Buzzwords Poetry Competition 2022 - results!

 Competition results (scroll down for poems):

1st Prize: The Chartist Rising Newport 1839, as Filmed by Martin Scorsese

by Jonathan Edwards 


Runner up: Conversations with Silence 

by Deborah Harvey 



What Three Black Country Women had to Say  by Tina Cole 

 For decades I wished I'd been the one they'd shot by Petra Hilgers 

 History Lessons by Casey Jarrin 

 Discipline and punish by Isaac Lee 

 The Ghost of Ovid writes to the ghost of his wife by Christopher M James 


 The Gloucestershire Prize


Winner: On the Philosophy of Sheep by Kathryn Alderman 

 Runner up: Cartography by Alicia Stubbersfield 


Judge's comments:

Firstly, I’d like to say how much I enjoyed judging this competition. I think the upper limit of 70 lines is a great opportunity for poets to expand and meditate and experiment, and I saw quite a bit of this, along with tightly wrought smaller works. The overall standard was very high, and the poems that won through were the ones that resonated through several readings, as I whittled them down.

The two winners, and there was very little between them, were both long and beautifully sustained poems that exhibited excellent control of form and line, strong image and a focus on their subject. The first prize poem The Chartist Rising, Newport, 1839, as Filmed by Martin Scorsese had an epic feel that drew on history, contemporary cinematic effects visual metaphor, and did this knowingly and with a lightness of touch that didn’t slacken. The second prize winner Conversations with Silence was more meditative, approaching its subject from a variety of angles and bringing the reader into an expansive variety of ways of seeing ‘silence’ maintained across seven ten-line sections.

The five commended poems again had strength of image, great ideas, a freshness and a sense of control and skill with form and language. I particularly liked the arresting nature of the images in What Three Black Country Women Had To Say, and the heart-wrenching story behind For Decades I wished I’d been the one they’d shot that day on Ulica Zamia od Bosne stays with me. I enjoyed the music and rhythm of History Lessons, particularly the clever turns as we moved through the sequence; I was struck by the fresh images and music of The Ghost of Ovid Writes to the Ghost of his wife; and Discipline and Punish drew interesting resonances about control and practice in music and language. 

The two Gloucestershire Prizes similarly went to poems that used language vividly but with great skill. On the Philosophy of Sheep had lovely use of musical devices and was alive to natural detail and deserved its first prize. Likewise Cartography brought memory alive through strong image and skilful control of line and breath.

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks for letting me read all these lovely poems.

                                                                                                 Nigel McLoughlin



Winning Poems



Winner: Jonathan Edwards

 The Chartist Rising, Newport, 1839, as Filmed by Martin Scorsese


It begins with a single tracking shot

that’s widely praised by critics: the crowd

stomping down Stow Hill, one slo-mo, well-lit raindrop

falling on a Dai cap, the hand-lettered placards, a fetishistic

glimpse of musket, breadknife, hatchet, the music

of all those feet. The tamping, stamping workboots

beneath trousers, but also – pause there – skirts. Pan up to the face

of a little boy whose backstory will later be fleshed out

in voiceover. The crowd gathers at the bottom of Stow Hill,

in all their higgledy-piggledy passion, their pushing-and-shoving

belief, and now the camera moves


to the window of The Westgate, where

a mutton-chopped soldier cocks his gun and his sights weigh up

women, children, bits of night. Stow Hill

is doubled in the movie by a cinematography-friendly hill

in Lancashire. Crack! and we follow the bullet towards

the crowd, veer at the last to close in

on the face of one man: Leonardo

di Caprio as John Frost, his eyes, his mouth, wide,

wide, doing intense the way he does, his teeth

shining, the period detail of his costume perfect. He raises

an arm. Cut to black. Then things are told


in flashback. Much is made of how Frost held his meetings

in a cave high in the Welsh hills, the conveniently

photogenic views from there. The characters include

a caddish army sergeant, the foul, moustached

owner of the ironworks, and there are heart-rending scenes

in which Frost’s wife asks him to please,

please be careful. We follow the progress of the movement

towards that night, and the film ends

where it started, the battle scene outside The Westgate, the choreographed

violence which draws heavily on Scorsese’s work in Gangs

of New York. A pool of blood shot at a tilt. Sound-engineered screams. But Scorsese


