Buzzwords Poetry Competition 2018 - Results!

Buzzwords Poetry Competition Results

1stPrayer for Motel Rooms– Katie Hale

Joint 2nd – Soldiering – Roger Elkin
                   Beeching – Robin Gilbert

Highly Commended (in no particular order)
Riding Hood and the Wolf – Marilyn Timms
Dear Mr Causley – John Foggin
In Situ  – David Keyworth
I Took Frank O’Hara to Bed Last Night –Maria Isakova-Bennett
Waiting for Him – Scott Elder

Gloucestershire Prize – Shaun’s Shop – Christine Griffin
Runner up Grass Snake  – Robin Gilbert

Judge’s Report
What a strange and dizzy world one is thrown into when reading very many poems one after the other until there are three piles of descending thickness sitting on the carpet. The largest pile by far, sadly, being those that clearly weren’t going to win for a variety of reasons. The next pile, much smaller, had poems which bore some points of merit, but which were unlikely to make it to the winning or commended ranks. I was worried therefore, that the thinnest pile would be too thin, that I had perhaps been too judgemental. When I counted them, however, I found that sixteen extremely good poems had made it this far, half of which were from Gloucestershire residents. Now came the really difficult work of ordering them and finding the winners. The poem that quickly rose to the top of the pile did not lose its place when I re-read it fresh the next morning. ‘The Prayer for Motel Rooms’ had a light touch and form on the page that worked so well for a prayer that praised the small details, the very essence of all that a motel is and the landscape in which it sits. Goodness knows how many times I read this, and it convinced me more and more with each reading.
More difficult was finding the runner up to this. I read all of the remaining poems many times. I ordered and re-ordered them. There was so much to enjoy in each and every one. These included a war poem, a couple of beautiful nostalgia poems, a twist on a well-known children’s story, interactions with a famous artist and with famous poets, one that was deeply psychological and a nature poem about a grass snake that was short but concise and very evocative.
After much deliberation over two poems, I could not justify making one the runner up and one a highly commended poem. They were, in their difference styles, both worthy of a podium place behind the winner.
‘Soldiering’ is as the title suggests, something of a play on the word soldier, one which concludes with the poet’s grandfather (a survivor of fighting in the trenches in the first world war), just keeping mum, and soldiering on. This marvellously crafted three-part poem takes us from reflections on shell cases (No wonder he souvenired them home), to life beyond the trenches and how it shaped the rest of his days. A very sensitive ride through this man’s life.
The other runner up is ‘Beeching’, a nostalgic look back at our railways in the days before Richard Beeching made his notorious cuts in the 1960’s. Each stanza is so well crafted. There’s not a word out of place. I really liked the way the stanza lengths decreased until there was only memory and – Brambles, buddleia and crumpled cans.
In a similar vein, the Gloucestershire prize goes to a nostalgic poem, where we are taken back to ‘Shaun’s Shop’ in Marybone, Liverpool in days long since passed. The details were beautifully handled. The farthing bags of sugared coconut and dried-up custard creams were a joy to savour.
Well done to all highly commended poets also. The shock of Red Riding Hood’s adult life, those wonderful imaginative near-meetings with past poets (Dear Mr Causley, I knew you’d be out); with one considering a dream of taking Frank O’Hara to bed, the opening line of ‘Waiting for Him’ – My hotel is a gentle mother and journeying with a poet’s daily interaction with people in ‘In Situ’ were all a joy to read and read again.

Graham Burchell -

1st Prize, Katie Hale

Prayer for Motel Rooms

            at the edge of somewhere,

breathing the dust of others
who have come before us,
     let us praise

the duvet with its threadbare heart,
the make-up left by contours
too tender with the pillow case,

the patterned carpet, the damp patch
with no discernible source,

wetness gathered
in our own close spaces,
smelling of a full day driving,
the intimacy of moisture in an unknown room.

And so let us praise the meagreness of walls
and fluid sound
between them, the couple
in another bed, pressed tight by the weight
of our breathing

the way your sigh
    might flutter the curtains
at next door’s window. Today
I will praise even
the 3am holler of a woman
      hammering a door,
sending a man’s name
through the unlocked night.

