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Have a nice time here, you are nearly there

PBS Student Poetry Competition Anthology 2013

Selected by Daljit Nagra

The Poetry Book Society would like to thank Daljit Nagra for judging the competition and selecting the work in this anthology. Wed also like to thank everyone who sent in a poem, the overall standard was very high. The title of this anthology, Have a Nice Time Here, You Are Nearly There, is taken from Annie Muirs winning poem Seven Postcards (p.5) The PBS would like to express its thanks to the Ronald Duncan Literary Foundation for funding the PBS National Student Poetry Competition. Poems the contributors 2013 Design: Dave Isaac Administrator: James Trevelyan Published by The Poetry Book Society, The Dutch House, 307-308 High Holborn, London WC1V 7LL. Tel: 020 7831 7468


Judges Preface Annie Muir Leo Mercer Jade Cuttle Leo Mercer Carolyn Gibney Olivia Hicks Sarala Estruch Gemma MorrishWilliams Lucian Moriyama Joey Frances Ella Bannister Benjamin Titmus adaon Lynch James Giddings Momina Mela Patrick Kavanagh Annie Muir To look on what the lovers found Unfound Every One is a Hero/This is a Love Story The droplet soaked window Sanctuary Gaps The Initiation Alcyone The animal that never was Seven Postcards Letter from William to Dorothy Wordsworth The Binomial Test Rough Night Tweets St Joan of Arc Learns to Ride a Bike The Black Womans Burden A poem about you Sop, Sap, and Slip

4 5 7 8 9 11 13 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 30 31

Rosemary Badcoe Curiosity Rosemary Badcoe Earth-bound Jerrold Yam Kin

The most exciting part of judging a poetry competition is the thrill of coming across fresh new poems which have yet to enter the big wide world; the thrill of discovering poems is equally matched by the thrill of discovering new poets, or in the case of this wonderful prize, discovering new young poets. I am pleased to report there are many exciting new poets at work across the country and they are writing serious and comic poems, and their poems have a contemporary freshness. The young poets show a concern for global issues such as the environment and multiculturalism, and eternal issues such as love, friendship, aging and dying. The young poets are making up their own forms whilst also paying due respect by appreciating the power of conventional forms, the poets are skilled at varying their tone and as a result several poems make persistently gentle shifts from high seriousness to irony or wit. I will now focus on my favourite poems knowing full well I have missed out writing about many other poems which I enjoyed, and knowing I have not commented on all the poems in the anthology. My favourite poems were the ones where I felt the poet kept consistently in control of technique and kept me on the edge, because I wanted to know where they would take me in the following lines after the sure-fire opening. The winning poems include a series of postcards, a series of tweets, a statistics exam question, a poem in a Caribbean dialect, a Sapphic Ode, a Dr Seuss style piece and an epistle from William Wordsworth. I have judged many poetry competitions over the years but I found this selection unusually difficult to put into a winning order as all of them were potential winners; I came away thrilled by the innovation and experimentation of the young poets and confident that they will help ensure that modern British poetry remains vibrant and exciting. The winners are presented here in order from top three to eight highly commended poems, with nine runners-up closing the anthology. I hope you enjoy reading my comments but most of all I hope you are excited by the twenty poems in this anthology. Daljit Nagra, March 2014

1st Place Annie Muir, University of Manchester Seven Postcards

The headrest on the plane said Have a nice time here, you are nearly there. Here there are buses called FINNAIR and the metro looks like a cave, with chalk-white mooses on the walls. Weve seen singing police-men perform, and found a message scribbled on the red bricks of an empty factory: I was here in 1967. Im feeling sea-sick. See you soon

Through the hostel window I can see a woman wrapped in a duvet. Its nextdoor to a strip-club. Yesterday we learnt about the Baltic-way and walked down tired roads and followed a girl drawing her dog into the shallow sea. At dusk we watched tower-blocks from a rock, my teeth chattered and Elton John sang dont let the sun go down on me. See you soon

