POETS SHORTLISTED FOR THE SPECIAL CHRISTMAS FORTNIGHT PRIZE1. Ashish Kumar – ‘Jackfruit’
2. Catherine Edmunds – 'Caney The Clown'
3. Chris Kerr – ‘The Lorelei’
4. Drew Milne – ‘Having A Pepsi With You’
5. James Finnegan – 'Early December walk'
6. Janet Dean – ‘Pin the Night’
7. Jo Burns – 'Christmas Shelter'
8. Jose Varghese –‘The Boy from the Mountains’
9. Linda McKenna – 'Christmas Day on the Lord Sidmouth'
10.Marisa Silva-Dunbar –‘Body Parts’
11.Meg Eden – ‘Instructions for Speaking in Tongues’
12.Megan Pattie – ‘In Blakeney’
13.Molly Bess Rector –‘Retail Therapy’
14.Shadab Hashmi – ‘Empire Ekphrasis’
15.Siobhan Flynn – ‘Christmas baking without my mother’
16.Sofia Hafeji (Pen name Sofia Amina) – ‘1947. 2014. 2016.’
17.Teresa Godfrey – 'Waiting Game'
18.Zachary D’mitri Jackson – ‘Crucible’
The first prize is £240.
THERE WILL BE A SECOND AND THIRD PLACE PRIZE OF £48 AND £24.
The winner is:
Jo Burns – 'Christmas Shelter'
Second Place goes to:
Ashish Kumar – ‘Jackfruit’
and Third Place to:
Drew Milne – ‘Having A Pepsi With You’
Winning poems and poet biographies appear below.
Judges' brief comments:
Of course, all prizes are inherently preposterous - as Bob Holman famously says, the best poem never wins... and presumably, is not entered, or even written; and what best means is perversely impossible to pin down (which is a good thing). That being said, each moment in time the human mind is called upon to choose one act over another, and, as such, one ethical stance over another - an ethics of engagement with the world, experience, texts, entertainments, histories, ideologies... and since choice seems hard-wired into Being itself, to refuse to choose poems one would prefer to spend time with is vaguely dishonest. Would I repeat-watch Touch of Evil by Welles? Yes. Dukes of Hazzard - probably not... tempting though that may be. Will I re-read Dickinson, or Hill, or Pound? Yes. Will I re-read an already-thumbed Agatha Christie (enjoyed once, albeit)? Maybe not. Aesthetics is a branch of ethics, or perhaps economics, or both, in so far as it requires choice. In that spirit, here we go...
As usual, the Fortnight brings out a lot of talent, from all parts of the world where poets write poetry in English, which is everywhere (for good and ill) and this time was no exception. Some poets selected to submit religious, or Christmas, or seasonal poems, or a mix, others, like Milne and Kumar, seemed to focus less on one occasion than the idea of the poem as an occasion, or relating to one.
The three winning poems are all momentous, and serious, and very humane, even ethical, though in various ways, and, as Eyewear is eclectic, their commitment to differing poetic strategies is welcomed.
Burns' is perhaps the most searing of the three, and too good, and appropriately-times, not to demand attention; its ability to fuse critique and compassion made it deeply vital.
Kumar's exuberant work has something of the mouth-music of Heaney; it asks to be tasted. The succulence, and the imagery, is astonishing, and wholly convincing; that it is as much a meditation on its own deliciousness, as a mere simulacrum of such, is all the better.
Milne is a significant experimental poet, and critic, and this is a poem that, in the year of the death of Ashbery, refers to the New York School style, but is also very much its own beast. This sort of linguistic play across levels of discourse is impressive, when handled with skill, and Milne delivers the goods here - this is, ahem, the real, fizzing, thing, to ape the rhetoric of mainstream poetry blurbology.
So, three superb poems. A true Christmas bounty. Enjoy.
Jo Burns - Christmas Shelter
In the refugee arrival facility
Beyond German Christmas market crowds,
evergreens slump useless, waiting to be crowned,
wishing a star, to grace new homes, to stand
tall and grand, spread out and proud.
Joseph finds it loud in the Unterkunft,
amidst grief. Only those displaced understand.
Penned-in days stretch into nothing, Fata Morgana
is tattered, his wife and child left behind.
His sorrow is foreign to us. His losses profound.
Then Mary skypes, from one of the orients
we’ve heard of, telling him this might be the last time
they speak. Her journey preparations are cancelled
and now, she and the boy are holding on to belief,
hoping faith will be the nails barricading doors
when night falls in and the soldiers storm.
