Buzzwords poetry competition 2016 - results

The 2016 competition judging is complete and Jo Bell has selected the following poems from a very strong field. All winners have already been notified. The poems are below and the judge’s comments will follow soon.

1st Prize:
GONE (LAZARUS ROCK) - Kristina Close

2nd Prize:

Five commended poems:
CRAIC - Mandy Haggith;
VISIT TO VATICAN CITY - Diane Mulholland;
ELDERING - Mary Gilonne.

The Gloucestershire Prize:
Runner up: POETRY WORKSHOP – Peter McDade


(Lazarus Rock)        by Kristina Close

That night in the storm,
nine sailors whipped off their souls like scaly gloves
and swam nude without god or angels.

No hand reached out to pull them under -
the weight of bread in their stomachs was enough.

But down in the hold – Lazarus -  waiting -
to see if he will live up to the naming notions
of his mother - a strong fisherman’s wife
who had more hope perhaps, than foresight.

A crack - the sternpost breaks the leeward side,
veers upwards half into the sky -
piercing the wave vortex
and wrapping the hull
stronger than any web -

a parcel for Neptune to unpick with his teeth
at some later leisure.

Down in the hold Lazarus is steady -
drinks the watered wine as if he has a quota of people to astonish -

the barrels rolling about the ballast, smeared
but still warm from the shore’s hot stones.

It will be a reversal of parable -
but no matter - Lazarus believes his name,
holds onto the unmoored mast with his arms,
prays with his legs.

His heel is caught in the mizen as it slips off centre -
as easily as a wishbone on Christmas Day
and with as much hope as a choke in the throat.

But yes! Lazarus survives –

ten weeks on a fierce grey cliff
with an injured seal. Marks each day
on his nails with a stone found in his shoe.

Six gulls drag and crimp the shore
to an embroidered path around his footsteps -
like the edge of the altar cloth his mother still keeps
for his wedding.

And so, as in all histories  -  the biblical sky abates.

Lazarus carves his name or what he remembers of it
on the boulder - Lazarus Rock - a lethal outcrop
destined to be whipped ten thousand days yet not done.
And always, always, passed by -

like this forgotten passion play of barely two scenes –
with the nine original actors still wind whispering,
speaking their monologues off stage, off shore,
while Lazarus  waits for resurrection,

the dund of a cannon.

Trouble Doesn’t Know You’re too Old    by Michael Fitzgerald

I am sorry I stole the show
from your ironic melamine party plates
some bones can be mended, others just set
why don’t you fuck off and write a poem about it – you said
because I have to be moved first – I said
but if I’m honest, and I most definitely am not
I took most of it to heart, all of it as read
I guess I’m sorry about that too
but nobody ever says
I’m not about to start

sunshine morning up on the down
a panting dog with a sweating poet
past the kitchen table empties, the long shadows
I got up with the lark, you the crow
the last duvet guest rolls off the sofa
pats my shoulder in the atmosphere and goes
leaving an emptiness to settle on the laminate
thick as snow, twice as bleak
me you and dog
facing another week

As a song thrush sings  by Jane Aldous

Not an easy listen. A complicated song
puncturing the air on the borderland of the heart,
pins me to the earth, startles the dark.
Makes me think how love feels,
how the shape of a day, a voice, a look,
a conversation becomes bigger than either of us,                                     
trans   cends everything.
Knowing and being known. Kindness.
Companionable silence. Getting through
the saddest of times. Laughter lines.
And how a thrush, singing beyond itself
from the highest pine, defying fear,
reminds me I never thought I’d be here.

Craic  by Mandy Haggith

he says be quiet
but he doesn't mean it

he means rewind
he means talk forward fast

no need for meanings he says
just look at that –

seals on the skerry
ravens on the crag

a diver flies over
rak rak rak rak rak rak rak

now we're cooking on gas he says
now we're cooking on gas

Visit to Vatican City  by Diane Mulholland

Somewhere in a storeroom
there’s a box of broken penis bits,
said our guide, as he pointed
to the leaves they use
to cover any that resisted
being chipped away.

As I stared up at that ceiling
I wondered if an attic just beyond
might hide the box,
and possibly spare cupids
there’s no space for, or stacks
of out-of-fashion urns.

Really, what I wondered
though, is how a Pope
can be so small. So small inside
his glass case, with his neat
gold shoes and combed back
hair. Surely a Pope
should be a bigger thing.