Today we saw peeling buildings and I bought a second-hand pink flower-print dress. You might not like it. An old woman helped me zip up the back in the toilet queue and smiled as if she knew. We dressed up a naked statue in our clothes. All the patterns here make me want to live somewhere else. See you soon

We are trapped indoors because its raining. In a little art shop a man asked us if we wanted to see seven paintings about feelings? and then he went through them one by one, this ones pain, you know, when someone hurts you, you feel pain? This ones anger, you know, when someone hurts you This card is tears, I bought it for seven litas. See you soon

I cant move but soon I will have to catch a train. Last night we went to a bar with damp red fur on the walls and a man told us a story about his two front teeth. He said they were fake because once his mum was on the phone and he was nagging for her to change the channel so she threw the remote to him and it knocked them both out. See you soon

I am in the town where Miffy was born. We bumped into someone from our old secondary school whos starting university here, and we found a wine shop with his name so we sprawled outside it on a bench with a silver cat, and made a comic-strip where the cat evolves into a human. There are frogs in our hostels garden that bleep like digital watches. See you soon

I have been here before. My parents asked me if I wanted to go to Anne Franks house or a house-boat museum and I chose the house-boat. So I went this time to make up for my wrong decision. She had cut out pictures from newspapers and pasted them onto the walls: Greta Garbo, Elizabeth of York and a chimpanzee tea party. See you soon

I love poems that challenge my perception about their claim to be a poem. I would consider my winner a prose-poem which has seven very fresh ways of seeing the ordinary world. So many holiday poems tend to play with the exotic but this poem is full of exciting images that dramatize the experience of travelling and the way travelling can gently awaken perceptions. I love the casual postcard language of the piece and the deft use of structure that makes each postcard an insight into the ordinary, the comic and the tragic. The final postcard seems almost throwaway until its powerful revelation that left me near to tears.

2nd Place Leo Mercer, University of Oxford Letter from William to Dorothy Wordsworth

This is a wonderfully comic yet dark and disturbing modern reimagining of William Wordsworth writing from New York City. I love the poets skilful use of the epistle form as it subverts history. We know Dorothy for her letters and William for his poems but here we have a post-modern William despairing about being trapped in a modernist sonnet whilst tying to write an urban ballad. This poem is a complex and mischievous foray into poetic relations and the metropolitan versus the rural.

3rd Place Jade Cuttle, University of Cambridge The Binomial Test

1) A girl has a heart. She wants to investigate whether it is more likely to break if she lets it love. At the 5% significance level, where n=11 and using a test statistic of 1, is there sufficient evidence to suggest her heart will break? [6 marks] Let X = number of times her heart is broken Null hypothesis Ho: P=0.5 He might break her heart, but then again he might not. He holds her hand as if the earth were wired to her toes. Alternative hypothesis H1: P0.5. The threads of love might loosen, hope unstitching itself from her heart, again, where P=probability of cardiac collapse. Assuming the null hypothesis, Ho, X~Bin (11, 0.5), the probability that [X1]=0.9995 =99.95% Since 99.95%>5% => it is implied that at this level of testing, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest this girl's heart will break, and we can conclude that there is no logic in love. It simply cannot be calculated, which means she will never understand why upon his kiss, her heart is a shooting star leaping into an abyss. Perhaps it is possible to conclude that hearts do not break, that they just get tired of beating for the sake of beating, go into hibernation and forget to wake themselves up. [Turn over for the next question]

The Metaphysical poets showed us how our most intimate experiences can find their parallel in the most dispassionate language. I love the outrageously humorous and moving experience of considering the pain of love in terms of a Binomial Test. A Level Statistics has never felt this compelling as the poet considers the pain of love in terms of percentages and then casually abandons the conceit to seemingly mock the complex question approach of scenario-based Mathematics questions.

Leo Mercer (@the_poetweet), University of Oxford Rough Night Tweets

22:05 Highlight Sand browns the water like weeds, buds of light open the skies in hashmal sunset. It is soft from the toes, rising. * 00:06 Search Engine helvellyn. what is coke made of. evelyn rose cheesecake. why does it always rain on me. nickelodeon. @NickLaird * 02:57 Storm There are zebras in the sky. There are very unsheered sheep. The mackerel here are drowning down. The zebras hoof-hoof.

