Poetry Winners Judge: Wendy Cope | Report
1st The Opposite of Dave - Daisy Behagg, Bristol
2nd The Sellotape Factory - Mary Woodward, St Albans, Herts
3rd In a Restaurant - Stephen Santus, Oxford
Highly Commended (alphabetical order)
How did I ever think this would be ok? - Virginia Astley, Maiden Newton, Dorset
Rimbaud - Richard Berengarten, Cambridge
The Veranda - Lisa Brockwell, NSW, Australia
Vegetable Patch - Julian Broughton, Uckfield, E Sussex
On My Grandmother’s Bench - Jenny Danes, Braintree, Essex
I Left My Hair in San Francisco - Sallie Durham, Shoreham-by-Sea, W Sussex
Vigil - Emily Goldman, New York, USA
Vocab. - Doreen Gurrey, York
Satori - Lorn Macintyre, St Andrews, Scotland
Unravelling - Shirley Waite, Scarborough, N Yorks
Short Story Winners Judge: Michèle Roberts | Report
1st A Man in Three Moments - Eve Thomson, Edinburgh
2nd TXL - Kerry Hood, Bristol
3rd Oyster Woman - Sheila Crawford, Hexham, Northumberland
Highly Commended (alphabetical order)
Disappearance - Dima Alzayat, Edinburgh
mice story, not his - Benjamin Dipple, Chichester, W Sussex
So Much Lemonade - Barry Lee Thompson, Victoria, Australia
Yesterday's Pies - Marinella Mezzanotte, London
Peru - Manus McManus, Dublin
Praise - Jennifer Mills, N/A, Australia
Jotunheim - John Murphy, Dublin
Rambutan! - Mai Nardone, New York, USA
Contrails - Noel O’Regan, Tralee, Ireland
Star Sailor (Aistron Nautes) - Rebecca Swirsky, London
Flash Fiction Winners Judge: David Swann | Report
1st Polio - Nicholas Ruddock, Ontario, Canada
2nd Fine - Michelle Wright, Victoria, Australia
3rd Locked In - Sarah Baxter, Colchester, Essex
Highly Commended (alphabetical order)
Ern Kiley's House - Josephine Rowe, Victoria, Australia
Lincolnshire - Paul Stephenson, London
The Edge of the Woods - David Steward, Norwich
The Dorset Prize
Virginia Astley (poem)
Biographies (alphabetical order)
Dima Alzayat was born in Damascus, Syria and raised in San Jose, California. Currently she lives in Edinburgh, Scotland where she is pursuing an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. Her articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety Arabia, and The Skinny.
Virginia Astley is a songwriter and musician who from a young age has appreciated the process of writing, often working things out by writing them out. Her collection Solvitur Ambulato was published in The New Writer earlier this year. She has won prizes in several competitions including: The Frogmore, Ver Poets, East Coker and Manchester Cathedral. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and is currently completing her book: Keeping the River. This is a narrative non-fiction based on the River Thames and the lives of those who work and live on the river.
Daisy Behagg grew up on the south coast of England. She completed a BA and MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and has previously had work published in The Rialto, Poetry Wales, The North, Ambit, The Warwick Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and New Linear Perspectives. In 2012 her poems were runner-up in the Edwin Morgan Prize and highly commended in the Bridport Prize. She now lives in Bristol while completing her first collection of poetry.
Richard Berengarten (formerly known as Burns) was born in London in 1943, into a family of musicians. He has lived in Italy, Greece, the USA and former Yugoslavia. The five volumes of his Selected Writings are published by Shearsman, including The Blue Butterfly and The Manager, with two more forthcoming: Manual (2014) and Notness (2015). In the 1970s, he founded and ran the international Cambridge Poetry Festival. He is recipient of the Eric Gregory Award (1972), the Keats Memorial Prize (1974), the Duncan Lawrie Prize (1982), the Yeats Club Prize (1989), the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Award for Poetry (1992), the inter- national Morava Charter Prize, Serbia (2005), and the Manada prize, Macedonia (2011). His work has been translated into more than ninety languages.
