2012 Poetry Competition

All prize winning poems:

(shortlisted names/titles listed below)

First Prize 

Courting Simpsy Scrumble

by Pamela Trudie Hodge


Simpsy Scrumble, Simpsy Scrumble, fishy-monger on the quay,
Simpsy Scrumble, Simpsy Scrumble, sweetling, will you marry me?

I will bring you gifts from oceans, fishes rare from out the sea,
macklespout and webby cuckroons, dearling, if you’ll marry me.

My cockle-bottomed boat I’ll sail where finny fukills sport and play
with gurnickles, their tails a-twirling at the weeping of the day,

then I’ll net in screels of moonlight grand-falloons with dreaming eyes,
rainbow frampoles as they frolic where the merman madly cries.

Simpsy Scrumble, take our token, half a shell of squinney tern.
Feed it raggish every Friday, trothing plight I will return.

When the tebrous tide was turning and the mussel-moon shone bright
I rowed away from Simpsy Scrumble, steering for the flimmering light.

From the dandling, star-specked ocean I reeled in the squamus spratt
and caught a flock of polywinkies in my church-on-sunday hat.

Slimpery shoals of shining shantoes leapt, all fibbling, in my pail;
splanish flooms with warty fingals fluting mournful madrigails.

Dreaming of my Simpsy Scrumble, I dove deep into the brine
where the sobbing guddling gloom and lackry moses weep and pine.

Precious pearlings, nacreus numpkings, ninnyhammers dressed in silk
and mooning sandills, sweet as candy, eyes as soft as camel’s milk

filled my boat with chat and chuckle, singing shanties, heave a-weigh,
and telling fishy fables of the fishermen who got away.

Sailing sideways, tacking crabwise, I sailed home to claim my bride,
my valumpshus Simpsy Scrumble, waiting by the waterside

In her dress of silvry smooskin from the fathoms of the Haaf,
holding close the squinny ternshell, sighing for its other half.

Fisherfolk and fishes gathered, footling fast upon the quay.
Parson Gidgeon tied our knot as shippy-shape as it could be.

Soon we were all twirling, skirling, to the warty fingal’s tunes.
Shantoes reeled with polywinkies, sandills spun with grand falloons

and gurnicles with macklespout while lackry moses grin and dine
but, in my arms, my Simpsy Scrumble by the sea’s candescent shine.

Simpsy Scrumble, Simpsy Scrumble fishy-monger never more
playing with our shoals of kidlings on the salt-sea-shimmering shore.

Second Prize

‘Topping Off’ the Shard, (30th March, 2012)

by Kate Goldsmith

O’Reilly takes a panel from the crane and nudges it to me.
Ninety five floors up, the wind like ice.
Through glass, the sky in freeze-frame,
mackerel on a marble slab.
We lock position, tighten bolts, we test the seal,
I signal to Kranz, he angles the crane.

O’Reilly takes a panel from the crane and nudges it to me.
Like playground kids in helmets, chin-straps tight,
loose-limbed, we dangle in harness,
swimming thin air, we paddle grey steel,
building onwards, upwards.

Around us, giant birds are pecking at the building,
heads bob, pulleys tighten
as they scavenge the backs of lorries for scraps
feeding us carbon twigs
to weave their glittering, heavenly nest.

A thousand feet down, trains snake in and out of stations
like sand eels on a murky river. Crossing bridges,
worker-ants run from one money-stack to another,
eyes down - they think the streets are paved with gold
but what do they know?  The real money’s up here.
Our money-stack dwarfs them all. 

Our hard-as-nails digit is giving the finger to the old town,
a splinter of light, dwarfing the dome of St Paul’s.
Drop-dead-gorgeous in glass, it solicits in broad daylight,
cashes-in at night, leaving it hung-morning-after-over,
empty as a wallet.  Built on petrodollars,
our Ponzi-pyramid is driving a stake through the heart of the city.

But it’s their city, not ours
and tomorrow we fly home.

