The Exmoor Society, celebrating its 60th anniversary, has just announced the winners of its poetry competition, which has been re-established after a lull of a number of years.
1st: Pat Glover’s ‘Old Ruddock’s Boy Made Good, They Say, Up Country’
2nd: Audrey Coldrick’s ‘Through Somerset Fields’
3rd: Ian Enters’ ‘Leprosy Window, Culbone Church’
Matt Bryden’s ‘An Imposition’
Paul Ings’ ‘The Sense’
Graeme Ryan’s ‘May 17th’
The purpose of the competition is to inspire people about Exmoor, one of England’s finest landscapes, in a special way though the power of poetry. The Society commented that it was amazed at the number of entries coming from as far afield as the Czech Republic and many areas of England as well as those living in the National Park.
Rachel Thomas, The Exmoor Society Chairman, said, “The Society is particularly grateful to the two judges, Richard Westcott and Cathy Nicholls, poets themselves, who read each poem anonymously and, although selecting the final three winners, commented on how difficult it was to make comparisons, worse than comparing apples and pears, as each poem was special in its own unique way. As a result, the Society will put the three winning poems, and the three highly commended ones, on its website. They will also appear in the Exmoor Review, The Exmoor Society’s annual publication, with a view to possibly publishing an anthology of all the poems.”
On the variety of themes, the judges commented thus: “There was a profound sense of history, ranging from the nineteenth-century Ada and her husband’s famous tunnels, through medieval churches, to ancient Exmoor where stones stand in silent sentry.
“Meanwhile many Exmoor birds flew by… wood warbler and redstart/Pied flycatcher and dipper/Flitting like librarians.
And larks drizzling their song, as well as buzzards, pheasants, pipits who chatter their verses, a kite, a curlew (or two), fieldfares, song thrush and cuckoo.
“Among other fauna we frequently met the Exmoor pony free roaming and of independent mind, with cream-rimmed eye, along with red deer, cattle, sheep and lambs; even an adder appeared.
“Flora was represented by pokey random heather, beech hedges fired to a warm coppery glow, snowdrops (which giggle, in lazy loveliness, lifting lacy bonnets), and shimmering blackthorn.
“We were exposed to Exmoor in every season, bright and dark, welcoming and hostile, dry and sodden. In short, Exmoor was well and truly celebrated – its clouds and big skies, rivers and hills, pathways and lanes – with enthusiasm, joy and gratitude, which could not but move us.
“From the technical point of view poetic forms ranged from the formality of the sonnet to completely free verse; we heard regular rhymes as well as some subtle and original rhymes; there was ingenious and creative use of space and enjambment, some lovely musicality, and even a concrete poem.
“Our rules did not specify a type face, so we were treated to some handwritten texts, bringing their own individuality and distinctiveness, along with a huge variety of fonts. But we did specify a maximum length, which sadly meant a couple of good poems excluded themselves.
“We hope that the Exmoor Society’s Poetry Competition has demonstrated the power of poetry, raised its profile and saluted Exmoor in a special way. Thank you then to all our poets – thanks for your thoughts and feelings so carefully presented through poetry, for offering your poems, for entering the competition and supporting the work the Exmoor Society does.”
Old Ruddock’s Boy Made Good, They Say, Up Country
I thought a jaunty walk was best
To take me down the deepened lane.
I turned my lumpen throat and back.
My father watched with straightened mouth.
No talk of pride or shame or pain.
I blinked away the scorching light.
The shadows shattered in the narrow track.
I didn’t have the words to spell
the restless itch
the urgent thirst
for towns and light, the edge, the world,
the something, not hedged in.
I used to take the kids at first.
We made our nest in Rowan Tree
where the cowshed used to be.
Just the promised August week
they swung on gates and ran with sticks.
I smarted at the change of it
and waited for the hush of sleep
to wander out in startling nights
and stride across the deep grooved fields
to thwack again the hoar oak tree.
The proof to me I’d been.
I’d creep about the cleaned up yard,
Flowered up with tubs and neat,
until, with softest soughs,
it came . . . the past . . .
the pull and pump and suckle,
the warm hay-breath of cows,
the pink and velvet nuzzles,
the muddy slap of hooves.
And yes, I’ve got the cars and house,
The long haul holiday.
I’ve even got some Cup match comps –
A good life, as you say.