A former Arts Council of Great Britain Writer-in-Residence at the Victoria Adult Education Centre, Gravesend (1979-1981), Visiting Professor at the University of Notre Dame (1982), British Council Lector, Belgrade (1987-1990), Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge (2003-2005) and Project Fellow (2005-2006), he is currently a Praeceptor at Corpus Christi College and Bye-Fellow at Downing College. He also teaches at Pembroke College, Peterhouse, and Wolfson College, Cambridge. He has three children and two grandchildren. He lives with his wife Melanie Rein, a Jungian analyst.
Lisa Brockwell spent a large chunk of her adult life in England. She now lives near Mullumbimby on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and son. This year, her poems have been published in The Spectator and Australian Love Poems 2013. She is working towards a first collection.
Publications: ‘Waiting for the Train’ The Spectator, 27 July 2013, ‘The Ballad of Monday Morning’ Australian Love Poems 2013, Inkerman & Blunt, 2013 and ‘The Bounty’, Snakeskin, 2011.
Julian Broughton was born in 1957. He studied English and Music at Cambridge, and has worked for most of his life as a musician, composing, teaching and performing. An accomplished pianist, he particularly enjoys chamber music and working with singers. Until recently he was employed by the University of Sussex to convene their part-time BA in Creativity and the Arts. Compositions include a symphony, commissioned by Horsham Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2010. A particular interest in setting contemporary poetry has led to collaborations with Peter Abbs, Abi Curtis, Kim Lasky, and Paul Matthews. Julian Broughton has written poems since childhood. ‘A Good Fit’ was published in The New Writer (no.99), and ‘After’ was published in Resurgence (no.279).
Sheila Crawford, born and brought up in a Sussex village, has taught languages in Zambia, Oxfordshire and Northumberland. Her early published writing includes two children’s novels (Joe and The Foundling – OUP), articles for the Education Guardian and reviews for The Listener. Recently she has received awards from NAWG – three first prizes in the poetry category and several runners-up certificates for adult short stories. She was short-listed in a previous Bridport flash fiction competition.
Jenny Danes is originally from Braintree in Essex and currently lives as a student in Newcastle. She found her passion for writing through an active creative writing group at her sixth-form college, and is now in her first year at university studying English Literature and German.
Sallie Durham lives in West Sussex with her family and assorted pets, and works as an English teacher. She is a night writer of poetry and fiction. Her short poem ‘Other People’s Lives’ won the Plough Prize 2011 and her story ‘The Elephant’ won The Lightship International Flash Fiction Prize 2012. Sallie’s work has been published in Lightship Anthology 2, Heart Shoots poetry anthology from Indigo Dreams, The New Writer and What The Dickens? magazine and anthology.
Doreen Gurrey is married with five children and teaches Creative Writing at York University’s Lifelong Learning department. Formerly, she taught English and Drama in secondary schools followed by work as a tutor in Adult Literacy for York City Council, teaching adults with no formal qualifications.
Kerry Hood is from Bournemouth and though she’s lived in Bristol since gaining a first in English Literature, the Dorset coast permeates her work. A recent story, ‘Of All The Whole Wild World’, was recorded live and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Awards include ‘Two Ticks’ (also BBC Radio 4), ‘Space Cadet’, ‘Every Other Sunday And Where I Go’, ‘Yaroops’, ‘Magic Thing’, ‘The Man Who Turned A Stone Bridge Into A Hammock’ and ‘Olympic Café’. ‘People Like Her’ appears in The Bristol Prize Anthology Vol 5 (Bristol Review of Books Ltd). Other stories have been placed/shortlisted in The Bridport Prize, BBC Opening Lines, The New Writer, Frome Festival of Literature, Mslexia, Lightship Publishing and Flash500.
She’s written ten plays, including Meeting Myself Coming Back for Soho Theatre (Oberon Books), Caution! Trousers (Stephen Joseph Theatre), Talking for England, (Ustinov Theatre Bath) and My Balloon Beats Your Astronaut (Tristan Bates Theatre).
