2011 Stanza Poetry Competition - the results
Theme: 'Breaking the rules'

Julia Webb - 2011 Stanza Competition winnerJulia Webb, Norwich Stanza
Will Kemp - 2011 Stanza Competition - Joint Runner UpWill Kemp, York Stanza
Jacky Tarleton - 2011 Stanza Competition Joint Runner-UpJacky Tarleton, Exeter Stanza


Carrie Etter (2011 Judge): "The overall winner of the competition is 'Lent' (by Julia Webb). I admire its raw energy, the distinctive, palpable voice, and its compelling momentum, and altogether, I appreciate the poem's ambition and the author's willingness to take risks."

Julia wins an extra year's free Poetry Society membership and a selection of poetry books. 'Lent' will be sent to the Forward Prize judges for consideration for the Best Single Poem of the year, and Julia will be invited to read at a future Poetry Society event.


Carrie: "The joint runners-up are 'The pirate inside' (by Will Kemp) and 'On Saturdays father wrote sermons' (by Jacky Tarleton). Both show impressive control, with line breaks and stanzas intelligently used to progress each piece. Both are humorous, in different ways: 'The pirate inside' with its wild imagined actions and the tension many of us feel between what we'd like to do and what's socially acceptable, while in 'On Saturdays...', the comic, focused scene of the work the sisters put into making their own cigars, followed by the father's discovery. I also want to note the specificity of language without a word in excess, making the poems impressively taut as well."

Will and Jacky win a selection of poetry books and will be invited to read at a future Poetry Society event. Both poems will also be sent to the Forward Prize judges for consideration for the Best Single Poem of the year. 


Carrie also commended ten poems - download them here:

'Breaking the Rules' by Nina Boyd (York), 'The Patron Saint of Poetic Words' by Maggie Butt (North London), 'Unregulated' by Kate Compston (Cornwall, Camelford), 'Playground' by Anna Kisby (Brighton), 'Humanities' by Julie Lumsden (Nottingham), 'September' by Katrina Naomi (London, Streatham), 'At Blackwater Tavern' by Simon Robinson (Oxford 2), 'The Mound' by Julia Webb (Norwich), 'Adjustment' by Ruth Wiggins (Waltham Forest Poets, London), and 'Planck' by Martin Zarrop (Wales, Cross Border Poets). 

The theme of this year's competition was 'Breaking the rules' - the opposite of the National Poetry Day theme of 'Games' (or as opposite as we could make it!). This is the fifth year of the competition, open exclusively to Poetry Society members who are also members of a Stanza. In total, 177 poems were received from 111 poets. Carrie judged the poems anonymously.

Previous winners of the Stanza Competition were Emma Danes, Richard Goodson, Julie Lumsden and Michael Swan.

Winner: 'Lent' by Julia Webb


We talked about the pit falls of summer babies, those BAD-UNS gone to seed and Whitsun weddings, Easter when it falls early and the time we found all that CHOCOLATE that she had GIVEN UP for Lent hidden in the bottom of the cleaning closet. And how we despised the way she cried and said Please DON’T tell your Daddy - as if we would! But we liked to imagine his big bitumen hands resting on the faded skin of the BIBLE and his stern and serious face and the: Mary you know you have done WRONG!  But Alice she took all that chocolate and we ate it up in the yard burying the silver foil underneath the compost heap where only JESUS could see it.  Alice says JESUS can see everything - he can even see through walls. Sometimes I think about that when I’m in the bathroom and I pull the raspy towel close around me but it’s hard to wash that way - and even harder when Mamma is shouting: Come down stairs at once and go and get some potatoes and Alice is whispering through the door: Hurry up in there, Mikey will be here soon and I need to get ready. And then I remember how she KISSED Mikey in the car and I wonder why she isn’t worried about JESUS seeing THAT and about the whole threat of MORTAL SIN? Mama says that autumn births are the WORST because you have to go all through the long hot summer and Daddy puts his hand on the holy book and says: We won’t talk of SUCH THINGS.  And then I remember the chocolate in the closet and how good it tasted and I am about to say something because I don’t want to go to HELL, but Alice kicks me hard in the shin and I see Mama shaking her long shine of hair and I remember the sting of Daddy’s hand. So when he looks at me with his caterpillar eyebrows raised THAT WAY I just lower my head and say NOTHING and know that presently we will eat dinner which will be ham and peas and POTATOES and I concentrate hard on my plate and imagine that I am JESUS and that I am eating up all the world’s SIN.

