1st, ShortCategory 2008 - Christopher North

Geese in Market Crowd

Not a honk, gabble or mutter
as the six thread through chaos.

The mountains seem to be liquefying
this damp and blustery morning,

the sky is hesitant and lacks confidence -
so the geese are a certainty in what is shapeless.

They waddle, chittering in concentration -
their foolish feet, their pert rears

an order in the hopeless tumble
of junk mathematics around them.

Judge's comments

'Geese in Market Crowd'  shows just how much you can get into a poem and (more importantly) how much you can leave out. It’s an amazingly skilful piece: not a wasted word, and they’re all the right words. The setting is vast, confusing: the geese, a symbol of order.  The whole is so economically done that all the ingredients work together, and every word has earned its passage.

3rd, ShortCategory 2008 - David King


We will be happy

We will live above the cliff
and sleep to the drumming surf.

Our farmyard will be studded
with jaunty metallic cockerels.

Cold nights will crackle with frost and log fires.

You will collect early morning eggs
while I avoid eye contact with the pig.

I will glove your daisy fingers
in my ancient parchment hands.

We will be happy.

Judge's comments
All about an idyllic, detailed future.  Again, there is  a lot of information -  the setting, the surf, the cockerels and log fires - all triggers for contentment. But despite this precision not a lot is known. What’s the relationship?  Those ‘parchment’ hands?  Why is it set in the future so firmly ? ‘Will’ (repeatedly) suggests some resistance, some conflict. So a nice tidy neat little poem has perhaps hidden depths, and although there’s a light-heartedness (as he avoids ‘eye-contact with the pig’) we can’t quite be confident.  A teasing little piece that exploits the brevity of the regulations well.

U A Fanthorpe

2nd, ShortCategory 2008 - Jane Williams


He and I ferreting on Ben Knowle Hill:
the chase, a scuffle, ears laid back, wild eyes -
the quick chop. A broken neck.

Turns to me, thirteen, in care, challenging,
There! Could you do that, Miss?
No, I reply. Here, I'm the illiterate, at risk,

although knowing too well the trap he's caught in.
Slits the soft skin, a yank, slings it. Reaches for the guts.
Now there's scarlet on green grass. Go on! Take it Miss!

Grins as he offers me this small warm nakedness.

Judge's comments

Another very economical piece; we depend much on the stacccato hints for an understanding of what’s going on..  We  aren’t even introduced to the rabbit, and the description of the boy is minimal. But it is a very dense little poem, and the writer uses words strikingly to echo among the tersely recounted facts: she is ‘illiterate’, in this situation - though she knows his need for murder. As the boy ‘grins’ she identifies with the rabbit. And the boy knows, too, what he’s doing to her. There’s a lot of very significant material in a very few lines;  it’s full of challenges, and disquietingly predictive, too.

U A Fanthorpe