Praise the voyeurism of listening,
the night receptionist
and shifting as ourselves.

  Let us praise, then,
the act of slipping on, the bypass
that rubs our paintwork
up against the town,

the mileage signs, their names
before us like rainbows
or the idea of self.

     Let us praise
the highway,
the dead armadillo at the fringe of it.
Praise the effort of crossing, the pink tongue
   from the snout,
   not tasting
this exhausted air – and so
praise not quite touching, the act
of reaching.

Let us praise,
always, that second further on.

Joint Runner-up – Roger Elkin

                  i.m Granddad Charles

I         Think shell cases. Their brass
not hammered, chased, and trimmed
between pounding rounds to trench-art vase
or ornamental tin for cigarette-spill. 
But as they were. Streamlined, clean, 
glistening under the sheen of sun. 

No wonder he souvenired them home, 
secreted deep within his army uniform.
Silent reminders. Upright. Disposable.
Spent. Like him.

II        Recall him, dirty? Not ever.
His workday clothes always pressed
with his medal of half-hunter pinned
at his chest. His shoes spat-and-bulled
till beaming like his cheeks. And hair 
Brylcreem-sleeked. Never mussed.

Can't picture him floundering in the piled
high trench for hours, or up to the shin
in sliding mire, his hair alive with lice,
and senses frazzled by those crashing skies …
the thuds … the stench … the din ...

III      Watched him take a chicken 
and wring its neck in hands-on flicks
as instinctive as blinking. 

Seen him ridding the vermin-run, 
lobbing the dead rat at the crackling fire
and counting down its grim explosion.

Noticed him, finger on trigger, 
aiming to miss as scaring the fox
from Gran's hen-pen. But nothing bigger. 

Cannot imagine him ever shouldering a gun
to kill a man. Then again, he never let on
how the army did for him. Just kept mum,

and soldiered on.

Joint Runner-up – Robin Gilbert


I stood, waving
a little flag
to the King
as he trundled by
in state.

one might have imagined
Poirot, umbrella
neatly furled,
alighting to confound
some murderous scion
of the sleepy shires.

one unsuspecting day -
it was the year of Suez, of tanks
in Budapest  - progress
arrived, disguised
as the latest thing
in one-horse, two-coach
diesel cars.

In them, we rattled up the line
to Banbury, past
fields of dreaming cows, past
halts - Radclive, Water Stratford,
Fulwell, Farthinghoe - where
no one ever seemed to halt,
crossing and recrossing
the meandering Ouse.

no posters flaunting
wholesome girls
on Filey beach, no waiting churns,
no crates of day-old
hatchling chicks, no prudent
buckets filled with builder’s sand,
no porter’s bike leant
casually against a wall.

The whole creation‘s
gone, not even a path
to show where once
the railway ran.

Brambles, buddleia
and crumpled cans.

Commended – Scott Elder

Waiting For Him

My hotel is a gentle mother   
each day a gift
I’ve a key to each room    
mine is my nest
just big enough for a bed 

     this train rolls backwards
     fields of wheat      floating south
     Adeline     listen for my footsteps
     the stairwell     the door

my window is my eye
pigeons in the courtyard
knuckle bones and cards
each with a message

     the man with the map has circled twice
     Père Lachaise     city of ash    "Monsieur" I ask   
     "may I have a glance"
     "I’m looking for Ingres" he says

I work in the mornings     bedspreads
smoothen at the tips of my fingers    
I tend to closets and dustbins
night is my savior

     we walk together
     I’m looking for my mother   
     The tomb    I say    is in the 9N sector

I feel him coming
through fields of wheat
through chapels and headstones   

     Hôtel Céleste     two stars hanging  
     one burned out     I enter the courtyard
     a window is blinking

steps in the stairwell
the hallway     the door
I breathe in slowly

Commended – John Foggin

Dear Mr Causley,

I knew you’d be out; if you’d been in
I wouldn’t have knocked. You won’t remember
me. And you seemed a private sort of man.
Not solitary or reclusive, but quiet.
Maybe it was the whiteness of your hair,
or the way you sat easy in that leather chair
surrounded by your silences. Your peace.

