Editor - Jim Bennett for The Poetry Kit - www.poetrykit.org







Winning poem

Cairo by Lesley Burt (Christhurch, Dorset)



Just a Tree by Jean Hall (London)


Commended Poems

One Canada Square by Emily Anderson (London)

The Oxford Girl by Elinor Brooks (Swindon)

London in the ’60s by Di Coffey (Falmouth)

Tourist by Oz Hardwick  (York)

Perpendicular to Anything You Like by David Hawkins (Bristol)

Marx My Words by Michael James (Egham)

The Fetch  by Andrew McDonnell (Norwich)

Dunedin, October by Shereen Asha Murugayah (Dunedin, New Zealand)






I was interesting to see the various ways in which the theme was approached and had the pleasure of reading many very fine poems which only failed to make the shortlist because of an extremely high overall standard.  The final shortlist were all outstanding poems, any of which could have been a winner, so the choice was difficult and in the end came down to which poem engaged me the most, and I judged this by the impression it left a few days after reading.  In this case it was the poem CAIRO by Lesley Burt that created the most memorable treatment and left an indelible impression.  I was particularly taken by the way in which she captured the scene by referencing the view that was current against that which was in photograph from before she was born.   I also want to mention the runner–up poem  JUST LIKE A TREE by Jean Hall, here was a poet who took the small details, in this case the developing speech of a child, and turned it into a memorable poem.  I was thrilled to read the contenders and would like to congratulate everyone for producing some outstanding poetry, but a particular well done to the winner and runner-up and the writers of the commended poems, you gave me sleepless nights trying to figure out a way to pick an overall winner. I hope everyone will enjoy these poems as much as I did. .

Mark Gilman





Winning Poem Lesley Burt for the poem Cairo


Cairo -


March 1940 - “Yours” and two of the boys on

 a ledge of rock about 40 feet above ground level.

We had a marvellous view of ... and its

fertile valley through which flows the Nile.


Long before tourists, sellers of knickknacks;

before suburbs with McDonalds and Novotels

drifted close to the plateau; before he knew

those boys would die; before I was born; a lifetime


before grandchildren he would never meet:

he posed right here – the spot where you can see

all three pyramids at once – in RAF uniform,

wrote this on the photo, sent it to my mother.

Runner-up  Jean Hall for the poem Just a Tree




He’s learning to talk,

learning about life through words.


To him it is just a tree,

the sky just the sky.


He often calls out bird.

It’s just a bird.


No metaphors, no similes,

no adjectives nor verbs yet.


He takes in their essence -

they are what they are.


But he learnt to say tree gone

when they cut it down.


He still said sky

even at nighttime.


He still said bird -

he could hear it singing.


One day he’ll learn

the tree was cut down for parking space,


a city sky is always bright at night,

understand why birds sing at midnight.




Emily Anderson commended for the poem One Canada Square


One Canada Square


The apex light of that ice prism flashes

fifty-seven thousand times a day.


I see it from my Shadwell window

as it keeps its pounding pace.


I want its beat to quicken but it’s stoic

like the people it lights up.


There’s been no thunder or lightning in months,

no storm to break the drizzly nights apart,


so I want to break them up myself.

With the throbbing light my beating heart,


I want to run through streets I’ve been warned off,

talk to unsafe types who talk to themselves,


tear gilded strips off the richest fabric,

launch stones through windows of Canary Wharf,


burn and twist the metal of the City.

Most of all, I want to take him with me.


Blinking, unthinking, conspiring with the wind,

the light doesn’t know the tumult it’s causing.


The more it pulses,

the closer I am to telling him.


 Elinor Brooks  commended for the poem The Oxford Girl


The Oxford Girl


Here the city ends:

a final row of houses, low, uneven,

face the waterside.


In the lamplight, railings cast

their shadows on the grass,

lay their stripes

like stitchmarks on a scar

joining road to river.


In an empty room

dust clings to carpet

thickening into fluff;

grey ash stirs

in the blackened grate.


Deep under layers of air

that weigh upon her chest

and press her down


she lies beneath the rippling waves

that flow across the ceiling

night after lamplit night.


Di Coffey commended for the poem London in the ’60s


London in the ’60s


A bedsit in Hampstead, forty stairs high,

newspaper squares in the communal loo,

sex and pot under a sloping ceiling,


and Dylan’s on the Sony.


Spag bols in The Witches’ Cauldron,

queuing at The Everyman

for Bergman’s ‘Wild Strawberries’


and Friday nights are Beethoven nights at the Proms.


Chris Barber and Shakespeare vie in Regent’s Park,

Carnaby Street is exploding with colour,

short skirts and knickers are on display everywhere


and there’s skinny dipping up on the Heath.


‘Cooking’ bitter is 1/10d in The Flask, ‘Best’ is two bob.

People are shacking up together, taking the pill.

We are making and composing and writing


and we know we’ve invented life.



Oz Hardwick commended for the poem Tourist




I set off early, excited, anticipating,

caught the first train, settled down

in the empty compartment, opened the guide

to check I wouldn’t miss anything important.


The streets, it said, are the most picturesque

in the country: cobbles gleaming, winding,

fringed with bright shop fronts, stalls,

surprises at every turn, scents

and voices flavouring clear air.


Follow them to the castle, its foundation lost,

but rebuilt, augmented, decorated more sumptuously

by successive generations, tastefully grand.

Walk the bright halls, kaleidoscoped by windows

to rival St Denis, then marvel

at tapestried chambers, walls shimmering

like a mirage of paradise. Then stroll across lawns,

through parks and gardens, through wild menageries,

each beast and bird tame and curious.


When it’s time to dine, you’ll be spoilt for choice,

the local wine is internationally renowned

and the cosmopolitan cuisine exceptional.

Enjoy your meal overlooking the bay,

where the beach is a golden knife slicing

into glass. Then pass the afternoon

amongst the countless galleries and museums,

the churches and places of historical significance.


After dark, the city comes alive,

pulsating to infectious rhythms and the sway

of dancers, but down every alleyway

there’s a quiet café to hide away.


Then, just once in every lifetime,

the Grand Carnival – the reason for my visit.

I looked again at the pictures, read details

of masks, costumes, origins and traditions,

solemn rituals and spontaneous outpourings,

feasts, fireworks, devotion and excess.

I closed my eyes, imagining, anticipating.


I woke after nightfall, the train stationary,

the only light a yellow glow

from a gas mantle on the empty platform.

I gathered my bag, my coat, my camera,

rushed into the cold night. A figure

stood at the turnstile, barely visible

in shadow. Still half asleep, I approached,

asked where I was. He shrugged, clearly

not understanding. I said the name

of my destination. He pointed back

the way I’d come, the track disappearing,

merging with night. Coming to my senses,

I did what I should have done first,

riffled through the guide to the useful phrases.


Checking pronunciation in the dim light,

I asked the time of the next train back.

Beneath his peaked cap, his face

was barely visible, but I’m sure I saw

a smile I couldn’t read, before he turned,

reached for the mantle, and left me in darkness.



David Hawkins commended for the poem Perpendicular to Anything You Like


Perpendicular to Anything You Like

In Managua, Nicaragua,
after the big earthquake
they built a new cathedral
in the middle of a field of grass,
a new epicentre
with the whole city
rippling out from it,
a curious and unfamiliar edifice
cut out from the horizons
that pull towards it.


It seems to be about shapes:
circles, rectangles, domes, squares
and even a triangle
slotted into each other,
sliding in front of one another,
multiplying perspective –
height x width x depth x vanishing.
The idea of something holy
is an unnecessary complication
that gathers around it
taut and expectant.

You want to throw a semi-precious stone
into the concrete chasms
to hear how many times
its echo will skim
among the cupolas,
to shake the wind
out of the orderly rows of palm trees
and send it off down the streets
proclaiming an uneasy peace.

When the rains come
the whole thing turns a darker grey.
Messy black birds tug heavily
at the angled sky above.
While across the field
at each intersection between blocks
there is a pair of shoes
dangling from the telegraph wires.


Michael James commended for the poem Marx My Words


Marx My Words

The trouble with being single again
Is having to go to clubs to meet
Women who don’t know who Karl Marx is.

And while she did wear the Marx mask
I could see through the roughly cut eye holes
That her heart wasn’t in it.

Even though I would wear the Lenin mask
She kept forgetting the words we’d rehearsed
So that capital didn’t need labour.

And the whole tone of the encounter changed,
No longer socialism-infused-sex
But something slightly less predictable



Andrew McDonnell commended for the poem The Fetch 


The Fetch



                        I tried to remember

            how I loved in this city;

                        I tried to fetch

            back memories

from a state between sleep

            and the moth-bothered lamps;

I slipped out the city

            and it slipped from inside me

from the suitcase I carried at my side

            from my mouth and from my eyes;

                        last night I said goodbye to the city    

to the town planners, the marching bands

                                    and the Sunday Traders

                         to my wife and her canary

                                    to the vertiginous music

                                                            to the smoke free bars

                                    to the giant strawberries

                        to the floodlit car parks,

            the graffiti, the pigeons and cycle paths                                 

                         and soon I was crossing dual carriageways

                                    out into the fields

                                                          and then on further into marshes                    

                                             taking a line

                     drawn from overlaid maps

        like scarves over mirrors

                  they would show the way,

to fall between worlds

             - I was told the droving lanes

would suddenly appear

            the greenways, by-ways,

 the ghost lines

               the bittern booming in the reeds

                           of Poly-Olbion -

              but the maps were no longer

                                    in my suitcase

                                                the city had held them back.


              And then it appeared to me

                                    a fetch, a doppelganger

              of the city I had loved and left

  and like a face in the water

it looked at me strangely

            as if it were my hands

                         which had been trying to drown it

in its own reflection,

            and stood before me shyly,

not wanting to catch my eye,

                          so I entered in and my

                                      suitcase became heavy

                          with new maps and possibilities

but when I checked them

                there were blueprints of buildings

that had never been

            tramways and railway lines

                                    dropped in my lap like spaghetti

                                    and I realised the city

could never be recovered from memory

                                                it was a ghost train

             without the ghosts, or I, a giant

                        rampaging in toytown

that had long before seen

                        the last eviction

              and in the empty streets echoes

                        I caught a glimpse of what was me

                                    as I turned like Goya’s monster

                         with myself

            between my




Shereen Asha Murugayah commended for the poem Dunedin, October


Dunedin, October


Broken bottles like diamonds

ground into pavement.

The sun slants through leafless trees,

lost in the gloom, gives up.


Ducks tuck their heads

in the shade.

The heat bakes pink blossoms,

scent rising, beer and burnt coffee.





Lesley Burt

Lesley Burt lives in Christchurch, Dorset. Her poetry has been published online, including at  Poetry Kit, Long Exposure, and Lancaster University’s Flash, and in magazines and anthologies including Tears in the Fence, The Interpreters House, Sarasvati and The Cinnamon Anthology, Her chapter, ‘Considering connotation: the impact and implications of language in poetry’ is included in Teaching Creative Writing (2012) ed. Elaine Walker.


Jean Hall

Jean didn't start writing again until her two children were grown up and her poems draw on her life experiences. Jean was educated in England and France and lived in Spain as a teenager and was influenced by poems in other languages. Her poems have appeared in magazines and newspapers, also in several anthologies: In the Company of Poets, