2013 Poetry Competition - Results!

Buzzwords Poetry Competition2013: Results

with congratulations to the prize-winners thanks to all who supported us by entering and by publicising the competition. For your interest, we had about 600 entries.

1st Prize (£600): The Five Petals of Elderflower  by Angela Topping
Runner-up (£300): A Psalm for the Act of Falling by  Kim Moore

Commended (£50):
Fetch by Josephine Haslam
Mother Pheasant  by Tony Watts
Gathering  by Ruth Wiggins
Kittiwake  by Lindsey Holland
Below the Bancal  by  Wendy Klein

The Gloucestershire Prize (£200): Speaking Raven by Deborah Harvey

*Scroll down for the winning poems*

 “The final filtering of poems produced a rare and remarkable glitter. I found I had to refilter and refine and review again and again before the choices became clearer. Given that so many good poems were competing to get through 'this singing mesh' I would like to give highly honourable mentions to :

(Please note: I have not included the poem titles on the short list so that they will still be available for other competitions. Poets in the list who would like to know which of their entries got so close may email me – Angela France)

Jennie Farley
David E Oprava
Princess Ayelotan
Bethany Pope
Graham Burchell
David Mohan
Catherine Edmunds
Mark Totterdell
Mantz Yorke
Josie Turner

“Congratulations to the winners and commended poets, and my deep and abiding thanks to Angela France for asking me to judge such a wonderful competition that gave me the opportunity to read and re-read so many excellent and rewarding poems,

David Morley.”

Winning Poems

1st Prize

The Five Petals of Elderflower by Angela Topping

With the odd number five strange nature’s laws
Plays many freaks nor once mistakes the cause.
                                    John Clare

Enter through its centre of five petals
past the crown of stamens like matches
slide down the green stem, landing with legs
either side of the junction between stalks.
Now you are surrounded by flowers.
Soak up the hum – you are at one with lace.
Sleep now, as in fresh sheets, soothed
by the sun, head in blossom, a perfumed lullaby,
leaves far below to catch you if you fall.
But you will not fall: the petioles enmesh.
Your cheek is on your mother’s breast,
the flowers are sweet milk. Rock-a-bye.

This tree is elder. It’s safe. With the blossoms
we can make elderflower champagne
with the berries, elderflower wine.
Put your nose into it. Yes, it’s a good scent.
If it smells like cat’s pee, so will your champagne.
So we don’t pick those. This tree is fine.
Hold this bag open while I cut some.
We don’t want to drop any –
see how easily each flower head can come away.
There’s lots of stories about this tree. Some say
it’s Faerie, but your mum knows more about that.
I say it’s very good to use. But we mustn’t
take all the blooms from one tree or there’ll be
no berries, neither for us nor birds.

The smell is buzzing in my head, as we walk
down the night lane, away from the heated air
of the pub where friends spilled onto the car park.
We whisper as we pass sleeping cottages –
can’t even see the elder, just smell it, as the lane
becomes a funnel of scents and fuzzy leaves.
I’m giddy, stumbling; now there is no-one to see
you take my hand. We cannot even see each other.
The flower s smell of sex, of lust, foreign tongues to us.
Too soon the lane opens out into streetlights,
pavements, cars. You drop my hand. The scent
is left behind, pollened on memory.

Elderflowers sing jazz, each petalled phrase
plays another variation on the last.
Its saxophone voice rises above twanged strings
of cello and double bass, holding the melody
as it flies high. Notes dance round our feet:
we wade in sound. It’s a five bar blues,
scrolls of baroque, rising like smoke, tasting champagne.
White is not white, is green and cream and ivory.
And it sings the blues.


By its five textures: the rough underside of leaves
and the smooth front, the strong stem, thinner wands
of stalks, and cobbly lace of blossom like slubbed silk.
By its green taste, its umbrella canopy,
by the cushion of blooms each with five petals.
By these things, I swear to remember you.