What could I have said? That you made me think
of white, the one you wrote about. Four walls
pure as cloam in this house where you were born
to live all your life in, contentedly, it seems,
in the room you called a bright glass cabin,
and outside the river ran like a mad boy and
all Cornwall thundered at your door. I didn’t
knock. I only wanted to see your house.

I wanted to say thank you. It was the whiteness,
the soft cool white of china clay, the pure space
where first words, like snowflakes, touched the page.
The burning bush of each necessary line,
the banked fires of the orphans, cripples,
and stranglers; the outcast and the seeming-mad
you celebrated, the passion of your real
and personal Jesus blazing on his cross,

the grey grain of its sea-bleached timber
under stars of glass; huge Cornish skies,
where crows rise up like hot black bonfire ash,
and birds, dark as history, lumber by.
So I didn’t knock, knowing you were out,
your clay in the cemetery’s long yawn, the graveyard
crammed with slant stones, like ships stormbound,
but you out there, everywhere. In your mouth,
oceans breaking, like the crunching Cornish sea.

Commended - Maria Isakova-Bennett

I took Frank O'Hara to bed last night –

I was tired of waiting for you
Frank talked all night the way you used to
the way I thought no other man could
and he read his own poems with my name in them
the way you used to
the way I thought no other man could
and he painted pictures on my wall
the way you said you would.

Me and Frank made a happy pair –
him with his heart in his pocket bulging poetry.                                                   
He stroked my hair and said he could see shades of red
and listened to my meanderings about you.

‘The rat,’ he said, ‘the bloody rat,’ and when Frank said it
the image of you in my head blurred.
‘Step away from him,’ Frank said, almost quoting himself
and I wanted to take his advice –
he gave it so assuredly with an oil-painterly drawl.

All through the night his voice slathered stories with a palette knife –
I was in bed with a hundred men
Jackson Pollock dripped cans of paint over my duvet
John Latouche’s sax wailed
and Reverdy waxed about proof of love.
We drank every bottle of wine from the rack you rigged up in the hall
I smoked Gitanes, and kept topping up my rouge-eros lipstick, the one you call tarty.

It was three in the morning when we opened the St Emilion –
‘You’ve made a mistake,’ Frank murmured, husky through smoke
‘You can write poems without him.’
I said, ‘I don’t know ..’
‘You can,’ he nodded, and twisted his cigarette out
in a Muramic pin dish you bought for me to say sorry the fourth time you left.

We walked in the dark of morning and searched for the break into day.
Frank put me on his shoulders and told me to unzip the sky.
Strolling on the pavement again
Frank told me he knew of a club where we could drink Manhattans
and shuffle to Billie Holiday.

We got a bit heavy in the club at first.
‘It’s the dreams I miss most,’ I confided.
‘We’ll see what we can do,’ he slow nodded and lulled me
the way you used to
the way I thought no other man could –
and he conjured dreams in black and white with a jazz accompaniment.
He even had the scent of bagels ready for when I woke.

Commended – David Keyworth

In Situ

… so, these people, give one example?

the barefoot, bearded man
on the last train from New Street
laughing when the inspector
told him his ticket was for a different town.

where do they linger?

in coffee bars on Sunday evenings
when shutters are rolled down,
lights are dimmed, chairs are stacked.
They remain seated, with empty cups.

when have you been alone amongst them?

a winter night in an unfamiliar town.
I could not find a corner for tea
within their sweating cafes.

how have you communicated with them ?

Wednesday, in the scanning department,
I directed a man
down a blue, murmuring corridor
to where an arrow was pointing.

do they presume upon your good nature?

on a hurried morning of sideways rain
a woman stopped me,
unfolded a paper, wanting to know
the way to her designated town.

do they speak in one language or many?

they have many voices
but when they speak at the same time
it is with the force of one tongue.

when must we most fear them?

when carriage doors open
and they converge on the city

what must we do?

stay motionless,
in shadowed, whispering corners
until they are scattered,
until we can find those
with whom we have an understanding.

