1st, Short Category 2009 - Gabriel Griffin


Like slaters that poke their heads
in and out of caves, they burrow blind
into a vast theological darkness, losing
the dried crust of their thoughts, bumping
into gods.

When they emerge they are
shell-less, slugs, no scales, no defence
of fur or hide; soft things, amorphous,
sticky still with dreams,
leaving shining trails.

Judge's comment:

I was immediately drawn into this poem by its first words: ‘Like slaters’-  I was impressed that this brief poem could tackle huge themes, the ‘vast theological darkness’, while balancing the description between saint and shell-dweller.

There was much which I admired technically in this poem.  It is held together, quietly, by alliteration and half-rhyme.  But it drives boldly forwards, in a marriage of sound and sense, with key phrases opening each line, and each stanza closing with a short phrase, brimmed with meaning.

‘Hermits’ seems to me a poem at the heart of its times, but one which will endure.  Its final phrase (planes’ vapour trails? the saint’s aura) lingers powerfully in the reader’s mind.

Alison Brackenbury