‘Imagine one of Beckett’s no-hopers clambering out of her sack, dustbin or urn and letting language gamely rip.’ The Times
Lorn Macintyre was born in Taynuilt, Argyll, Scotland, and spent formative years on the Isle of Mull, the inspiration for many of his poems and short stories, including the paranormal tradition of ‘second sight,’ the ability to foretell the future, which, he says, his family possessed. He researched and scripted television documentaries on cultural subjects for the BBC. He lives in St Andrews with his wife Mary.
His two short-story collections, Tobermory Days and Tobermory Tales (Argyll Publishing), draw on his life on Mull and his Highland ancestry, as does his poetry collection, A Snowball in Summer (Argyll Publishing). His latest short story collection, Miss Esther Scott’s Fancy (Priormuir Press), reflects his obsessive interest and participation in dancing. His novel Adoring Venus (Priormuir Press) is about the passionate affair between a 61-year-old professor of art history and an 18-year-old student at the University of St Andrews.
Websites: www.lornmacintyre.co.uk www.priormuir-press.co.uk
Marinella Mezzanotte is an Italian-born ambidextrous vegan who can’t imagine living anywhere other than south London. Having done a number of things since the early 1990s with varying degrees of success, she has been working as a life model for the past few years. She loves to translate from Italian into English, even if no one has paid her for it so far, because it makes her a better writer and a better reader. This is the first time that a piece of her fiction has been published in any form. Owing to a bizarre aversion to doing one thing at a time, she is currently working on a novel and a screenplay.
Jennifer Mills is the author of the novels Gone and The Diamond Anchor and a collection of short stories, The Rest is Weight. The Rest is Weight was shortlisted for the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards Steele Rudd Award for an Australian Short Story Collection and longlisted for the 2013 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. In 2012 Mills was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist for Gone.
Mills’ fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been widely published, broadcast, and performed. Mills is currently the fiction editor at Overland journal. She lives in a very small town in South Australia.
John Murphy lives and works in Dublin. His book of poetry, The Book of Water, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2012 (http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=262&a=223).
He was shortlisted twice for the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune New Irish Writing prize, for short fiction and for poetry. He was also shortlisted for the prestigious Patrick Kavanagh Award. His poetry has been published in many poetry magazines and journals, including Poetry Ireland Review, Cyphers, Mimesis, The Stony Thursday Book, Revival and Ambit. His Bridport shortlisted story, ‘Jotunheim’, is part of a book of interlinked stories he has just finished writing. He is a computer scientist and academic by profession.
Mai Nardone was raised in Bangkok, Thailand, by an American father and a Thai mother. He is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s writing program. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kartika Review, Slice, The Iowa Review and The Kenyon Review Online. He lives in New York City.
Noel O’Regan was born in Co. Kerry, Ireland. He is the recipient of a Leonard A. Koval Memorial Prize and was a prize winner in the Writing Spirit Award. He has been shortlisted for numerous other awards, such as the James Plunkett Award and the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year, as well as being nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize. He is short fiction editor for Five Dials and is the current Kerry County Council Writer in Residence.
Josephine Rowe is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry and essays. Her stories have previously appeared in Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, Five Dials and Best Australian Stories, and in her two collections, How a Moth Becomes a Boat (2010, Hunter Publishers) and Tarcutta Wake (2012, UQP). She currently lives in Montreal, and is working on a new collection of stories.
Nicholas Ruddock has won prizes in both poetry and fiction from literary journals in Canada. His short story ‘How Eunice Got Her Baby’ was filmed by the Canadian Film Centre. His ‘wildly inventive’ novel about poetry and love, The Parabolist, was published in February 2010 by Doubleday Canada and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. He lives and works as a family doctor in Guelph.
Stephen Santus was born in Wigan in 1948 and educated at Wigan Grammar School, St Catherine’s College Oxford and the University of Orleans. He taught English in France and Austria before returning to Oxford to teach English in a language school, where he still teaches. He has been writing poetry since 1965. This is his first attempt to find an audience for his work.