isn’t happy with the ending,

thinks he needs to really get under the skin

of the story, disappears into the South Wales hills

for days, weeks, searching for miners, ironworkers, the descendants

of Chartists, anyone who doesn’t work

in a call centre. Meanwhile, the crew wait it out,

holed up with their expenses accounts and the mini bar stock

of Penderyn at The Celtic Manor Resort. When Scorsese returns,

he is much changed, the air of a man who has looked

into the void. Smudges of dirt across each cheek he says

are coal dust, and he has this ending ready…


Outside The Westgate, 1839,

the body of a martyr, red with blood,

lying across another in an X, fades

to another image: a young woman,

twenty-first century, a voting booth,

making her X. The camera zooms out,

way, way out, till we can see

the city, the whole country, from above,

a bright red dot next to every polling station. Zooms out

again so we can see the spinning planet,

those red dots plastered all across it. Then


the lights go out. We zoom back in

through atmosphere, through clouds, through night, to

Stow Hill from above. The crowd are pouring,

pouring down that hill, making a song

of all our needs, wiping

rain out of their faces. The camera pauses

now on the face of a boy. A raindrop dangles

beneath his chin and the words of the song

are quiet in his voice. But he’s carrying a length

of wood. And across his face there is a grimace

which in this light might almost pass as real.



Runner up: Deborah Harvey

Conversations with silence


 Silence arrives like a starling

hitting a window


It isn’t eloquent or pregnant


It allows you to take its coat

but waves away your offer of a cup of tea


There’s no point trying to curry favour, it says

We’re not here to ingratiate ourselves or make friends


It sits down, stares straight ahead


There’s nothing golden about it,

plenty that is gilt 




You know where silence lives under the roots of conifers


how it lies on the roofs of garden sheds, sunning itself

on the shortest day


when it breeds other silences

that romp in gardens, squeeze through holes in fences,

bare teeth that catch the light

one night when you swing into the street to find it

waiting at the top of the lane, fully-grown


how it stares down you and the dog, trots a few yards

into shadow, turns and waits





There’s no such thing as silence, silence tells you


Even when birds are mute and traffic stilled

the noiselessness keeps screeching

shrill and silvery as dace


At night it darts through the labyrinth,

sprints the length of the canal,

ricocheting under bridges and off surfaces


And you’ve only yourself to blame, silence adds

It was you who struck the bell with that hammer


Now it’s getting louder and louder, the walls are cracking






There was this silence sitting on the pub wall,

holding a bag of crisps. Cars went past, the drivers and

passengers oblivious to it waiting there, small and dark,

in a cardigan and sandals, legs swinging, eating crisps


Passers-by might have felt a slight chill in the air

but barely enough to draw their attention, so it didn’t, they were

busy having a laugh, it was Friday night for Christ’s sake


Only the dog that belonged to no one, that could also evade attention,

noticed the silence, trotted over, licked a hand


The silence gave it a crisp. The dog ate it without a sound





If silence wore glasses

it would look over the top of them

and tell you to pick up a pen

write it all down


but it has no eyes, no nose to balance them on

and no mouth either –


it is silence, after all –


and anyway, you don’t have a hand free


you’re too busy lugging silence around

like it’s all you have left






Your mother thought silence was a kitten

and tried to drown it in words


As soon as she left, you’d haul it out

hold it up by the hind legs and breathe air into its nose

then rub it dry and tuck it into your coat


Who knows if it remembers how often you saved its life

now it’s fully grown and one pat of its steel-clawed paw

would cause considerable damage


one bite through the back of your neck

would be the end






You type a few words, highlight

and delete them. The screen looks at you


blankly. The page is white, but not as white

as if they’d never been set down


something of your impulse lingers


just as the silence that follows a name

is not the same as the silence existing before it,

that’s changed for ever by what’s no longer heard



You saw the geese fly over,

you read the marks they left on the air




Commended: Tina Cole


What Three Black Country Women had to Say




I speak for ghosts beaten pig iron flat,

of the soot smoking years, the watery-eyed,

golden-curled factory girls, who quickly

became crone, bone thin and dressed

raven black. I call to sisters

from back to backs, forging families

                        with thick chain hammered dreams,

                        the coal dust seams of their days 

needing alchemy, a wedge of moon raked

from a silver leaden pond, fortunes

in signs and runes.





