Poetry Centre

ESL category

  • First place: Vareniki, Marie-Aline Roemer


    In the morning we buy butter,
    fat as moons. There is time to count 
    the bitter cherries from the bag, 
    swirl their stones against our teeth, 
    wait for the silence of the afternoon.

    The last time your hand touched his, 
    they were like this, gloved in flour, trembling 
    with a goodbye. As he went, your white fingers 
    glowed through the kitchen like shooting stars, 
    fizzing at the night.

    You make vareniki. The tough dough 
    is your mother’s skin, stretched thin 
    across her knuckles. You knit their bellies shut, 
    trap cherries like you wish you could trap
    the good in that place, all those fat-mooned nights, 
    and all the soft, red fruit

    that flow from the skin of the vareniki,
    that form pools like thawing seas— these are 
    the fingers, red around the barrel of a gun, and the cherries 
    are the backs of young boys, bent beneath the rubble 
    of this foreign city. It is a name like vareniki to anyone

    who has not tasted the bitterness of losing a son. 
    Outside, the lard moon spreads in a cooling sky,
    and we suck sweetness from our fingers like we are eating
    all the lives and all the country and all the soft, red fruit
    that spread into the silence of a day 
    like dough, rising.

    Marie-Aline Roemer

    Marie-Aline Roemer
    was born to East German parents just in time for one of the last GDR birth certificates. She lived in Russia for four years, six months of which she spent in Vladivostok. Russia, the dissipation of the Eastern bloc, and in particular the stories of its women, feature in much of her poetry. Marie-Aline studied Chinese and Social Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and is currently pursuing a Master’s programme at the Free University of Berlin.

  • Second Place: Gerrymanderings of the Mind, Armel Dagorn

    Gerrymanderings of the Mind

    As newcomers to the town
    we didn’t know rue Crébillon

    was, always had been
    the poshest street in Nantes,

    home to the bourgeois 
    since guillotine times and beyond,

    and that we would raise eyebrows 
    and oh la las

    simply by giving our new address,
    despite the not-hugeness

    of our flat, the not-high ceilings
    bearing no chandeliers,

    the lack of a doctor or 
    lawyer’s plate on our door.

    The Kafka fans guarding the dole coffers
    eyed us, suspicious, but stamped our demands

    all the same, warily, weighing 
    their words – you’d half think

    they expected us, like in some ancient eastern tale,
    to be sultans slumming it down to their level

    for a day, trying the life of the jobless
    before heading homeward to our palace.

    Armel Dagorn

    Armel Dagorn
    is now back in his native France after living in Cork, Ireland for seven years. His poems have appeared in magazines such as The Rialto, THE SHOp, Poetry Ireland Review, Southword and The Interpreter's House. He was the winner of the 2014 Bailieborough poetry prize. Find out more on his website.

  • Special Commendation: Prayer, Hanne Busck-Nielsen


    Faðer uor som ast i himlüm,halgað warðe þitnama 

                                                    We watch night climb 
    the fells around us. The scree slope buries its face 
    with dark and below Wast Water puckers
    a last flutter-dash across  its pewter sheen.  
                    Tilkomme þitrikie. Skie þin uilie so som i himmalan

    Its depth is foreign to me,
    these serious mute mountains not mine;
    so oh bo iordanne. Wort dahliha broð gif os i dah.

    only the names: Eskdale, St Olaf’s Church 
    feel almost homely – almost like relatives
    you’ve never met but for your parents’ memory. 

                                                     A bird calls above us,
    then a rustle in the meagre margins along the lake.

    Wast Water, black omphalos of a wounded earth –
                    Oh forlat os uora skuldar
    we are soon gone, our lives hidden again –
    but you draw deep, back to the source.

    so som oh ui forlate þem os skuüldihi are.

    In this darkness there is no pretence, not much at least.
                    Oh inleð os ikkie i frestalsan utan frels os
    ifra ondo.
    Here the scale is another, requiring a growing stride. 
                    Tü rikiað ar þit oh mahtan oh harlihheten 
    The mountains mutter their knuckled prayer i ewihhet.  Aman.

    Hanne Busck-Nielsen

    Hanne Busck-Nielsen
    is a Danish poet and translator, born in Copenhagen and now living in the UK. Her poems have appeared in various pamphlet anthologies, in The Interpreter's House magazine, and her translations of one of Denmark’s major contemporary poets were published in POEM, International English Language Journal, edited by Fiona Sampson. Hanne belongs to several poetry groups in Oxford and London. She is a long-standing member of English Pen and Amnesty International. During the past four years she has read at a variety of venues, including The Henley Literary Festival and Woodstock Poetry Festival. She has also given talks on Tomas Tranströmer. Hanne has a background in psychology and psychoanalysis, with a particular interest in child development.