Commended – Marilyn Timms

Riding Hood and the Wolf

The woodsmen have taught her well,
Red is a child now only in name.
In the Forest Lawn Hotel she paints
a smile, hitches her breasts higher,
taps discreetly on a door.
She enters, sure of her welcome.

Oh, Grandma, What big eyes you’ve got!
Wolf, complacent beneath duvet,
sees the flush rising in her cheeks,
the faintest tremor in her thighs,
the twisting of her delicate fingers,
teeth pulling at her lower lip.

Oh, Grandma, What big ears you’ve got!
Wolf fine-tunes his antennae,
hears the soft intake of breath,
the blood pulsing in her throat;
the sad sigh of carpet pile
smothered by wanton skirts.

Oh, Grandma, What big teeth you’ve got!
He feels the shift of sheet
as she slides in beside him,
hears whisper of flesh on flesh.
His teeth gnaw at her lingerie
ripping and spitting lace,

nibble her throat and breast,
traverse her stomach,
graze the inner softness of her thighs.
Oh, Grandma, What big … !
The knife is heavy in her tiny hand.
Red drives one deep and practiced thrust

through the pelt above his heart.
The wolf feels hot, cold, foolish;
dead paws scrabble in an arctic waste,
leave no footprints in the snow.
Red rifles through his wallet.
Oh, Grandma, what big bucks you had!

The Gloucestershire Prize – Christine Griffin

Shaun’s Shop
Marybone, Liverpool

He had time to wrap an ounce of butter,
bag broken biscuits, weigh ham bones,
scoop fragrant leaf-tea into greaseproof twists.
Time to stack tins in pyramids,
set out sliced bread In red-checked wrappers.

Time for the skinny, barefoot kids,
huge-eyed, spending farthings from their gran
on tiny dippy-bags of  sugared  coconut
or dried-up custard creams.

And time for the wrinkled, black-clad Mary-Ellens,
chroniclers of births and deaths, keepers of sorrows.
Shuffling down cobbled streets
they gossiped on rickety chairs,
easing out hoarded coppers
for one ham slice, feather-light on the old brass scale,
a bone for broth, a lump of dripping,
tea-dust scooped from the chest’s dark depth.

Shaun, white-coated, ox-strong
from hefting flitches, hauling butter tubs,
sometimes slipped them an egg,
a knob of cheese, some sugar lumps,
smiling as he closed their wrinkled fingers
over the proffered pennies
clutched in knotted hands.

The Gloucestershire Prize runner-up – Robin Gilbert

Grass snake

I saw, I think, its absence
only - as it were, the motion
of the air it had displaced,
a soft settling
of mown grass.

And there
where it had lain,
delicate, diaphanous,
sloughed like an evening glove,
like a silk stocking
from some languid lady’s leg,
the perfect image
of its former self.


Closing date: Midnight, 25th August 2018.

Sole Judge:  Graham Burchell

who will read all entries

Closing date for entries. Midnight, 25th August 2018.

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 
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 25th  August; postal entries will be accepted if they are postmarked no later than 24th  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 2018; 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

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  1. May a 17 year old enter this competition?

  2. Sorry Millie
    I didn't get notified of your post. Yes, it is open to any age.

    Best wishes

  3. If you mark your poems for consideration for the Gloucestershire prize, I take it that they are automatically considered for the main prize as well. Am I right?


    *1Respect is the Desire of everybody's mind,

    But is only given to people who are kind.

    *2Respect is given to those who deserve it,

    And is not given to those who are unfit for it.

    *3Respect is like a fuel of life,

    Without which a man cannot work rife.

    *4Respect to our elders plays an important role,

    As its the blessing to achieve our goal.

    *5Respect is like a bullet of a gun,

    Which Travels with us in long run.

    *6Respect when given to all,

    His reputation will never fall.


    -Sahaj Sabharwal.

    -Chowk Chabutra, Jammu

    -11th Class.

    Delhi Public School, Jammu #India #Poem #Jammu #sahajsabharwal12345 #DelhiPublicSchool #DpsJammu

  5. Thanks for the awesome blog. I really like how you included the restrictions for the different contests as well.
    Writing Forums

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