National Poetry Competition 1981


  • Roger McGough
  • Edwin Morgan
  • Peter Porter

Winning Poem 

James Berry
Fantasy of an African Boy

Such a peculiar lot
we are, we people
without money, in daylong
yearlong sunlight, knowing
money is somewhere, somewhere.
Everybody says it's big
bigger brain bother now,
money. Such millions and millions
of us don't manage at all
without it, like war going on.
And we can't eat it. Yet
without it our heads alone
stay big, as lots and lots do,
coming from nowhere joyful,
going nowhere happy.
We can't drink it up. Yet
without it we shrivel when small
and stop forever
where we stopped, as lots and lots do.
We can't read money for books.
Yet without it we don't
read, don't write numbers,
don't open gates in other countries,
as lots and lots never do.
We can't use money to bandage
sores, can't pound it
to powder for sick eyes
and sick bellies. Yet without
it, flesh melts from our bones.
Such walled-round gentlemen
overseas minding money! Such
bigtime gentlemen, body guarded
because of too much respect
and too many wishes on them:
too many wishes, everywhere,
wanting them to let go
magic of money, and let it fly
away, everywhere, day and night,
just like dropped leaves in wind!

Winner's Photograph

James Berry

Winner's Comment 

"Winning the National Poetry Competition included me among winners - it was quite a heart-throbbing experience. More notice was taken of my work afterwards - the win seemed to place me in a position of recognition. I continue to feel a sense of gratitude to the individuals and the organisation who founded the competition and opened up these opportunities."