Paul Stephenson lives between London and Paris, where he is a researcher in EU politics. He has published widely in UK magazines, including Magma, The North and Poetry London. He recently won second prize in the Troubadour International Poetry Competition with his poem ‘The Teenage Existential’. In 2013/14 he is participating in the Jerwood/Arvon mentorship scheme.
David Steward worked for many years as a maritime lawyer, only to find that the job left no space in his head for writing fiction. Since liberating himself in 2011, he has written short stories and flash fiction, and is working on a novel. He was shortlisted in the Flash Fiction category of the Bridport Prize in 2012. He has published stories in Flash: the International Short-Story Magazine in April 2012, three stories in the October 2012 issue and another in April 2013. ‘The Gun Cabinet’ will be published in the October 2013 issue.
Rebecca Swirsky is a London-based writer with an MA (Distinction) for Writing from Sheffield Hallam University where she was awarded the A.M. Heath Prize for her final MA submission. Crossing The Line was awarded third prize in Ilkley’s Literature Festival and her fiction has previously been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and Fish Short Fiction Prize and, this year, shortlisted in the Bridport Flash Fiction category. Rebecca has been awarded a Bursary from The Literary Consultancy through Spread The Word, and her work has been featured in journals and anthologies including Ambit, Matter and The Big Issue in the North anthology. This year, she won the Word Factory apprenticeship for emerging short story writers. Rebecca is currently shaping her collection Just Something, Just Nothing with her Word Factory mentor, Stella Duffy. Rebecca used her Bridport Prize money to buy a telescope from a charity shop.
Barry Lee Thompson is an Australian writer. He was born in Liverpool, and now lives in Melbourne. He has won a number of awards for his fiction, and is developing his first collection of short stories. His work has been published in: Award Winning Australian Writing 2010 (Melbourne Books), The Sleepers Almanac No. 6 (Sleepers Publishing), 21D Street (21D) and 21D Anthology I (Smashwords).
Eve Thomson was born in Perth, Scotland and studied painting at the Edinburgh College of Art. Moving to the United States for fifteen years, she taught painting in universities and colleges, brought up her daughter, and exhibited her work both nationally and internationally. She is the recipient of visual arts-related awards and fellowships. In 2006, living again in Edinburgh, and alongside her text-based paintings, she began to write. She received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2009, mentored by Alan Bissett, and a Creative Scotland Professional Development Award in 2013. Shortlists include the Orange/Harper’s Bazaar Short Story Competition and the Bridport Prize, and work has appeared in the Bridport Prize 2008 anthology, the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writing from Scotland 2009, and Mslexia issue 58, Jun/Jul/Aug 2013. Her first novel is in final draft.
Shirley Waite took early retirement from local government and moved to Scarborough in 1999. She started a part-time BA in Creative Writing at the University of Hull (Scarborough Campus) having written nothing since her last essay for ‘O’ level English. She has loved every minute of being a student and is now looking forward to writing ‘fun stuff’ instead of essays. When she is not writing she is reading, at the theatre or walking by the sea. She self-published on Kindle a non-fiction book A Menu for Café Church.
Mary Woodward has published poems in many magazines including North, Ambit, The London Magazine, Stand, and The Shop. Runner-up, at various times, in the National, Arvon, Strokestown and Troubadour competitions. One pamphlet, Almost like Talking (Smith Doorstop ’93) and a new collection, The White Valentine, due from the Worple Press. She is a member of the Mary Ward poetry group, Queen Square WC1, and lives in St Albans.
Michelle Wright is an Australian writer of short stories and flash fiction. She spent 11 years in Paris and taught for 14 years, before shifting into the community development field. She is passionate about languages, literature and sanitation. Her first short story was shortlisted for the Age Short Story Competition in 2011 and her second, Maggot, won in 2012. Her story ‘Family Block’ won the Grace Marion Wilson Emerging Writers Competition for 2013.
In 2013, she was awarded the inaugural Writers Victoria Templeberg Residential Writing Fellowship which will allow her to spend one month writing short stories in Sri Lanka. She’s currently writing more short stories and has started working on a novel.
It would not have been possible for me to carry out the final judging had it not been for the hard work and professional expertise of Frances Everitt and all the team running the Bridport Prize. Thank you. I should also like to thank all the writers whose work I read.