03:27 Heavenly Response to Bad Jim Who Said, "Sin is Beautiful" Kneel to the toilet bowl, dribble and choke up what did this to you. * 05:56 Early Morning Blues Words bring us to morning and her blues, which will half-wait like yeast till I awaken to the rushing of hours.

An original and persistently inventive poem set in tweets from late night to early morning. Each tweet is surprising and different in style from the previous one as it ranges from a Nick Laird quote to a set of surreal images and to pastoral observations.


Carolyn Gibney, University of Oxford St. Joan of Arc Learns to Ride a Bike Its almost as easy as falling, or seeing visions (that torment me at a faster and faster pace), the wind resists me, and the glee of resistance goads me. Dont be afraid, dont turn around, you daughter of Zion, you pillar of salt: this collusion of metal and muscle and speed speaks to me as clearly as the husk of St. Michael seen barely, and at dusk, but seen (not touched). In the morning, I cover my body with armor by divine decree; at night, I cover my body with blankets when the trembling starts, my nerves, like severed power lines, shoot sparks, and voices lodge themselves behind my eyes and speak and speak until I come, and shudder. It is lonely, being chosen. I want to crack my teeth on the concrete and feel my knees bleed in the dust. I want a wound on the outside for once, instead of all this hearing and seeing, instead of all this believing in senseless glory that chokes me, that brings me to tears, and leaves me wakeful, in an open field.


A witty, lively and painful exploration of history and women where St Joan is imagined in a modern setting trying to free herself from her traumatic context. The emphatic first-person statements add to the feminist rage and strong-willed desire to seek release from burden and to find self-realisation.


Olivia Hicks, Manchester Metropolitan University The Black Womans Burden

Let her play the fool in her own house! Se Sister Shonnique-Ann, se how them bad Sister Hyacinth gran pittney gone same way Take drug till she high. What kind? Me no know Some fool-fool sinting that make she think she coulda fly An now she dead or died. An them go on bout The White Mans Burden Cho! No make me slap oonoo! What about fi mi burden? The Black Oman Burden? Don I haffi sit an watch them a take all we have? Them take our way a speaking, our rhythm, our ackee an salfish (Well as much as them soft tomach can stan) An on top of all a that, them a pinch wi fi land! Any likkle good ting them a fass with An any ting a likkle bad, them Rastas and gangs from Kingston Them act as if the Debil imself! Cho! Them take as much ganja as they can if we no look An act as if we the potheads! Ah me a smoke the ganja? Ah you a smoke the ganja? Ah Sister Hyacinth a smoke the ganja? Cho! Ah just Sista Hyacinths gran pittney a make the res a us look bad!


This is a lively dialect poem which is pure laugh-out-loud but once beneath its veneer we realise the poem is a complex set of thoughts about slavery, womens history and Black representation. I love the way this poem plays with stereotypes about the Black community and drug-taking to make its serious point about our post-empire legacy.


Sarala Estruch, Birkbeck University A poem about you You ask me to read you a poem I have written and I say okay and I read it and afterwards there is a smell in the room like a butchers or an abattoir and I know who has been slaughtering whom with those little axes, sharpened knives that are words. Blood seeps through every poultice staining the colour of things between us. The iron-rich odour clings to walls, cleaves to nostrils, turning sour. I taste it on my tongue. This is a wonderfully clever and self-conscious poem which uses language as metaphor for exploring the tensions in relationships and the unnerving impact of the insights of poetry. The couplets persist relentlessly beyond their end breaks as they dramatize tension so that this poem is impressive both in its ideas and its breathless music.


Gemma Morrish-Williams, Canterbury Christ Church University Sop, Sap, and Sip Soppy the Sod and Sappy the Sop, Two brothers that went to Sea. Said Sop to Sap, "I hope we'll arrive for tea." For Sappy the Sop and Soppy the Sod, They were as akin as kin could be; For whatever they did, They would always do with glee. Yet so merry were they, out on this lake, They did not spot Sippy of Sin, Who swam to the boat and plunged in his stake, And cried, "Come Sop, come Sap come, give a grin!" So in they went, splattering and spluttering, but laughing with glee And, you know, they never did make in time for tea.

