poetry london prize
Eleanor Penny, Pat Winslow and S. Niroshini win the
Poetry London Prize 2020
Eleanor Penny, 'Winter, a biography'
Pat Winslow, '1971, Northaw'
S. Niroshini, 'Letters to Sunny Leone'
The three winning poems will be published in our autumn issue,
and all can be read online here.
Judge’s Report, by Ilya Kaminsky
I am so grateful to Poetry London for the chance to read so many incredible poems all at once, to immerse myself into various different tonalities, perspectives, voices. It was an experience of a lifetime. Each poet I read taught me something new. When the works arrived in my mailbox, I quickly realised there was something special about every piece I read.
I found it nearly impossible to choose from such a talented company of voices. I was asked to select just the winning poems, but I fell in love with so many more! Therefore, I simply can’t resist sharing these brief notes on a number of other marvellous poems that I was lucky enough for read for this competition. I hope they all find good homes.
First Prize: ‘Winter, a biography’ by Eleanor Penny
This poem travels from narrative to lyric and back, making many interesting, mysterious discoveries along the way. The author looks at the world and finds something utterly strange, teaching us to love it: ‘I held the weight of snow in my arms like a sleeping animal’.
Second Prize: ‘1971, Northaw’ by Pat Winslow
This prose poem has an otherworldly quality. ‘I saw myself. What I mean is I saw myself inside the tree’, the journey begins, taking us to the unexpected.
Third Prize: ‘Letters to Sunny Leone’ by S. Niroshini
The perspective here won me over instantly. The way the author observes how we live inside bodies, how we negotiate our days, and the (lack of) possibilities, is unique.
‘Mantelpiece with Bananas’ by Luke Allan: This poem is terrific; like a painting done by a master, with psychological insight and nuanced brushstrokes.
‘Evening Scene’ by Mel Pryor: This poem is a moving elegy that becomes far more than an elegy. The voice here is memorable and renders the emotion with clarity and poise.
‘untitled’ by Sean Cooper: This piece finds a surprising music for civic commentary, and ensures that the commentary is memorable as the music is touching.
‘Tallow Beach’ by Laurie Keim: The music of this poem is inimitable. I was thinking of Stevens, but, really, this music is all its own. Beautiful work.
‘Lobotomy’ by Natalie Crick: This poem does so many things: it is moving, it is vivid in its imagery, it is unexpected in its thinking. Wonderful.
‘Trespassing’ by John Haynes: ‘A spirit with long pointy elbows runs’ begins this poem, and it goes on where I least expected. I loved it.
‘Republic of Mackerel’ by Mukahang Limbu: The vivid imagery in this poem is electrifying. I thought of Lorca: ‘poet is a professor of five senses.’ Indeed.
‘Bible Study’ by Angelina Mazza: This inventive brief lyric had real emotion and marvellous delivery. A delight.
‘Eve’ by Mari Dunning: The humor and insight couple here to make something entirely new from an ages-old parable.
‘You are An Aubergine’ by Luke Yates: This poem constantly surprised me. Such good energy. I mean: when you get ‘a barbershop quartet of pregnant liquorice parrots,’ what else do you need?
‘Secret life of the house at night’ by Claire Allen: The insight here is unmistakable. The attentiveness to detail made me think of Simone Weil’s suggestion that ‘absolute unmixed attention is a prayer’.
‘Poem Where Every Bird is a Drone’ by Tarik Dobbs: I loved the invention and passion of this poem, its bravery to go into uncharted territory and assert that ‘conspiracy comes true: a tree in which every bird is a drone’.
‘Variations on a Theme from Isaac Holland’ by Seán Martin: What a graceful poem, and with such a heartbreaking final stanza: ‘where a woman / stood on some rocks in a storm / and screamed at the sea’.