The top three prizewinners were easy to pick. Their stories stood out immediately, characterized first and foremost by energetic, inventive language, and also by a subtle take on subject matter and themes. ‘A Man in Three Moments’ by Eve Thomson brilliantly telescoped time and dealt with the mysterious meanings of the word ‘beauty’. ‘TXL’ by Kerry Hood embodied pain, difficulty, triumph and humour. ‘Oyster Woman’ by Sheila Crawford evoked trauma through reticence and understatement.
Twenty other stories shifted between piles labelled yes; yes/perhaps; and perhaps. Narrowing these down to ten highly commended was difficult and intriguing.
No subject is inherently interesting or boring: the writer makes it so. A lot of the stories dealt with death, or loss, or domestic life, or life on the range. The successful ones exhilaratingly made these classic subjects fresh and new, perhaps by looking at them from new or unexpected angles. Tell all the truth, but tell it slant. Emily Dickinson’s words apply to fiction as much as to poetry.
I looked for excellent writing, at the level of sentence by sentence; simultaneously for writing that best expressed and invented and shaped its subject. Language is, and makes, form. I looked also for stories whose endings really worked, whether shocking or downbeat.
Nearly all the stories I read were set in the contemporary present, and many of them employed the present tense. How conscious a choice was this? Sometimes the past tense would have been helpful, allowing for narrative hindsight and irony. A lot of the stories sounded the same, employing realism or naturalism manifested through a chatty vernacular aping the speaking voice. This has to be done well, otherwise ends up sounding as loose, dull and flat as speech sometimes does. Writing is not the same as talking. It employs art, often craftily and subtly concealed. Too many of the stories aped memoir, or journalism. Is this a fashion in creative writing classes? I do not know. Perhaps reality TV has become a model. This style of writing meant that experimentation was avoided, risks not taken, the imagination and the unconscious not explored, feeling not translated into image. Many of the writers seemed scared of exploring emotion, and opted instead for sounding cool, keeping a distance. This could feel like simple repression, and be dull for the reader.
I admired and enjoyed many of the stories. The best of them suggested that the writer had got close to her or his subject, lived with it for a bit, let it ferment for a while, been so affected by it that they had necessarily invented a new short story form, new arrangements of language, found the best possible narrative perspective whether close up or further away.
The fact that thousands of writers entered the competition shows how the short story form thrives. This is very encouraging, despite some publishers asserting that short stories do not do well. I am grateful to have had the chance to read the stories I did. Thank you again.
It was helpful to have nearly a month between the arrival of the poems and the deadline for results. I read all of them as soon as possible and re-read them at intervals, gradually reducing the pile of possible winners. During those weeks I found that certain poems came to mind when I was going about my everyday business or just sitting quietly with a cup of tea. They were memorable. I enjoyed thinking about them and looked forward to reading them again.
‘The Opposite of Dave’ made me laugh out loud the first time I read it and smile every time I thought of it. They say that funny poems don’t win competitions. Well, this one did. But it isn’t just a funny poem. It is saying something about women and their relationships with men that many readers will find recognisable. It builds up very well to its surprise ending. You start off believing that the author is praising Dave’s successor. You begin to think he doesn’t sound all that great. Does she really rate this guy? And then you get the laugh.
‘The Sellotape Factory’ also worked its way towards the top of the pile because I found myself thinking about it so often, remembering the image of the children with their faces pressed against the wire fence, the ‘nice men in overalls’, who bowled them rolls of tape. But what I most admire about this poem is its author’s control of tone. The anger in the poem is quiet anger, and when the poet turns the tables on the offending parents, that is done quietly too. The poem doesn’t shriek and beat its breast. Some of the less successful entrants put me off by being too intense and dramatic.
‘The Restaurant’ is a very short poem. Like funny poems, very short ones tend not to win competitions, though I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t, if they are good enough, and this one certainly is. One thinks, of course, of Larkin: ‘Our almost instinct almost true: / What will survive of us is love’. Here, what survives of Christopher’s father is something much more specific and mundane. But it seems to me that the poem is saying something that is both interesting and true – and saying it very well.
