Bristol Poetry Prize 2016


loispjonesweb21st Place: Lois P Jones, Foal 

2nd Place: Kathleen Jones, The Wedding Guest

3rd Place: Kim Moore, My Sister and the Wolves


LizBerryweb2Judge: Liz Berry

Judge's Statement: A parcel in the post is always sweet with possibilities and the Bristol postmarked packages that arrived on my doorstep in March were no exception. In the midst of a rainy grey week here were poems poems poems!

A poetry competition provides a snapshot of what's on the minds of writers and I was interested to see how the most ancient of concerns (love, death, nature) bumped up alongside the most modern (Aldi red wine; mums at soft play, texting - guilty on both charges!) I was struck again and again by how many of us use our poems as a way to try to connect or to say those things we are unable to say in life - I love you, I am sorry, you have hurt me so much, I wish I could have been better, I miss you all the time. There were poems to parents, to children born and unborn, friends, beloveds and strangers. I was often moved and in tears more than once, sometimes even the clumsiest poems shone with the sincerity of their intent. There were many sequences and long poems, one delightfully short poem which I still have pinned to my board. I love wild and raw poems and there were plenty of those too - many of which made it through to the final rounds. I was also heartened to see a good few poems concerning global political issues and the lives of those beyond our shores. Although none were quite polished enough to make it through I was glad that these subjects were in our minds and poems.

Choosing the top twenty five was joyful - such good poems! - but the final whittling down was very hard as they were all so accomplished and so different. Judging is always essentially subjective and so I did it the only way I know how - by carrying the poems with me and reading them again and again to see which compelled me the most, which stuck. I read them over breakfast, in the garden, in the car with a sleeping baby in the back, in the night when all the house was briefly asleep. I wish there were twice as many winning places but here are the poems I loved the most, the ones I wished I had written, the ones which carried that strange thrill, that electricity that a good poem carries.

(in no particular order)

Mara Adamitz Scrupe, The Dyer's Hands

Liz Berry: Lush, complicated, richly written and intense. Every time I read this I discovered something new.


Jessica Wisenfield,

Liz Berry: I found this poem very moving and thought it soared at its best moments.


Caprar Swire, Revisiting the National Collection of Clocks and Watches

Liz Berry: A poem as charming as its subject and full of well crafted images.


Angela Carr, Girl with Child on a Swan's Wing
Liz Berry: Rich, lyrical and full of music. An enchanting poem.


Diane Mulholland, Spring and the Pig Mother

Liz Berry: Oh I loved this wild, strange folkloric poem and wished I had written it, especially those wonderful final lines.


Ron Carey, The New House

Liz Berry: Tightly written, curious and full of cracking lines and images. I found myself wondering again and again about this poem, trying to unpick its mystery.


James Nixon, Cashier

Liz Berry: Punchy, witty and building up to a wonderfully unexpected ending.