The line crackles. Joseph hangs his head, in Asylum.
TV in the communal living room plays jingles for stores,
while families reunite in peace and good tidings.
In front of fairy lights, blinking, he cries
his son’s name. The angel on the Christmas pine stares,
wide-eyed. Overseas snow drops in frozen blood.
And here, in Frankfurt, another year is rolled up
to the Main, where swans huddle in puffed-up down,
accustomed to history’s repeat and sounds
of cracking. No one hears until Winter drives
the desperate from ice into our undergrowth. Wires
plead overhead, as we melt into our concrete shells.
From the sandstone church, bell soliloquys ring
above walls, empty streets. Branches hang bare and thick
over those whose last comfort was to arrive. Alive.
Born in Northern Ireland in 1976, Jo Burns studied biomedical science. She now lives in Germany. Jo's poetry has been widely published, most recently in The Interpreter's House, Southword and The High Window. Work is forthcoming in Acumen, Aesthetica and The Ogham Stone among others. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Jo is one of Eyewear Publishing's Best New British and Irish Poets 2017. She was shortlisted for the Belfast Book Festival Mairtin Crawford Award and won the Shirley McClure Poetry Prize at the Irish Writers Festival in Los Gatos, CA.
Ashish Kumar - Jackfruit
This was the ferocious time: a half-hour
long as a season in a place without seasons,
jammed between math and social studies.
In the backyard the trees put forth miracles
that bulbed sticky defiance, warrantless
and fantastic. The fruit were larger than the sun
and weighed as much, it seemed: on the ground,
they were luminous extensions of the Earth.
The flies were our conclave; our hands held
no terror. We laughed as the fruit burst against
the old school-wall, their weight like meteors against
our chests. On the concrete, spangled white bodies
in their hundreds, taut with life not so much tiny
as vehement. They leapt: hardened into fat whorls,
jewel-like, taut glossy fists that flickered into air
made alive with our shouting—as if in coming
into light hitherto unencountered, light which struck
like revelation, which banged off the windows
of the music-rooms, their forms had engorged
themselves against the noon, taken protest,
acquired new and livid purpose.
These days, this is what scares me: raw sense as trauma,
narration as surrender, days that slough off
into memory and despite it. Ordinary, faithless hatred
of life on the pavement, its struggle between
children’s fingers, of fruit exploded beneath the
sky. Shall I try to keep a speck of myself innocent,
fat and white, despite time? After all, flies keep
their private counsel, the worms do due diligence,
and even the trees demand no restitution.
Kumar was born in Singapore and obtained a BA in law and LLM from the University of Cambridge, graduating in 2015. Kumar currently works in Bangkok for UNESCO. Their poems have previously been published in The Kindling.
HAVING A PEPSI WITH YOU
is even more fun than open mic poetry
is even more fun than open mic poetry
or singing old adverts or dining out
on the souls of plankton in fish pie
or being sick to the stomach all giddy
for the prospect of the latest chapbook
announcing that the revolution
has got going at last and not a moment too soon
for alliances to a once and future song
oh I’d like to teach the world to dance
to move so beautifully that activism
becomes the new ballet and fizzy drinks
are no more baby shambles than hot yoga
is the best way of spending sugar rage
while all plans to replenish greenwash
come as nought but fizzing distraction
just as out of the mouths of ideology
flow forth great glugs of contradiction
such as the watersheds to be protected
from the industrial manufacture of rot
we’re talking remediation for river banks
and the viability scenarios of capital
chortle chortle cue handkerchiefs here
but there is more need of water than
there is water to go around and drought
is a polite word for systematic thefts
amid the carbon output of factory pop
in the distribution of total extraction
or shifts that would make them old news
part of the map of oblivion abstracted
and oh so flat over the coffee table
joined together by the black waters
and dark cocktails of a branded world
Drew Milne was born in 1964 and grew up in Scotland. He lives and works in Cambridge with his wife, Redell Olsen, and two children. In 1995 he was Writer in Residence at the Tate Gallery, London. His books of poetry include Sheet Mettle (1994), Bench Marks (1998), The Damage (2001), Mars Disarmed (2001), and Go Figure (2003), and, with John Kinsella, Reactor Red Shoes (2013). His collected poems, entitled In Darkest Capital were published by Carcanet in 2017. He edited Marxist Literary Theory (1996), with Terry Eagleton, and Modern Critical Thought (2003). Since 1997 he’s been the Judith E Wilson Lecturer in Drama & Poetry, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge.
all poems published with permission of their authors
and copyright 2017