O’Reilly’s taking the last panel from the crane and nudging it to me.
We lock position, tighten bolts, we test the seal.
Kranz has both hands in the air. 
O’Reilly‘s tapping out a rhythm in his steel-capped shoes.
I start to dance a jig of my own,
O’Reilly cocks his hip, he takes my arm, spins me round like a girl.

Up here, on the varnished fingernail of the digit-of-bling,
On the tallest, most glamorous digit in all of Europe,
we dance.

The Gloucestershire Prize

by Stephen Davies

Turn the page; put this in the can:
it is lunchtime.  She is cooking pasta bows  
and testing the word in her English mouth.

Tomatoes slide from their split skins;
onions and garlic steep in oil.
There are peppers, capers, olives, anchovies.

Perhaps the radio is too loud.
Perhaps the windows are cloudy with steam.
In any case, she is reading the recipe

and he enters.  His hands slip round her
and up to her breasts.  There is an awkward
kiss, in that her neck is turned

while her hips stay flush with the stove.
Her eyes are closed.  There is no conversation.
There is only the knife. 

And that newspaper story:
of the woman who sliced her lover
with one careless spin in the kitchen.

But here, let the blade miss by inches.
Let the embrace develop.  The pasta is done.
The puttanesca is good.

Five ‘Commended’ Poems

The First Avocado
by Liz Cashdan

That was the first time we’d eaten an avocado
the first time I’d cut through that animal skin
pulled it apart and stared at the stuck-in stone.

I jiggered the stone out and laid each half
in a little dish, stunned by the pale green flesh,
dripped vinaigrette into its welcome bowl.

We spooned up the first mouthful, together
in time, let the oil and vinegar run to the back
of our tongues, melted the stuff in our teeth.

We looked at each other across the table
in that tiny lean-to kitchen in Belfast
and I, the Scorpio, had scraped the skin

clean in a few seconds, while you, the Virgo,
relished each slow mouthful, precisely.
I watched you, impatient for the next course.

That first stone planted in an earthenware pot
has grown tall, its green leaves drooping on to
my window sill. But there’s no avocado.

By Peter Wyton

Mid-evening in the taverna.
Pimp pares his fingernails
With a knife wicked as his smile.

His meal-ticket has pushed through
Bead curtains leading to the stairs,
For the fourth time in an hour.

Pimp keeps an eye, not fatherly,
On her three year old daughter,
Dancing barefoot in beer puddles.

The mother reappears, followed
By a man still shovelling his guts,
his replica soccer shirt, back in his pants.

Pimp surveys her with the expertise
Of an attendant at a hire car agency
Checking in a recently used model.

No external damage observable,
His signals the barman to provide spirits
For him, for her, cola for the kid.

Canned music plays. Customers chat.
Bead curtains rattle. Child dances.
Pimp pares. Business as usual.

Green Man
By Peter Daniels

And the Green Man’s on an up
so you wouldn’t want to let him down, would you?

Now it’s his go, what he’ll do is gravitate
down to the garden, renovate the beds and edgings,
dig, rake, pot and re-pot
– maybe he’ll take requests
for herbs and herbaceous borders. Me,

I’m on my break from the green margin,
I’ve given up on nature. Nature
retaliates in grey dreams: engravings
of devils that goad, angels that gasp in aggravation;
it’s the last judgement and I’ve been grassed on,
up in the dock for some transgression
had up by a panel of amateur gardeners. 
I ask you. I give up. But he could deal with it,
hero of the Horticultural Club;
even though it’s been hard going
since Eden got dumped and Adam got ignorant
cultivating plastic bags and old fridges, with
ugly shrubs gathering in alleys, and the leaves and slime
that block the gutters. They expect ground cover,
bark mulch and winter bedding? As if
that were the half of it. But you:

take him as your model,
give it all you’ve got to grow; dig, double-dig,
and get right down. With a good hoe,
you could do the whole ground over. 
Now he’s on an up
and the green is sprouting in his beard.

Board Games
by John Whitworth

Our ouija board brings out the dead.
Their shadows flicker on the wall.
Tall candles kiss each grizzled head
Alert and waiting for the call.
Impossible to name them all:
Garbo, the Empress of the Sun,
Vinegar Joe, Napoleon,

Bill Shakespeare, natch. Our singing Swan
Of Avon meditates a sonnet.
The electric charges may have gone
But look! I'd wager money on it,
There's something hums beneath the bonnet.
See – letter after magic letter,
As good as when he lived, or better!

