Thanks to all who entered, and those who turned up today to read their poems in Strokestown Library and join in the Heritage Week celebrations. The results are:
1st Annette Skade, Ireland. Strand
2nd Rory Duffy, Ireland The Pauper of Murhaun
3rd Siún Carden, Northern Ireland Sampler: As I cannot write
What James Harpur said about the poems:
It was with great pleasure that I read the poems entered for Pastimes Past Times, and, as the theme might suggest, I was swept away to years long gone and not-so-long gone, whether it was to the eras before the two world wars or childhoods of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Of course it was incredibly difficult to choose winners out of the field of entry, and of course, as poetry judges often say, poetry, like all arts, is not one of those areas most suitable for judging and comparing: how do we compare a Piccasso with a Rembrandt, a Mahler with a Purcell, or a haiku with a ballad?
It can’t be reiterated enough that poetry is not an athletics event measured by a stop-watch; nor is it some sort of chemical formula which, once you’ve learned it, you can reproduce at will. The main aim of poetry is to give pleasure to the reader, and perhaps food for thought and feeling – and I can say that all the poems here did that for me in different measure.
In carrying out the judging I looked out for positives such as rich evocations, original images and poetic structures that seemed to reinforce the meaning rather than detract from it. Conversely, I was on the watch-out for rhythms that felt a bit clunky, or clichés appearing too readily, or the theme not being sufficiently honoured. As for the judging process, all the poems came to me, unfiltered, via Dropbox with just a title and a reference number. I read each of them in batches, jotting down notes, before reading them again to try to pick out potential prize winners. The final decisions took as long as the initial siftings.
Weighing all these things up, I decided to give first prize to ‘Strand’ for its subtle weaving of folklore, history, and mystery, all delivered with a satisfying precision of language. The second prize I gave to ‘The Pauper of Murhaun’ with its beautiful musical cadence – as befitting its subject matter of a piper. And third prize went to ‘Sampler: As I cannot write’, a delicate study of stitchwork giving voice to an otherwise silent witness of the past.
I would like to have given honourable mentions to all the other poems, but I must confine myself to a dozen or so:
‘Making Daisy Chains’, Games Remembered’, ‘Mullach Summers’, ‘Denis Hempson to the Belfast Harpers Assembly, 1792’, ‘Craft’,
‘Blackburn Birthday’, ‘Treadle Love Yarn’, ‘Time Trapped’, ‘Framing that Circle’, ‘Opossum Nights’, ‘A New Wall’.
Thank you to all who attended, and all who sent in poems.