2017 Walter Swan Trust Poetry Competition Results

1st Place: Kathy Osgerby – Leaving Spurn Point

2nd Place: Nairn Kennedy – Mr Arkwright’s Mind

3rd Place: Michael Farry – Stanstead Airport

Highly Commended: Andrew Bramwell – Wisdom of the Primary School


1st Prize: Leaving Spurn Point – Kathy Osgerby

A poem can be its own sweet dream, a piece of music that sets itself aside from the world of logic, of commerce. It doesn’t need to say anything in particular. It observes and the observations are their own pleasure. The winning poem, Leaving spurn point is filled with delightful observations that light up the poem. The poet’s seeing eye makes wondrous all that passes before its piercing gaze, and the short lines effect their own taut pleasure of perception as it occurs. The land is a ‘skinny digit’, the mudflats are ‘lacquered gold’ and the sun ahead is a ‘compass’. Beauty reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishop and Amy Clampitt.

2nd Prize: Mr Arkwright’s Mind – Nairn Kennedy

What things are not, is often as beguiling as what they are proclaimed to be. In the second prize poem, Mr Arkwright’s Mind, the lineation measures each acute possibility to perform a negation or to convey a kind of exactitude. In either case, the images are fresh and beautifully phrased in this playful yet sombre poem. Arkwright’s mind is not a ‘steel trap’, nor is it ‘the razor slicing through logjams’, but instead it is a ‘skylark with a bad cough’, and one that ‘stopped like a broken song’. An original elegy that is extremely moving for its restrained emotional control.

3rd Prize:Stansted Airport – Michael Farry

The challenge for contemporary poets is to make the old vessels of form sound fresh, and not laboured or parodic. The third prize poem, Stansted Airport, channels a series of ordinary exchanges about a journey with great skill into that mighty Dantean form of ultimate journeys, the Terza rima. Instead of the Dantean grandeur the poem adroitly maintains its low key style throughout at the ‘boarding queue’ with its gentle humour about the ‘English funerals’ and its insights about loss.

Highly Commended: Wisdom of the primary school – Andrew Bramwell

A witty series of precise observations that always ring true in this runner up, Wisdom of the primary school. Each couplet is an exact metaphor for aspects of school life. So that ‘Reading is a conjuring trick’, and a dinner lady is recalled as ‘A tyrannosaurus rex’ while playtime is a prayer for ‘heavenly battles’. A charming and wistful wonder of a poem that any reader, of almost any age, can relate to.