King Oliver, the Queen of Hearts,
The Barons and the Baronesses,
The lad o' love, the lad o' parts,
Eager to chart their late successes,
The girlie gangs, the boys in dresses,
The psychopaths, the suicidal,
The beavers and the sheer bone-idle.

Good Doctor Grace, with beardy chin
And dirty neck, Bad Doctor Death
Who did so many patients in –
He cashed their cheques then stopped their breath –
MacHeath, McGonagall, Macbeth,
The Thieves, the Poets and the Kings,
We feel the flutter of their wings.

The mermaids and the sirens sitting,
Their tails curved prettily beneath,
Atropos and her sisters knitting,
The harpies with their sharky teeth,
Bald Caesar in his laurel wreath,
The boy who stole the funeral,
Impossible to name them all.

The dead inhabit every room,
Their dead hearts beating boom-a-boom,
Like shadows in the shuttering gloom,
Like babies strangled in the womb,
Like mummies rising from the tomb,
Like fishes in a catacomb,
Like whispers in an empty room,

They stretch out to the crack of doom,
The crack of doom, the crack of doom.

By Jamie Walsh

Towards the end of the training
you’d want to take the gloves off
and put the shrieking willies up
the old guard: payback for those
months of mockery at the bespoke tit
you’d made of yourself tailoring noise;
for all the secret talk of a celery’s
snap as ‘underweight’ or ‘mooey’.

After putting in the work with
the squelch-tubs and tin kettles,
squeaky wheels and balloons,
the nuances of the ground under
the trapdoors – gravel, grass,
starch on sheet ice – the true test
of your worth is to steal into the
tutor’s house in the craw of night
and see if he can tell between
you or his own dread at three a.m.

This is the moment of your art,
your mastery of fire: massage
the creaking grief from a wooden
chair, draw a nail file through
the pinched mitts of a clothes peg,
unlock a fell apple in your teeth. 

Shortlisted poems/poets

Slow-worms, Stephen Davies
Idiot at the Wheel, Mark Mayes
Mailbox Montage, Jean L Kreiling
Bus Shelter, Roger Turner
Raga on Raglan Road, Marilyn Francis
Intrigued, Liz Cashden
The Midnight Moving Company: Interviewing the Apprentice, Judith Green
Engineers, Peter R White
SloeGin, Howard Wright
Making Soup, Penny Harper



2012 Competition results and judges comments

(the winning poems, and names of those who came very close will follow very soon)

Remember, all who entered, these decisions are those of a single judge, with prejudices, preferences and a rather odd sense of humour. There are many poems in the pile alongside these that would have been winners had they confronted a different scrutineer.

To give you an idea how I worked, without naming and shaming and in the hope of giving a nudge to the makers of some good poems, I’d like to make the following comments.  Spelling is vital, especially in poems that are otherwise excellent. If you are writing about a soldier in Helmand, don’t spell it “Helmond”, if you name a whiskey Jim Bean when the judge knows it’s Jim Beam, your work will be regretfully laid aside. You can’t have a single spermatozoa – that’s a plural noun. Spermatozoon is the word you need; alter and submit again. And the lovely conceit that drew on the difference between lay and lie was scuppered by the grammar, but it’s saveable. My greatest grief was the poem that misspelled its subject - Sei Shōnagon. Only a vowel between that one and success. Do amend and re-send.

I do like formal poems, but the best of the free verse submitted here did itself more than justice.  However, much was passed over on the grounds of inexplicable line endings.  In the absence of rhyme and scansion, my head needs a reason for a line to end where it does. I can’t ask the poet, so the poem has to tell me.

