As a prelude to his adjudication, Paul spoke to us about his own wide-ranging writing, which includes two books on creative writing. He then went on to ask if writing poetry was different from other writing forms. Does it use a different part of the brain or is it so focused that it blots out other things? He said that writing poetry involves concentration, imagination and something which acts as a prompt. In addition he stressed the importance of reading other people’s work to sharpen one’s mind. A wide discussion of what makes a piece of writing a poem followed, touching on punctuation amongst other things.
When Paul turned to what he was looking for in a poem he emphasised that there were many different ways of writing one, but that the result should hold the reader’s attention – the reader should not feel that he is wasting his time. There are no hard and fast rules about form or subject or rhyme. However, the poem must mean something to the writer as well as to the reader.
Turning to the individual competition entries it was agreed to follow Paul’s suggestion that the writers should read their work before he gave his comments so that the comments meant something to the others present. The poems read were:
• Susan – ‘Going Downhill on a Bicycle’ – a poem supposed to have been written by a character from her recent novel
• Maggie – ‘The Last Amen’ – a lament for ‘the one who got away’
• Denis – ‘Dusk to Dawn’ – a poem inspired by a blind girl and looking at how senses can become sharpened
• Ros – ‘Living in Denial’ – a very personal poem about climate change
• Sheila – ‘The Enchantment of Birdsong’ – a poem inspired by hearing a song thrush while out walking
• Carol – ‘Not April but February Mr T S Eliot’ – a poem disputing the opening lines of Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland
• Peter – ‘The Naming of Books’ – a parody of ‘The Naming of Cats’ from ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’
The authors of the remaining three entries were not present so their entries were held over.
Paul then proceeded to announce his choice of winners as follows:
• 1st – Susan Perkins with ‘Going Downhill on a Bicycle’
• 2nd – Ros Swaney with ‘Living in Denial’
• 3rd – Lindsay Trenholme with ‘The Power of Words’
Susan was presented with the trophy.
Maggie thanked Paul for his adjudication and invited him to read a selection of his own poems. These included ‘General Swim’ (about Ripon Spa Baths) and ‘Saturday Bells’ (about wedding bells at Ripon Cathedral) from his published collection ‘Voting for Spires’, both of which had also been published in the ‘Ripon Gazette’. He also read poems from his collection ‘Nomad’ and from a smaller collection inspired by a film.