I love the way this poem takes us back to our childhood with wicked humour and a lustful way with words. The poem goes through Dr Seuss and Lewis Carroll and manages to pack in a world of joy, adventure, danger and then destruction (which has echoes of the Chicken Licken ending) in four short nonsense-packed rhymeinfested and vivid verses.


Lucian Moriyama, University of Glasgow

To look on what the lovers found

Deformation of her sonnet in The Waste Land part III, ll. 249-262

Kettles whistling when woman stoops to folly, smitten, he laughs, puts on the record, paces round her room her song on on his lips. Blush, she turns, looks a moment in the glass and uncreases that brow; not at all like purple Bouguereau: too straight, too pale on her curtains warm to the touch and that lace hes staring between. Standing out on Cape Anns edge, evening music creeps by me upon the waves, curves and smoothes you with that snug hand. From off the rocks, the thick air swells with a chatter and a clatter from within. Thence I went on. O, one half-formed thought of him strokes up her brain. Or it hath drawn me rather. But tis gone.

I love this cool polyphonic poem that riffs on T S Eliots The Waste Land. The poem presents a third-person narrative about a couple falling in love. The poem is extremely clever yet it has an emotional core which is highly affecting. The verses are Sapphic Odes and this form is responsibly abandoned in the final verse. References abound including poets such as Edmund Spencer, Oliver Goldsmith, T S Eliot and Wendy Cope to make this poem a complex engagement with time; the poem is as much about a couple in love as it is about poetrys fascination with its own tradition.


Joey Frances, University of Manchester Unfound The last Great Auk in Britain (Welsh pen gwyn, white head, White Chief) now dead, St Kilda eighteenforty Three men caught a great garefowl For its pretty little wings and bound it Three days, then for nothing Beat it to death being a Witch with sticks Because it had brought a storm. Third of July eighteenfortyfour Fled from the Geirfuglasker Their Atlantis volcano sunk Great Auk Rock, to Eldey, jut Cut block up straight from sea, Just off Icelandic coast: The very last Geirfugle Laying one egg on bare rock Ambushed as a collectors specimen To be quietly stuffed and stored, But first erupts a comic violent chase Her and mate strangled on a cliff edge Their egg shattered by a seamans boot. Extinct the name casually transmigrated No bother no loss (Which is why, if we are to save a species We must abandon our superstitions And our meat, be gentle, and eat cabbage In the dark and die the empty deaths Well die anyway, No gods no witches)


I love this dense, packed poem where form does as much work as the language to dramatize the role of humans in the extinction of their fellow creatures. The poet carefully explores one creature, the Auk, and how human ignorance and avarice ensured its extinction. The detached style of the narrative sequence allows dark humour to texture the serious message of the poem.


Ella Bannister, University of East London Every One is a Hero//This is a Love Story The World will not mourn your passing. The National Papers are not running headlines //STOP PRESS// or in depth analysis of your life. But, I know that some of it is likely unprintable, so, this is probably for the best. You havent even made it into the local free advertiser, squeezed in somewhere between: Puppies for Sale, available for collection now and Bring and Buy, Tuesday, entry 50p for adults, 20p for children or Beetle Drive at the Memorial Hall, All Welcome. We were collecting our Border Collie next week, just old enough to come home. I wanted a Dulux Dog. You wanted a Retriever. This was a compromise. No-one is calling you: A Hero for Our Time or A Queen of Our Hearts or claiming the Loss of a National Treasure. But thats OK, because that would have had you rolling your eyes and pretending to vomit over the side of the (new) sofa. I do not have to be caught on camera looking strained, yet dignified, at your funeral. As you always said to me: Wheres the fun in being dignified? Live! and the only thing you believed in straining was our tea (brewed well first). I am truly blessed that I do not have to feed a meadows worth of dead flowers to the compost bin (or chase the abandoned and escaping cellophane wrapping down our street, looking for its freedom but caught on the railings). For one thing, there is no-one to feed the compost to the plants anymore. No memorial service is planned for the Political Great and/or Good, Holier Than Thou and Divine Righteous to pay their last respects to you. Which is excellent news, because, lets be honest you never had that much respect for them.


