeta every day, Nada sometimes sang,
We told her we would defend her forever,
We would never harm her. We would never let them take her.
When shelling was heavy we even brought her inside.
Soon she began to cluck again.
Each day we would have three, sometimes four perfect eggs.
We were the only family that remained whole
When the Chetniks came down from the hills.
Thanks be to Haŝmeta, the chicken that saved my children.