A Psalm for the Act of Falling by Kim Moore

A psalm for falling which is so close to failing
or to falter or fill; as in I faltered at the news
of your coming; as in I filtered you out
of my life; as in I've had my fill of falling:
a fall from grace, a fall from god,
to fall in love, or to fall through the gap,
snow fall, rain fall, falling stars,
the house falls into disrepair,
to fall in with the wrong crowd,
to fall out of love, to fall like Jessica
who fell down a well and watched
the bright disc of the sun and the moon
slowly passing, for twins who start
so close together they must fall
apart for the rest of their lives
or be damned, to fall from a wall
like an egg or to fall down a hill
like a brother, to follow like a sister,
to be a field and fall fallow,
for vertigo, the cousin of falling,
for towers and stairs and pavements -
the agents of falling, for the white
clifftop of a bed, for climbers
and roofers and gymnasts,
for the correct way to fall,
loose limbed and floppy,
to fall apart after death,
for ropes and fences and locks
which carry the act of falling inside,
for fall which over the ocean
means autumn, which means leaves
like coins of different colours
thrown from the pockets of trees,
which means here darker evenings,
which means walks with the dogs,
which means walking alone
and not falling apart at the sound
of your name, which god
help me, sounds like falling.

Five Commended poems

Fetch by Josephine Haslam

The dog comes with me to sniff at the cold
out in the dark both of us, the first snow

of the year. He barks one sharp bark
and snuffles his nose  in the strange white stuff

and hark I think hark, like a girl in a story
out at night with the dog in a story

though this dog’s just a pup and the bark only heard
by the two of us as we step outside

the lighted door. Eight o clock. The cold stings
our ears. Nothings  begun; path untrodden.

snow untouched, yet to be crossed
or scored with foot marks and paw marks.

But who’s to say where a story starts-
maybe the dog’s one way to begin

inextricably caught as he is, with the one
we both have in mind, the early good bits

and the troubled time- let’s follow him;
his coat’s black and white, his pricked up ears

tail aloft in the night, the moonlit night that shines
not on the woman after all but on her son

or sons whose dog he was. Here they are
throwing a stick or ball, a snowball that is

or racing  each other; boys and dog over the sand
on a northern beach, or striding uphill

into the wind, One boy is singing under his breath
the way he’ll sing years later than then,

between the now and the done or not done
in the story we’ve come to the middle of –

which was the son who ran out in the snow
the night you thought he’d never come home

the night you came downstairs to find
the door swung open, snow blown inside

and caught up with him in the road, frightened
and lost , the dog in tow: a grey muzzled dog

who came to you young ;a dog who’s long gone
though sometimes you’re sure, you hear his whine,

the click of his paws, the gusty sigh as he dozed
and dreamt, or think you feel a rush

of warm air and at your side the brush of his fur
as you make the rounds- river, last farm

at the end of the woods, sloping path, railway track;
a woman alone, stopping to look at a frozen field

and the moon just up and no dog behind
with a snowball or stick  he won’t put down

till she calls him on, and hark she thinks
as he comes to heel with a soundless bark,

in a flurry of sand or snow or wind
and the push of his cold nose in her hand.

Mother Pheasant by Tony Watts


Mother Pheasant has no concept
of private property.  She’s claimed
a corner of this iris bed to be
her middle of the world.  The squashed flower stems

that line her slicked out bowl
will cause her no remorse.  She is a plump
fortress, magnetised to the earth,
guarding her precious dozen.

We tiptoe past or stand and watch
from a respectful yard or two.  She takes 
no notice, though her round unblinking eye
tells us there are more important things
afoot than tending flowers.

I’m thinking twelve young pheasants running
ransack in the garden
(I’m thinking twelve deep yellow egglets
fluffling in the pan).

Her night-dark pupil draws me in, but yields
no clue to my dilemma, holding nothing
but the immeasurable pheasant moment.  I
teeter on the brink of her abyss.


Thanks to the universal deference due
to a mother and her babies, Lady Pheasant
and all surviving chicks are hereby granted

the freedom of the garden – to parade
amongst its seed-strewn plains of grass,
its canopied forests of flowers. 

Disdaining path and stepping stone, she threads
the intricacies of her queendom, head
held high, transmitting as she goes

a constant signal to her straggling brood
(tuned to no other wavelength, they’ve no choice
but to stumble in her wake -

tumbling down steps and into ponds
that bear up their balsa bones and fluff with ease
while their clockwork legs keep running underwater

until the Hand of God in rubber gardening glove
scoops them up and gently sets them down
beside their baffled mother.)