Although it wasn’t too difficult to pick those three winners, I did have trouble getting the list of runners-up down to ten. There were too many good ones – the ten who made it had stiff competition. I can’t go into detail about all of them but I would like to mention ‘Rimbaud’ because there were very few entries that used traditional forms and this is an excellent sonnet. Another strong contender for a top prize was ‘I Left My Hair in San Francisco’ because the poem, written in the voice of the hairdresser, is memorably amusing. Several of the ten poems are about old age, death or bereavement: ‘Vegetable Patch’, ‘Unravelling’, ‘On My Grandmother’s Bench’, ‘Vigil’. The last of these is written entirely in lower case letters and I have to confess I find this irritating. It is, none the less, a moving and successful poem and might have done even better if the author hadn’t abandoned capitals.
There is always an element of luck in competitions. All judges have quirks and prejudices and their experiences of life will inevitably cause them to warm more to some poems than to others. The author of ‘The Veranda’ benefitted from the fact that I, too, have worked with children and I found the description of going on an outing – the ‘combination of boredom and vigilance’ – spot on.
Yes, there’s an element of luck and a different judge might have made different choices. What matters, I believe, is that good poems win and I hope you’ll agree that this has happened here. There will almost always be other good poems that didn’t – and there were quite a few in this case. I hope their authors won’t give up. I could make a long list of the competitions I didn’t win before I gave up entering them. But they are one way for talented poets to gain attention and encouragement. As I write this I still don’t know the names of the winners but I soon will – and I’ll look out for them in future.
Fans of the Marx Brothers will maybe recall the famous scene in which Groucho is allocated a tiny cabin on a transatlantic liner. For the next ten minutes, the cabin is invaded by an army of crew-members and hangers- on, until that cramped little space is teeming with people. Meanwhile, above their heads, Harpo sleeps on peacefully, borne aloft by the swarm.
I often think of that image when sitting down to write flash fiction. Ideally, the reader will float above the throng like Harpo, unaware of the chaos below. But how does the writer achieve that conjuring trick? With only 250 words at his/her disposal, there’s no room for clutter. The challenge is to include everything essential, and to kick out the rest. And then to leave a space on the page for the reader.
Choosing six of the best from a shortlist of 50 proved to be a difficult task. As the first reader Jon Wyatt noted, flash fiction is easily exposed. One wrong word can tilt the whole piece out of balance. But technical deficiencies count for less when a piece achieves the ‘accuracy of emotion’ that Margaret Atwood once described.
In living with the shortlist for three weeks, I was interested to see how pieces rose and fell (and rose and fell again) in my affections as I read and re-read them. Ultimately, I decided that the stories I chose would be the ones that went on haunting me even after the first hit had worn off.
Like all good literature, flash fiction tends to lose its fizz when reduced to jokes or anecdotes. And it can be cruel towards over-compression and gimmicks. But the 50 writers on this year’s shortlist prove what a flexible and fascinating form the micro-story remains. As well as supernatural yarns, contemporary Zen koans, and urban folk tales, I read pieces that used surrealism, magic realism, and comedy. Some of the pieces limited themselves to individual scenes, and others roamed around through time and space. Many of the stories found mystery in commonplace props and places, while others dug into rich and rewarding characters. And in the best experimental pieces, writers opened up a fascinating third space, located somewhere between fiction and poetry.
The six stories that haunted me hardest and longest were ‘Polio’, ‘Fine’, ‘Locked In’, ‘Ern Kiley’s House’, ‘Lincolnshire’, and ‘The Edge of the Woods’. Other writers would have made different choices, but these were pieces that prickled my skin as well as stimulating my admiration and envy. The following stories pushed them very close: ‘Consent’, ‘Repo Day’, ‘Akira and the Creative Process’, ‘The Slow Acts’, ‘Ovid on the Train to Tomis’, ‘Dad’s Cap’, and ‘Breakdown’.
I hope that all of the writers on this year’s shortlist will appreciate how well they did in rising through a record pile of 2,720 entries.