The winners of the 2018 Wordsworth birthday poem competition

We had another wonderful set of entries this year, on the subject of ‘The child is father of the man’.  We’d like to thank Fiona Sampson, the poet and acclaimed author of The Girl who Wrote Frankenstein, for being this year’s judge, and for very kindly donating two copies of her book to the winner and runner-up.
The winning poem is by Gerald Schwartz. Fiona said: “This poem comes up fresh each time, no matter how often you reread it. It’s direct and yet mysterious, a moment in time and yet a whole lifetime of such moments. I love its intimate feel: like seeing in the dark.”
Early Photo

I’ve hung a photo of myself
At age seven in a metal frame
In the kitchen so I
Can see me in the dark
When and where I make
My pre-dawn coffee.
Then as now the same
But different, as my life
Trickles down the same
Dark and silver nerve
Of a station I don’t understand
But will always remind me
With its mystery, its living map
Long after I have lost
My mobile phone, reminding me
With that pulsar of identity
Where I am still free to go.

The runner-up is by Alison Carter, who was last year’s winner. Fiona said of this poem, “This very human, narrative poem leaves lots unsaid – which is just what we want from a story that lest us step into it. What’s special about this day? Is the man in the poem digging a grave for his father? Or just missing him? We don’t need to know: we can fill the poem with our own meanings.”
Digging to Australia

He learned lots of things
working the garden with Dad:
that a spadeful of soil
contains more living organisms
than there are people on the planet.

He knew the biscuit snap
of an ancient pot from a bit
of brick, that their soil
had ‘Good tilth’, the lovely word
light between tongue and teeth.

A Job shared was a job halved,
but that day he worked alone,
watched his knuckles whiten
on the warm wood of the grip,
swung onto the blade’s shoulder,

tucked his head deep into his chest
like a sleeping bird and dug.
Last night’s row worried his ears,
as he drove through surface litter,
the pale gulp of the clays below.

Once, he believed he could dig
down to Australia, but today
rasping metal strikes unbroken
rock, describing the weight
of all that is now ungovernable.

Congratulations to Gerald and Alison and thank you again to everyone who entered. We’ll be back next year!