Another anthology I was pleased to be in this year was the Wolverhampton Literature Festival Poetry Anthology 2018. I rarely enter competitions but this one appealed to me, and it was judged by Emma Purshouse, a poet I respect enormously. It was the first competition for this fairly new festival, and the theme was ‘Out of Darkness’, which also appealed to me as it could be interpreted very widely. The competition was run by Write Out Loud, a tremendous organisation which helps bring poets to the audiences. As Emma Purshouse says in her report: ‘I’ve included poems that made me wonder about something, the ones that made me look the ordinary in a different way, those that gave me a history lesson, and those that made me want to go and look at a piece of artwork or a photo’. The competition winner was Rachel Plummer. Her poem is ‘Iris, the Oldest Particle Physicist at CERN’. I don’t really understand the technology, but the poem is very accomplished, a pleasure to read. Ros Wolner in second place, has a fabulously rich poem, in contrast with the pared down first prize, called ‘Sack of Night’, in which the reader is invited to reach inside a draw string bag to experience all the creatures, sights, smells of night. Caroline Bracken, in third places, writes about the darkness of mental health issues. It’s a bleak poem in five sections, with jerky syntax, telegrammatic language, and it’s about being detained by the mental health act in a secure environment. Joint third is Phil Binding, with a poem about being scared of the dark – I can empathise. It’s a poem full of speech, and a touching memory of his father, telling him about the darkness of the mine when the lamps are out, and instead of the father trying to make the child lose his fear, he admits he is scared of the dark too, a far better response. Another third prize went to Terry Jones, for his poem about what it must be like to be an octopus, an unusual angle, and he manages to give the creature a voice that is convincing.
My poem is at the start of the shortlisted poems section, by virtue of my first name starting with an A. I like this egalitarian way of ordering the poems. My poem is a futuristic one, in which my house is being excavated by historians, and it was quite fun to write, though it took a fair amount of editing before I entered it. I can’t mention every poem in detail, but I was pleased to see several friends in here, such as Peter Branson and Roger Elkin, who I know in person, and Stephen Jackson, Sharon Black and Di Slaney, whom I know online. Anthologies like this serve to introduce readers to poets they may not have heard of before, or who may not even have been published much before. Because competitions are judged anonymously, everyone who enters has an equal chance.
I am not sure whether there are any copies of the anthology left, but if you are interested in obtaining a copy, contact http://wolvesliteraturefestival.co.uk/home/4593160946 or www.writeoutloud.net
The results of this year’s competition have just been announced. I missed the deadline this year, but huge congratulations to all those who were placed and shortlisted.