2008 Stanza Poetry Competition

Richard Goodson: Daniel Craig: The Screensaver (Winner)Winner
Richard Goodson 

Emma Danes - After Hours (Runner Up)Runner Up
Emma Danes

Diana Brodie - Gap Year Letter from a Five-Toed Sloth (Joint Runner Up)Runner Up
Diana Brodie

The Theme

The 2008 theme was 'Sloth' - the antithesis of the National Poetry Day theme of 'Work'.

The Judge

Eleanor Cooke - JudgeEleanor Cooke
Eleanor's poetry has been widely published, her collections including A Kind of Memory (Seren), Who Killed Prees Heath? (Bristol Classical Press), and Secret Files (Jonathan Cape). She has written short stories, plays, and radio scripts, and lectured in Creative Writing and Contemporary Literature.

Eleanor: "The subject of the competition – Sloth – wasn’t an easy one: of the seven deadly sins, sloth is of its nature the least entertaining. The entries resolved themselves into two categories, poems which slipped into lotus-eater mode, and those which took the animal as subject or metaphor." 

"The best ten poems moved on to negotiate their own space within this tricky subject, and it is from these that I chose the winners."

Winner: Richard Goodson
Daniel Craig: The Screensaver

…and when I fail to focus, when I tire,
he rises like a Christ newly baptised
in sky blue trunks, reminding me desire
will always lie in wait and be disguised
as men with healing hands and cute-cruel lips
and arms I’d die for should they ever press
too hard against my throat. 
                                                            When water drips
from him the fish swim to his feet, confess
how happily waylaid they are, congeal
in spasmic foil and, even then, mouth how
the breeding pools upstream are no big deal.
Before my eyes bake white like theirs I vow
I’ll hit a key. Before I go berserk
I’ll kill him with one finger.   Wake up.   Work.

Eleanor: "The mastery of the form – a sonnet – crept up on me as I read, the rhymes never jumping from the page, or drawing attention to themselves. The poem blends the lyricism of a love poem, with a delicate self-effacing humour. The final couplet is a splendidly managed resolution."

Richard: "This poem was written as part of a PhD in Poetry I'm doing at Nottingham Trent University - a project in which I'm writing poems about masculinity and male sexuality. That iconic James Bond image just had to be written about! I thought it was quite a puritanically-minded sonnet with its wake up! work! finale - until I began performing it. Then I realised a large part of the audience would always be smirking with mischievous recognition!"

Richard chose a free Poetry Prescription as his prize for winning.

Runner Up: Emma Danes
After Hours

Think of me as the drowned village,     
my people safe – the fiddler,
and the midwife. No old man taps
his cane down the street, no woman
runs out to her neighbour. Jugglers
and acrobats pass me by.
I have no lilacs, nor goats,
nor fields of wheat. Just water,
like the sound of an organ.     
My stones may loose their paint, doors loll
on unmended hinges. Reeds laze
in my parks. My broken walls
are cathedrals. Those are waves, not
hands, that cling and slip on the beach.
I know only a rippled sky,
the distant Morse of sunlight.

Eleanor: "After Hours takes the form of a simile, into which the reader slips easily and deceptively. We have to remind ourselves at the end that this whole dream-like poem is an image for Sloth, and that the drowned village isn’t real." 

Emma: "The various inspirations for this poem came together quite unexpectedly with the idea of sloth: a beautiful lazy afternoon skimming stones at Lake Vyrnwy where a village was drowned (after being rebuilt lower down the valley), Chagall’s nostalgic paintings of Russian village life, and organ music heard in an empty church. The image of the drowned village suggests for me the essential qualities of sloth: a timeless, dreamlike, submerged state, accompanied by a guiltless distancing from responsibility – very welcome, however briefly, at the end of a demanding day."

Read more of Emma's poems on our Members' Poems pages (Summer 2008) and the 2007 Stanza Poetry Competition page. Read more about Emma on our Members' Profile pages.

Runner Up: Diana Brodie
Gap Year Letter from a Five-Toed Sloth 

 Hi, Mum, I'm sorry that I missed the plane.
 How far is Heathrow, then, from John O'Groats?
 When next you come to meet me, take a train.
 I came here to observe the two-toed sloths.
 I gave that up. The species is extinct.
 (Since sloths could not be bothered using both,
they've all evolved to one-toed sloths, I think). 
I should have told you this, but never wrote.
I had no stamps. My pen ran out of ink.
Planes don't pick up our mail, just leaky boats.
I've a bottle ready for this letter.
I'll toss it in the sea. I hope it floats.
If I wait till spring, the current's better.
I mention 'spring'.  I need to make this clear:
(don't tell Dad while he's driving. Wait till later).
I can't face coming home. I'm staying here.
My Gap Year's for a lifetime, not a year!

Eleanor: Gap Year Letter from a Five-Toed Sloth was the best of the comic takes on the subject, its form again controlled with an ease which may be more apparent than real. Whichever it was, this neatly-tripping verse was engaging, and avoided the rather portentous humour that characterised some of the entries."

Diana: I've always had a thing about Gap Years. It seems to me that after all those years of bringing up children, it's the parents who deserve the break rather than the children! A case of too much indulgence, I think.

Read more of Diana's poems on our Members' Poems pages (Summer 2007). Read more about Diana on our Members' Profile pages.

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