All the poems in this final selection have been read and re-read, scrawled on, shuffled around and wondered about. And the result is:

First Prize (£600)

Courting Simpsy Scrumble by Pamela Trudie Hodge Possibly an unexpected choice. This sang in my head from first to last and answered too many of my personal questions to be ignored.  It’s a ballad, a nonsense poem, a nursery rhyme, yet none of these and all at the same time.  It was, from the point of view of this competition, one of a kind and I peeled a series of skins off it as the judging period progressed. I love the language, the cross-over between specialist terminology and creative invention, the faux-etymology of which adds an extra layer of glee. It scans superbly, with sensible enjambment and easy stresses and upholds an intrinsically English tradition that I feared had died with Causley.

Second Prize (£300)

“Topping Off” the Shard by Kate Goldsmith Oh, this has had a stormy ride in your judge’s list! I gasped with delight at the title – we all know that shard, along with myriad and aeon, is on the proscribed list of poetry-words. Then I fell in love with the concept, the nudging of the panels, the feeling of being up there with O’Reilly and Kranz and the poet who invited me to share the illusion. I worried about the last two lines which seemed to follow a stanza break and then realised they they didn’t; it was just the way the poem fell off the first page and perched awkwardly on the next.  I asked a lot of questions of this poem, and in the end it answered them all and I danced in triumph along with the fictional builders. As Beckett said, “Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order”. This poem exemplifies that sensible view.

Five runners-up.  (£50 each)

Foley by Jamie Walsh  Beautifully crafted from specialist language, made accessible by honest vernacular. The whole notion of the artful craft of the Foley Artist is embodied in the poem.

Green Man  by Peter Daniels. I wrote “Yes!” alongside the second stanza break – that’s the way to do it.

Pimp by Peter Wyton  Sharply tailored like an expensive suit; a suit that fits the creep – and the poem – perfectly.

The First Avocado by Liz Cashdan. Skilfully shaped, the easy, even stanzas making steps from thought to thought.

Board Games by John Whitworth  Reader-bliss. Shiny tesserae all picked from one busy head and fitted together with the consummate skill of a craftsman.  

Gloucestershire Prize (£200)

Farfalle by Stephen Davies.  This was earmarked early on as a contender. An easy little picture with a lot of sparks setting off lines of thought that are backed up by the words. The poet here is totally in control, leading us by our ears and our tastebuds to a tragedy that doesn’t happen; that slips past like the careless knife as the poem chooses with deceptive ease between death and sex. Deliciously clever.

And it must go on record here that the Gloucestershire entry was of a consistently high standard in relation to the rest of the competition.

 Welcome to the 2012 Buzzwords Open Poetry Competition page.  Details of the 2012 competition are below.  The competition is now closed.  Watch this space for the winning entries.

Our Judge, Prizes and More About Us

Sole Judge:  Ann Drysdale
who will read all entries
Closing date for entries. 31st July 2012.
1st prize-£600. Runner-up- £300. 5 x commended-£50 each.
The Gloucestershire Prize- £200. (for Gloucestershire residents only).

Proceeds of the competition will be used to fund ‘Buzzwords’, which is the longest running and most respected regular poetry gathering in Cheltenham.
"A warm, intelligent - and going on the evidence of the floor readings - a very talented group, Buzzwords was a great venue for reading and listening." - George Szirtes


  1. Interesting site. Thanks for the info re buzzwords. In the middle of writing my first novel but I may be tempted to enter.

  2. I read the judge's report with interest (as an entrant but one who didn't win!). Are you going to print the winning poems so that we can enjoy them - and see what the judge's comments mean?

    1. Yes we are - just waiting for all the prize winners to send electronic copies (to save us the typing!)

    2. Would be lovely to see the winners/almosters, are they imminent?

  3. Really looking forward to seeing the short-list and winning poems. I am checking every day. Any closer to being posted?

  4. An appalling judge's report. Does anyone agree? Ghastly capitals. Horribly punctilious, small-minded, self-serving. The injunction: 'alter and submit again' - distasteful, leads one to realise what we all secretly know. Save us from such 'Scrutineers' - frightful word choice there. Poor John Clare would not have passed the
    spelling test, one fears. And no, I am was not an entrant to this competition.

  5. You have shared a great information about Trestle Tables and Cheltenham Chair Natural.
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  6. Well deserving winners all round! One that stands out to me is The First Avocado, such a mischievous, fun little poem!