There will be no local or national monument. You will not be captured or cast in Bronze. This is also OK, because it would only end up with an orange traffic cone on its head. Put there by someone like you. There will be no concert, band-aids or symbolic/fundraising musical gatherings of any kind. This is a relief, because we never really saw eye to ear on music, and I might have had to wear ear plugs. In a year from now, I will not receive a call from English Heritage, or whoever they are, wanting to nail a blue plaque to our front wall. For another thing, we only moved in 6 months ago. Nothing will be named after you. Nothing could be named after you. No, The World will not mourn your passing. You lived your quiet small life In this small quiet town And, I can categorically state: You did not change The World. You changed mine.

I loved the freedom of this prose-poem which allows despair to travel through a range of tones as the poet constructs an elegy. The poem is very affecting because the style ensures the dead person is never individualised for the public reader and this is the tragedy that the poet contemplates in the face of loss. The structure of the poem and the way it falls away shows how highly skilled this poet is at ensuring mood and form work in harmony.


Benjamin Titmus, Birmingham City University * The droplet soaked window comes into focus in the foreground and the background is a haze of trees, flowers and a road. The damp grass is stark in contrast to the blank tarmac that has no deficiencies in its blackness and the half closed window now blurred with domes of still water hangs: suspended like a mote of dust on a ray of sunshine. *


adaon Lynch, University of St Andrews Sanctuary A sturdy crumbling wall circumvents the main road and gathers a cluster of ruins around the leaning tower of Kilmacduagh. Best to arrive at dusk when each fallen corner of the church, the stables, the cottage colour black shapes into the pink sky. Dogs from the farm next door bark and run and spur ruffled horses to whinny, trot and sniff outstretched hands. Suspended ten feet from the ground is a gap in the tower the front door. All year round it is exposed but closed to all who do not know how to enter.


James Giddings, Sheffield Hallam University Gaps a car stalled across a bay like an afterthought midsentence passenger door opened a nodding Churchill dog bopping a cadence from the stop tread of a boot on the clutch tracks of mud breadcrumb trails or chocolate fingerprints from kids on family upholstery and a song spun around like a cowboys gun waiting to be holstered Nancy Sinatras cool vocals ringing tinnitus in an ear that could be petrol on your gums could be a blackout on the boardwalk could be a return trip to a car with the same plates same prints could be a picture warm in the folds of a brown wallet worn at the edges on the back faded digits. Its what you dont say that counts.


Momina Mela, Goldsmiths, University of London The Initiation It was like slow garden rust preparing to redden into grime my hips gasped at what they had done the new pattern that emerged on my shirt grew like a wild flower terrified to grow further I watched my brother wrestle on a mattress practicing his elbow lunges and headlocks his nostrils blooming in false rage as my sex sank feverishly in a willowing swamp hassled like a cross-pollinated rose one white, the other red my mother took my elbow my womanhood now seething down my legs like an illness no Quran classes for a week she said not until it goes away .


Patrick Kavanagh, Aberystwyth University Alcyone limbs will grow feathered well have beaks new mouths to speak newfound phrases unmuddled by the grot of this well-worn tongue glut in every syllable din of discord speech better to be seabirds wetly calling out to build our nest of egg wrack on the pregnant swell make a bed of jellyfish sleep as the gray whale moans time become a clear blue mass of still unmoving sea love become as flotsam drifting endlessly


Annie Muir, University of Manchester The animal that never was after Rilke The animal was strange and new, but still they tried to love its patterned neck, its clown-feet, its mute eyes. It wasnt real, but they loved it so it was, and it smiled. They gave it a room with a bed and some books and it read and read and forgot about trying to be. They fed it coco pops and questions until its forehead was so full of sugar and words that it grew a horn. A single horn. And when it looked hard into a silver mirror it saw nothing but the pale slate of a young girls face.