When jackdaw or magpie threaten
she explodes like the clappers in furious levitation
and they wheel off into the trees

then calls her offspring under her wing and sits
immovable on the lawn - a tent of feathers
gently pulsating.  But beyond the hedge

are fields alert with foxes, while above
buzzard and kestrel swing in their arcs like searchlights
and by the fourth day half her chicks have gone.

Unfazed, she stalks the garden, still
purrp-purrping to her lucky five –
‘Keep close’ it says - that muted mother-call -

like someone sobbing in another room.

Gathering by Ruth Wiggins                                                                         

The windows give onto a second room
that's been tacked onto the first; this second
room is a room of glass, a swanky green-
house in effect, and when the weather
becomes a room filled with things like fine
and bright and the heat becomes too much,
or when there is a need, as there is now
(for it is Bunny's eighteenth) for the flood
of words, of guests, to find a way into
something more than the sway of chat,
we swing the windows out and into
what once was garden, what now is not,
and the second room becomes all angles
and reflection. Light pings on repeat recede
and Auntie's crystal on the corner desk
trills – get me, in my multi-facetedness.
And Lucille strips down to her Jugendstil
rack, twists green feints across the walls.
And eyes darting, and words leaping ­–
this is us, we have become something.
And heat swoons at the unveiling –
the bone-white, perspiration-beaded
shoulder blades. And my niece shades
her eyes with dimpled fingers tipped with
five neat paddles, on each of which dance
nuns...in wimples. Only she is witness
to gulls (in glimpses) opening casement
after casement, thickly bordered with
white against the blinding revelation –
everything hinges. And the old girl, who
is fighting fit on talc and tonic, thick
with gin, swears down that there's a storm
coming. Her joints are singing – eggs
is eggs, there's thunder in the postbag,
the correspondence is all wet. And deep
inside the unlit quarters, beyond the rooms
both second and first, the kid that cannot
ride the heat, pads about on reluctant feet,
gathering, gathering strength to leave
the fans and shutters and space to be
in his pants and skin, to join the glittering.
The chink of glass, the iconic cutlery.
And it's all a-tilting, the incline of the cheek,
the nose to ceiling, the Darling! the clink
of green. The tart spumante of the pear tree,
around which wasps just fizz and bitch,
each gagging for a hit on this year's vintage.
And the North Atlantic Drift staggers
in its sleep, its lullaby of coast, climactic;
croons – hey niño, better run for it, kid.

Kittiwake by Lindsey Holland

He called her his chou-fleur, for the pleated hems
and frills she stitched in the palpitating light
of a porthole. At twenty-two, in half a gale

she barely tilted. When he put up bulkheads
she’d slip up to the jib, her tiny feet concealed
by layered folds of ochre. Near to port,

her headscarf’s tartan slumped across her shoulders,
she watched for gulls, her black-gloved hands
small birds on the rail. ‘There’s too much machinery’

she’d murmured once, her jaw against his collarbone
and warm limbs heavy as they entered the troughs
of Irish waves. ‘I wish we were kittiwakes

with nary a struggle but sea and shrimp’. At harbour
she waited by the gates. Discharging cargo
bought a couple of hours. They’d stray down vennels

to streets that dripped with whisky and tobacco,
the judder of engines, an airborne oil
that soaked through fabric, that licked her skin.

Below the Bancal by Wendy Klein

and Abuelo sold that good piece of land; “put the money on
the maquinista…build an olive press…”

i. Maquinista

Gonzal hasn’t planned to star in his own film; a maquinista,
a machine operator, isn’t prepared for the rigours of

method acting, but he finds he’s a natural; his Goya cheekbones
are the stuff of matinee idols, his aquiline nose, quintessential

machismo – the way he can hold a cigarette in one hand,
operating the machine with the other, narrowing

his eyes against the spiralling column of smoke as he admires
the glistening golden oil seeping through the cylinder,

a cascade that streams faster than honey from a comb, the Toledo
granite cones of the press setting off his pale indoor skin,

his black, black hair cropped close to his skull with the casual
sexiness of a young Dean Martin. His shirt sleeves

rolled up, reveal sinewy forearms as he peels the rich pulp
from the straw mats, stacks them, one-by-one,

but the hand-held camera skims too fast over his flat belly,
lean buttocks…
…dancing on the oil-soaked floor,
with a torero’s skating steps…