I speak for a thousand babies birthed

like bricks, each one tricked by the wet

sand weight of fate, young boys too soon

buried under cold stone, their dead

stories returning home in black lined

telegrams. I would succour them

all again breasts not filled with curdled

milk, spin a silk purse from a sow’s

ear, hang war and fear from a gibbet.   

Wrap up hearts in home spun cloth,

slough off dead skins, bandage furrowed

flesh, re-dress those boys triumphant as Spring.





I speak for those who lack the skill

for spells, whose grounded besoms never flew,

the many not the few baleen corseted

mothers, hexed by burdens alchemy

could not cure and vexed by pelting

rain, the sure pain of planting seeds

in ground that repeats a chorus of weeds.

I would wrap them round with white clouds,

or build up faggots, turn minds to fire. 

Light three candles to purge the past,

sprinkle home-fire stories with salt,

speak of strength forged in the bone




Commended: Casey Jarrin


History Lessons (In the seams)                 


i. The Trail


Uprooted from grasslands and clay     

            the only mountains they’d known

            a place alive in rivers and bones


The Women carried generations of seeds

            safe inside seams         

            of woven dresses


            Strategic    delicate    beans     

            cradled by deerskin and cool hands     

            patting down the bumps


            They would not go back.        

Turned west into horizon       

walked into Sun.


   ii. The Revolution


   Before their basement execution

the Romanov girls stood

against a stone wall    waiting


            They held generations of

rubies and sapphires

sewn into the lining


            of royal skirts: first bullets deflected

by emeralds layered

                        between linen and skin


            They didn’t know they would die.

Diamonds cannot save you

from the firing squad.


            iii. The Diagnosis


            My brain: a jar jammed with ache

                        waterlogged cysts

                        pockets of unnamed dark


            flowing down matrilineal rivers

                        a rumor    a residue    her legacy

chemical hauntings sewn into spine


            I am a doll without eyes.



iv. The Inheritance


            They say there’s a gene

                        an alteration in code

                        leapfrogging from one


            body to another    across generations

                        small pains    gaping wounds

                        howlings and holocausts


            a telegram in the blood

                        a warning and reminder

                        of what’s come before:


preparation for how to survive.




Commended: Isaac Lee


Discipline and Punish


Dusk fell like a steady stellar rain

from yellow pink to auburn brown above

the little garden with two crossing paths

that led to nowhere,

and to a greenhouse in the thicket, locked.

In the waning light a shadow arched

across the living room and down

onto the print of Leonardo Loredan

held in spectacular blue ether, as

Bellini saw him; Loredan

whose resigned, austere expression had become

the genius of the room.



Commended: Christopher M James


The ghost of Ovid writes to the ghost

of his wife*


Carmen et error



Rain falls lightly,

the barometer is faithful

to a quarter inch.

My breathing mists a window pane,

water’s membrane in the great cycle

from mackerel sky to heart tissue.


I hold my breath

free a couple scurrying to shelter.

Wife, our world’s gone,

severed like the backwater oxbows

of this delta outpost.

Some years now


the weather’s wrong too.

Cephalopods quit white coral,

bears like hobos

plunder trash cans, barbed wire

crosses fields and heads:

our world itself is in exile.


I re-read your last, encoded letter

counter to nature,

my shoulders hunched around

your removed voice, as if

straining to a wartime radio,

absence’s moot point.


Dear wife,

one can love also

the withholding of love,

the fine moon in its balancing act

tugging only so many words

to save its orbit.



A call to arms

that distant clarion shriek?

Or some alarmed goose

  acting out nature’s revolt?                   

And I

am on my soap-box,


heady again with verse

for what I saw as true

twenty centuries back,

still witness now:

potentates, dissimulation

undone by poetry,



the enduring penitence

of ruinous mistakes,


I am no longer the one

paying for all.





