The standard of the entries for the inaugural Oxford Brookes Poetry Competition was very high – I was spoilt by poems to choose from. Many of them seem to emerge from a broad range of life experiences, and some of the finest had a sense of urgency to them, of needing to be written.
The First Prize winner in the Open category, 'Framed', had exactly this sense, of witnessing, or testimony to a very strange course of events, and that is what I loved about it – the range of movement in the story it tells, from Guyana to the docks of England to the Inner Hebrides. The Second Prize winner, 'Domonic', also had wonderful temporal movement, from heartbreak to renewal, and a poignant use of colloquial language. All of the winning poems are about relationships between people, and the Special Commendation goes to 'Glass Eye', a beautifully observed child’s eye portrait of a grandfather.
Many of the poems entered into the ESL category spoke of life lived in a different country, and this was a focus of all of the winning poems. The First Prize winner, 'Vareniki' expertly weaves together a culinary ritual with a story of loss and grieving, while the Second Prize winner 'Gerrymanderings of the Mind' explores immigrant arrival to a new city in a wonderfully irreverent style. In 'Prayer', the Special Commendation, it is the natural landscape that alienates the speaker from home, yet the poem’s linguistic dexterity weaves two languages cleverly together to reflect this experience of duality.