His screen debut was filmed just days before his maimed body
was pulled from under a tractor, bundled onto a stretcher,

carried down from the bancal. Years later, his widow will not
watch the film: prefers to remember him leaning

in the doorway of their kitchen, pouring a second glass of wine,
drinking deep, soaking the bread in his own virgin oil.

ii. La Viuda

The dawn chorus wakes up his widow as early as four
on summer mornings when her window is open wide

so she can breathe. Sometimes she misses the first
hesitant notes of the hungriest, which she knows

to be the smallest; birds, who like her smallest babies,
cannot store enough sustenance to hold them

through even the shortest nights. She remembers
how they’d wake with a sharp cry – ravenous,

but here, as soon as the birds broadcast their empty
bellies, the tractors start up: the roar

and belch of their diesel engines, the thrum
of their tires, basso profundo on the cobbled street,

blotting out the avian food song, the avian gossip,
as they start their daily run to the risky slopes

of the bancales. Too often she cannot find sleep
for remembering Gonzal – his tractor’s plunge

from the terraces that scale the hillsides in lazy
ripples, ready to topple the most macho men

            …like olive berries--trapped, crushed, coughed up
            in shiny, oily blood-- back to the soil…

She turns over in her bed to where the curve
of his naked back is not -- the spine outlined

in sweet dark hair – prays for a few more minutes
of blesséd rest, for the selective deafness

ear plugs have failed to provide, listens again
to the growl of the engines before she swings her feet

to the floor, pushes her greying hair off her face --
Ave María Purísima sin pecado concebida --

flicks the switch on her television, tunes in to its colour,
its volume, loud enough to drown out the street.

The Gloucestershire Prize

Speaking Raven

I  Grwyne Fawr

Sheep have spread their shrunken 
woollens on barbed wire fences,
wisps bleached white by winter sun
imitating lichen
hung on blackthorn twigs to dry.

Delighted by pattern
the wind sends a pair of ravens overhead. 
It thinks they sound like frogs
but to me it’s clear that they are
deep in conversation

their topic a worsening in the weather,
the move of the livestock market
from Abergavenny to Raglan.
Or so I imagine, 
not speaking raven.

II   Light-Bringer

Black with repentance?  Me?

Everything you see I created –  
these hills and rivers, those distant clouds
that might be mountains

I circled the world, my feathers shed forests
With my beak I mined diamonds and gritted
the slippery sky

While you were blindfolded and stumbling
I shoved the sun up the chimney
giving birth to Day

My dirt-dark laugh regurgitates morning
Nights, I spread my wings, my iris
the tireless moon

III  Thought and Memory

Once there were gods
and we served them.  Now
we are  masters of four winds

Feathers and bone, we are the fearless,
tumbling funambulists
stepping on air

There’s more than one darkness.
We are the dark of the shortest day
falling through spring

our wings make sooty marks
across the camber of the sky

In our feathers all things are
mingled. We have four and sixty
changings of the voice.

We love to bark like happy dogs
rolling in cloud
waggling our tails

We’re not the souls of fallen soldiers.
We don’t act as omens,
foretellers of doom

Flapping rags and blackened paper,
we are debris at the edges
of the storm                                                                                             

 Closing date 17th August 2013
Sole Judge:  David Morley
who will read all entries
Closing date for entries. Midnight, 17th August 2013.
1st prize-£600.   Runner-up- £300.          5 x commended-£50 each.
The Gloucestershire Prize- £200. (for Gloucestershire residents only).

Entry fees: Postal entries; £4 per poem or 3 poems for £10. 
Email entries will carry a surcharge for PayPal & printing costs:
One poem £4.35, two poems £8.70, three poems £11 - please go to the bottom of this page for how to enter by email.