*At the age of 50, Ovid was banished from Rome to the remote town of Tomis near the Danube delta on the Black Sea. The reason for his exile was "a poem and a mistake". He claimed he had done nothing illegal, only showed poor judgment, suggesting that he had seen something he shouldn’t have, concerning the Emperor Augustus.




Commended: Petra Hilgers




The Gloucestershire Prize


Winner: Kathryn Alderman


On the Philosophy of Sheep


The city-gabble unwinds

threads to skeins of houses

flung ellipses dot . dot .. dotting …

until they tire of conversation. 


Now sky’s the thing

how it bowls and bowls

sees road-tracks knot and gnarl

capillary to nothing in the end.


That valley’s a startled iris

ringed in limbus hills

vacant viridescence, mute

as the breath between thought.


Pick one field at random, this

or any. A falcon sights a scurry

dives down through troposphere

through the canopy of tweets

down as talons part blades

to snatch a shadow and ascend.


A sudden bicker of crow

and magpie over hedgerow

tail-flick, cackle-caw

landing, hopping, each over other.


Two prone sheep doze

synchronised swimmers surfing

ridge and furrow

and a lone ram chomps and stares

notes the concave lens of sky

wonders how life might seem

minus moon-shot eyes.



Runner up: Alicia Stubbersfield





An only child’s map is an uncorrected proof

folded-up until creases fade and sections rip

here are my routes, each one marked


the main-road hill I roller-skated down

and teenage me walked up, holding his hand

to the first-kiss bus-stop outside our house


the railway line we played beside,

making dens in crumbly sandstone caves

the new M6 was built beside the track


disturbed seeds flourished into flowers

disturbed rats fleeing into gardens

my mother battered one to death in ours


the neat 1960s lawn, sparkly white rockery

black front door and roses twisted over the porch

the huge water tower like a fairy-tale castle


an old yew where I hid under a grotto of branches

peering through dark-green needles spotted with poison

no family left to say That is/is not the way it was.















Sole Judge:  Nigel McLoughlin

who will read all entries

Closing date for entries. Midnight, 27th August 2022.

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

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

 Nigel McLoughlin is a Northern Irish poet, editor, translator, and stylistician. His poetry has been published in international journals and anthologies, and his work has twice been short-listed for a Hennessy Award and was placed in The Kavanagh Prize. He is the author of five collections of poetry, including Chora: New and Selected Poems (Templar Poetry 2009), editor of The Portable Poetry Workshop (Palgrave 2016) and previously served as co-editor of Iota poetry journal. He has worked at the University of Gloucestershire since 2005, where he is Professor of Creativity and Poetics, and Head of Research Innovation.

Entry fees: Postal entries; £4 per poem or 3 poems for £10.


Email entries will carry a surcharge for admin & printing costs. For postal entries, go to to download the entry form and instructions

Proceeds of the competition will be used to fund ‘Buzzwords’, which is the longest running and most respected regular poetry gathering in Cheltenham.


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. One poem per page.

5.    Please leave a reasonable margin on the paper so that it is legible when printed and filed.

6.       Handwritten entries will not be considered.

7.       Entrants’ names should not appear on the poems. An entry form 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 27th 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.     Results will also be published on the Buzzwords Competition Website.

12.     Prize winners will be contacted in October 2022; winners will be welcome to read their poems at the next ‘Buzzwords’

13.   The judge’s decision will be final and we regret that no correspondence will be entered into.

14.   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.


Email entry instructions

 Pay for the appropriate number of poems through the paypal button below. Please note, you do not have to have a paypal account and can use a debit card through paypal.

Send the poems, one per page, as an attachment to . No name or identifying marks on the poems, except for ‘GL’ on the top right-hand corner if you are a Gloucestershire entrant.

 In the body of the email, include the paypal receipt or transaction number, name,   phone number, address, email address and titles of poems entered.



Number of Poems


  1. Bought entry to poetry comp through paypal but didn't direct me back - how do I enter please without paying again?

  2. Go to your PayPal account, and copy the transaction ID from there

  3. If entering several poems, should I send them in one file or as individual attachments? Do blank lines get counted toward the 70-line limit?

    1. one file, a new page for each poem. Blank lines don't count.

  4. Part [20%] of a poem has been published but has now been re-worked. Will this count as published?