Romance on Soft Furniture
(to the Sound of the Black Keys)   by Elliot Mason

Everything is ready for the race –
come up here, lover
in your twisted hunger
with yellow coffee stains
on the inside of your teeth.
Chopin is on lead guitar,
Fahey on the accordion,
Tierson straddling his flute,
Schumann took the snare
because there was nothing else
to play; now the orchestra is ready –
come over, lover
in your peeled lace and your hat
that tilts your head like the winds
of the harbour.
The cows are standing
at the edge of the field with
brown horses and sheep,
looking over the fence;
the vultures are checking their watches
beside the children,
the young adults who are yet
to lose their hair;
everything in the entire universe
fits into the portrait
whose title is so long
and uses such ancient symbols
that no one can say it
in one breath –
come into the booth where
the coldest drinks are served, lover
in your dark glasses that leave
a ridge embedded
upon your nose.
The edges of the armchair
are bent to the shape
of my elbows and the windows
are still sweating from when
the sun winked at them
from a high angle;
the hosepipes growl
at the river as they pass by
and the history books tell us
that we are not new, that everyone
has been in love
a thousand times and every song
about it is basically the same –
come towards the fire where
the piano-tree grows
out of smoke, lover
in your freckled spills
of paint and ice.
Everyone is on the line,
at the marks, the animals,
the drinks, the sound of an orgasm
three floors below,
the fighting weeks and years
who pretend to know each other;
everything is about to go –
come into the afternoon, lover
in your morning sorrow
that carries wellington boots,
whistles and padlocks,
in fear of every occasion.
Come, lover,
come over here;
if i can make you laugh
before i pour
the first drink, will you stay
forever with me?

Eldering  by Mary Gilonne

The man I used to sleep with holds a pebble
in his mouth, dark plum. He’s gathered white
in every needled bone, stitched earth along
one cheek and shifts to hear the roots of things
we never see. I think of ground like bread, soft.
A box, the colour of a rainy day.

Here my face frounces, smocks with age,
the buttery suede of purses, neck knots,
plaits of linened lines, as if years now count
in mismatched buttons, beads, while thrifty
haberdashers haunt my ears with ruffled bits
of chintzy stuff, a quilted othering.

Some days a tunnel’s end like a blackbird’s eye.
Some hours now as full of drunken light as cider
apples before the press. How I unravel, hem
each disremembered year. How the steel of him
snipped, how raw were his edges, how loud is
the way thin things leave. 

The Gloucestershire Prize
I hear you call my name  by Guy Hunter

My husband is shouting.
    He forgets he’s going deaf
and that I’m not.
    The neighbours think we’re arguing,
we do of course but not today.
    Today he is shouting
about lost glasses, appointments
    letters to the paper, slippers,
spanners, anything there is
    to shout about really.
Not ranting, just abnormally loud
    and then there’s the news
to contend with. When out and about
    people stare like they used to,
give me that ‘shouldn’t be allowed’
    look, but what can you do.
Our life used to be quiet, hidden almost,
    definitely not for public broadcast
but this is progress of sorts
    and now the love
that dare not speak his name,
    there he is,
bellowing from the rooftop.

Poetry Workshop  by Peter McDade

Hand me that sestina wrench,
I can't get this bastard to scan.
I tried to fix the metrical foot
By pulling the troubadourics
Out through the masculine ending
And I've buckled half the envoi;
You know how it is.

Have you been to see the doctor
About your symptoms yet?
I fear you've got ekphrasis
And a nastier case I've yet to see.
The mingling of forms,
Free verse, free love,
It's all very well
But you don't want a lot of tiny crabs
Crawling through your eyebrows,
It rather gives the game away.

Me? I haven't been very well.
I've had a touch of the villanelles.
It's a bit like having a miasma on the petrarchs;
Makes cycling very difficult.
I'll have to try and walk it off.
O, these blessed quatrains,
They're chafing on the tercets
And gunking up the volta.
Never mind the sestina wrench,
I'll use an ode hammer;
Bit of brute force and ignorance.
Line up the amphibrachs    and
One godalmighty whack. Ha!

What are all these ball-bearings
Doing on the floor?
Where did these half-rhymes come from?
O, decorate my madrigals,
I forgot to invert the handlebars.

I hate these bloody sonnet cycles.

Closing date: midnight on 7th August 2016

Sole Judge:  Jo Bell

who will read all entries

Closing date for entries. Midnight, 7th August 2016

1st prize-£600.   Runner-up- £300.    5 x commended-£50 each.

The Gloucestershire Prize- £200. (for Gloucestershire residents only).

Postal entries:
 Download entry form and postal instructions here

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 
Email entries:- 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 e.g. Arial 12 point. No curly or obscure fonts please.
5.    Please leave a reasonable margin on the paper so that it is legible when printed  and kept in a file.
6.   Handwritten entries will not be considered.
7.   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.
8.   Entries must be received by midnight on 7th  August; postal entries will be accepted if they are postmarked no later than 5th  August.
9.     Entries for the Gloucestershire prize should mark their poems with ‘GL’ in the top right hand corner.
10.     Gloucestershire, for the purposes of the competition, includes South Gloucestershire
11.  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.
12.   Results will also be published on the Buzzwords Competition Website.
13.   Prize winners will be contacted in October 2016; winners will be welcome to read their poems at the next ‘Buzzwords’
14.   The judge’s decision will be final and we regret that no correspondence will be entered into.
15.   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.
16.   Poems may not be altered after entry.
17.   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
g) please let us know if you would like to be kept informed of future competitions

Number of Poems


  1. Hi - if a poem has been published in a parish magazine does that count as published for this competition?


    1. Yes, that is published so sorry, it can't be entered.

  2. Thank you for share your article may be useful..!
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