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

Rules of Entry.
1.     Poems should be no longer than 70 lines.
2.     No translations are accepted.
3.     Poems must not have been previously published in print or on the internet.
4.     Entries must be clearly typed on single side(s) of A4 paper in a clear font i.e. Arial 12 point. No curly or obscure fonts please.
5.     Handwritten entries will not be considered.
6.     Entrants’ names should not appear on the poems. An entry form or covering letter or email should accompany all entries and contain name, phone number, address, email address and titles of poems entered.
7.     Entries for the Gloucestershire prize should mark their poems with ‘GL’ in the top right hand corner.
8.     Gloucestershire, for the purposes of the competition, includes South Gloucestershire
9.     Entrants may enclose an s.a.e. marked ‘Results’ for postal notification of the prize-winners or state in their cover letter/email that email notification is preferred.
10.   Results will also be published on the Buzzwords Competition Website.
11.   Prize winners will be contacted by October 2013; winners will be welcome to read their poems at the next ‘Buzzwords’
12.   The judge’s decision will be final and we regret that no correspondence will be entered into.
13.   Copyright will remain with the competitor, but Buzzwords reserves the right to publish the winning poems on the website, or to use them in publicity, for 12 months after the results are announced.
14.   Poems may not be altered after entry.
15.   Cheques should be clearly made out to ‘Cheltenham Poetry Cafe’.

On-line entries: Please pay for your entry by the paypal button below.

Your entries can then be emailed to us at:

Please send all the poems you are entering  in a single file, with each poem on a separate page (use page breaks).

Please attach the poems to a covering email giving:
a) name, address, telephone number
b) number of poems submitted
c) your Paypal email address if different.
d) the titles of your poems
e) please make sure the attached file has just your poems and their titles, but no identifying information.
f) please send the email to buzzwords.poetry@gmail.com

Number of Poems


  1. Sorry for the mistake. The email to send the entries to is buzzwords.poetry@gmail.com

  2. What are the conditions in terms of 'subject' for this contest? (I'm sorry, I may be missing the blindingly obvious...)

    1. There is no theme or subject - completely open.

  3. Is this competition open to people who live outside the UK? I couldn't see anything about that in the rules, sorry if I overlooked it!

  4. Hi, if we apply for the Gloucestershire prize, will we still be considered for the others?


  5. yes, you will - you'll be considered for the main prize first, as that is the higher value one

  6. I've successfully completed the transaction at PayPal but their confirmation email says that you (the merchant) have not provided any dispatch details yet. Do I send you the poems yet or not?

  7. When it says deadline is midnight on the 17th, does that mean 0:01 or 23:59? Thanks

  8. Goodness, I am puzzled, are you? About the recent competition I mean.

    Great the poets do well and get publicity for their work in the competition. But what happened to the musicality of poetry? What happened to proper poetic rhythms and rhymes? Is it me, did I miss them? It just seems to me this poetry of marvellous ideas, themes and lots of flow, is nonetheless, really a version of prose I am afraid.

    I'd love to see a modern sonnet win a prize, or a strict technical form; these really are difficult. The sorts of forms that won, well, well done of course, but I am not sure these really have great technical nor musical merit. Sorry, you will all be cross with me now I am sure...well, maybe it is best to have more than one judge on the panel maybe?

  9. You will be even more cross with me now I am sure - but what about a modern ironic wit or ascerbic humour? Perhaps there is a slight vein of that in the winning poems, but I would like to see some really funny and/or satiric ones. There is so much to write about. Modern politics, the urban jungle etc. we don't just have to have rural imagery do we? Maybe we could have a comic verse category in the competition?

  10. Elizabeth - not cross at all. Every competition is different and there are judges who will look for formal qualities while others look for other things. We have a different judge every year and they bring, I hope, different sensibilities to the task.
    At the moment, we could not have more than one judge as that would mean another fee to pay and the point of the competition is to bring funds into Buzzwords so that we can pay guest poets
    A comic verse category is a good suggestion and one we can think about for the future - though I always have to consider the enormous amount of work entailed in processing entries (all done by volunteers)

  11. Thank you very much, Angela France, for the highly honourable mention. I appreciate.