Julia graduated from the University of East Anglia's Creative writing MA in 2010. She currently teaches Beginners' Creative Writing and runs the Norwich Poetry Book Group. Her work has appeared in various publications including: Poetry News, Other Poetry and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She was recently one of the 'Young Poets Centre Stage' at Wymondham Words Literary Festival. She has a website http://juliawebb.org/ and a blog http://visual-poetics.blogspot.com/

Julia: "I thought of this poem immediately when I saw the theme for the competition was "breaking the rules". The poem is one of a series of prose poems written in the voice of the youngest daughter of a dysfunctional fictional family. It was the first poem in the series that I wrote. There is something very freeing about writing in a voice that is not your own. It was important to me that the child's voice was convincing. I knew that I was taking some risks as it is a prose poem and it is quite dense. I tried it in other forms but felt that this was the form that most suited the voice."

Joint Runner Up: 'The pirate inside' by Will Kemp

The pirate inside

wants to crash through
the door of the Sutton Arms at closing time,
down a pint in one
then bend the barmaid back like a Tango partner
and snog her in front of her mother.
He does not want to attend
the Church Fenton Christmas Carol Service,
but leer at the nuns who shop at the Village Store,
or at least make lewd gestures at their car.
He's aching to join
the Bolton Percy and Wighill Birdwatcher's Society,
so he can tip-toe down to the hide and watch
their blank faces as all the pee-wits shoot off
when he lets out his Tarzan roar.
He longs to tell
the Manager of the Harrogate Natwest
he's blown the bridging loan on a pink Jag,
is about to leave England for Jamaica -
but will pay her back when he can.
And on the morning of the competition
for the best-kept garden in Little Ditton,
he's going to swap
the name on the gates
of Honeysuckle Cottage and The Willows
to Clamydia, Gonorrhoea -
then drive a muckspreader down the street
in aid of Comic Relief.

Will Kemp studied at Cambridge and UEA, and has lived in Canada, Holland and New Zealand. He now lives in North Yorkshire, where he works as a planner assessing the environmental impacts of major developments. He has been highly placed in several national competitions, and won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award and Envoi International Poetry Prize in 2010. His first collection, Nocturnes, will be published by Cinnamon in 2012.

Will: "The poem stems from a workshop with Michael Laskey, the poem 'Confession' by Stephen Dobyns and a story I once heard about an ecologist who let his garden grow wild, thereby enraging local residents intent on winning the Best Kept Village in England Competition. I’ve always wanted to be an eighteenth century pirate, and with this poem I saw my chance. I didn’t mean any disrespect to good causes, but I did want to send up the self-righteousness that so often comes with the territory."

Joint Runner Up: 'On Saturdays father wrote sermons' by Jacky Tarleton

On Saturdays father wrote sermons

Dressed up in gowns and furs
two sisters in the attic
tear Church Times into squares
the size of postage stamps.
Cross-legged under the table,
high heels tied on with odd ribbons,
they stir the enamel bowl
with a charred wooden spoon.
When the papier mâché is dry
they stuff it in cardboard tubes
to make rolling pin cigars,
then kneel in the disused fireplace
and smoke them, sparking the soot,
till strangers knock at the door.
Father descends from his study
in shirt-sleeves with ink-stained fingers
still wearing his dog-collar.
The strangers point up at the chimney:
father stands, neck back, in the garden,
mouth open, watching the flames.

Having been brought up in Manchester, Yorkshire and Tyneside, Jacky studied English at Durham University before working in Zambia, Kent, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Exeter. Now that her son and daughter have left home, she is enjoying being a student again at Exeter University, supervised by the poet, Andy Brown. Her PhD provides an exciting opportunity to create her own poems whilst exploring Louis MacNeice’s poetry through the lens of Gaston Bachelard. Jacky won the Huddersfield Literature Festival Poetry Prize in 2010.

Jacky: "My father was Anglican chaplain at Manchester University and my younger sister and I had the run of a rambling Victorian rectory. We seemed to get into a lot of scrapes. She lives in Crete now, but whenever she visits we reminisce about our childhood. This poem is an attempt to preserve one particular incident through what Gaston Bachelard would call ‘The Intuition of the Instant’. I first wrote it in March 2010 but, following Andy Brown’s advice, put it away, bringing it out to work on from time to time. Like home-made wine, it went through many rackings before it was finally ready this August."

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