National Poetry Competition 1978


  • Ted Hughes
  • Fleur Adcock
  • Gavin Ewart

Winning Poem

Michael Hulse
Dole Queue

          Tom Paine at one time made
ladies' corsets. And why not? I too had
    a job once, I remember, on
             an assembly line.
         Seems a long time ago.
Every fucking Monday I stand here , grow
     grey-faced, slack; I slouch. What do I
             care about the law,
        ain't got the power? said
Cornelius Vanderbilt. Went to bed
      last night, the wife says, common sense
             doesn't stand a chance
        when you're up against profit,
I says to her, you don't want to say that
     too loud, can we have  the light off
             now? It's a rip off,
        she says, the whole caper.
See what it said today in the paper?
      Go to sleep, Glad, I says. Tom Paine,
              refused a seat on
           the stagecoach, was told by
the passengers to fear the Lord's wrath. I
       wonder at times what has become
               of justice if some
        can buy their own. I won't
pretend to understand the world. I don't.
    One night we sat and watched the stars,
             listened to the cars
         on the carriageway back
of our house. The stars were bright, the night black.
     Why, says Glad, are we landed with
              a life before death?

Winner's Photograph

Michael Hulse