Sheila introduced Dr Nasser Hussain and invited him to give his adjudication of the 2017 Poetry Competition. Nasser began by talking about his own work, producing copies of his first published poetry collection and reading samples therefrom. His second collection is to be published in 2018. These later poems have moved on from his first collection as he has become more interested in the process of writing rather than the finished product. In his latest pieces of work he is testing what can be done by twisting language to do things it doesn’t normally do. He is asking himself, ‘Can I communicate in a new way?’
After talking about his work Nasser turned to the competition entries. His intention as an adjudicator, he said, was to help rather than to appear harsh; his critique is the beginning of a discussion rather than the last word. He had looked at the poems with five criteria in mind:
use of language
strength of concept
As he talked about specific poems he made the following general points.
• Avoid sentences of a single word
• The subject matter has to work literally as well as figuratively.
• Allow your reader’s imagination some freedom by being slightly ambiguous
• Plain/direct/clear speech is preferable to ‘fancy’
• Beware of using clichés or easy images
• Use contemporary language and forms for contemporary subjects (‘the writer must speak to their moment)
• Might the writer need to pay more attention to form?
• Is that form appropriate to the poem?
• It is good to create a disjunct between reality and imagination/fantasy
• Does the page need to be filled? Shortness, simplicity and truth can be just as effective. Don’t be afraid to cut.
• It is important to be aware of the audience when writing pieces ‘to’ people
• Is the concept suitable for poetry?
Having commented on the individual poems Nasser announced the winners as follows:
• 3rd place – Ian Gouge with ‘The Light of our Lives’, a poem about a fragment from outer space that had once glowed to light up the lives of the couple who had found it but had now lost its glow
• 2nd Place – Elizabeth Spearman with ‘Summer Visitor’, a poem about a summer visitor arriving in her garden
• 1st Place – Susan Perkins with ‘Gerunds’, a poetic reflection on communication.
Due to an oversight the trophy was not available for presentation, but Nasser was photographed congratulating Susan on her win. The winning entries were then read. Susan prefaced her reading with an explanation of how the poem came to be written. In Elizabeth’s absence, Nasser read on her behalf.
Susan thanked Nasser for his adjudication.