Rosemary Badcoe, Sheffield Hallam University Curiosity We cant go to Mars and see what it looks like [but] we can look at [the rovers] shadow and understand, without hesitation, that its our own. Claire L. Evans First you photograph yourself, your feet, the rock, and as the grainy black and white resolves into an image three hundred million miles re-forms to fourteen minutes. Strung on your arms our senses are a spider-silk of optic nerve that stretch out past the rainbows end. This tiny drill, this scoop are fingernails that scratch into a reddened land. Shadows cast by rolled titanium take on a human form. ~~~ This world has turned its back on life, subsumed its water into rock, let its oxygen drift up beyond the mountains shoulder. The river's traces stall in a rippled delta as silicate impactors slam into the planet's surface, splash plumes that grasp the air and sweep it into space. Now sublimated ice drifts as a ghost from pole to pole, whispers nothing of its journey but the sputtering of solar winds, the gentle weight of entropy spreading a silence, fine and cool. ~~~

We spend days collecting worlds lost in the hum of sunbeams, thumbs hung out to catch a wave bent through the lens of gravity. We cannot shake the damp off limbs evolved from fins to kick the dryness of an alien dust. Were tethered like a buoy, signposting mostly conscious in a cosmos where the shipping lanes are curiously parched.


Rosemary Badcoe, Sheffield Hallam University Earth-bound Tonight we're waxing gibbous, giddy with our arms out-flung in late-night light from stores that stock their windows high. We sow distraction, lope in doorways, carve our immortality in bus shelters and benches. Here's where hares shovelled starlight on the recreation ground, the mound like broken glass flinging reflections of our feet up to a sky boxed in by banks of tenements. Like leverets we're born in shallow scrapes, eyes wide no chance to set a burrow where theres space to grow. We sling the stones that burst the lighted panes. The hares pursue the moon into the sky and squat there, pestles pounding rice cakes, faces turned away.


Jerrold Yam, University College London Kin Pausing at my door, wise harbinger of prepared fruit, Grandma is going through the motions of resistance, her uneasy frame like a house leaning towards earth. Not long ago she would prop me, as a baker arranges pastries for sale, in the transparent cabinet of a double-decker bus, trees neatly marshalled like customers. These fifteen years have been kinder to me than what the world has chosen for her to accept. Where I used to slam defiance in the grey face of her counsel, it is now a childs interminable song of want and attention. On the eve of my departure for university, she hands over money, stationery, a witchs hoard of medicine, to make herself comfortable with separation. All my life I have not noticed how she struggles with what I am born into, how loneliness becomes our legacy.


PBS National Student Poetry Competition 2013 Winners

1st Place Annie Muir, University of Manchester (Seven Postcards) 2nd Place Leo Mercer, University of Oxford (Letter from William to Dorothy Wordsworth) 3rd Place Jade Cuttle, University of Cambridge (The Binomial Test)

Highly Commended Leo Mercer, University of Oxford (Rough Night Tweets) Carolyn Gibney, University of Oxford (St. Joan of Arc Learns to Ride a Bike) Olivia Hicks, Manchester Metropolitan University (The Black Womans Burden) Sarala Estruch, Birkbeck University (A poem about you) Gemma Morrish-Williams, Canterbury Christ Church University (Sop, Sap, and Slip) Lucian Moriyama, University of Glasgow (To look on what the lovers found) Joey Frances, University of Manchester (Unfound) Ella Bannister, University of East London (Every One is a Hero/This is a Love Story)

Runners-up Benjamin Titmus, Birmingham City University (The droplet soaked window) adaon Lynch, St Andrews University (Sanctuary) James Giddings, Sheffield Hallam University (Gaps) Momina Mela, Goldsmiths University (The Initiation) Patrick Kavanagh, Aberystwyth University (Alcyone) Annie Muir, University of Manchester (The animal that never was) Rosemary Badcoe, Sheffield Hallam University (Curiosity and Earth-bound) Jerrold Yam, University College London (Kin) 32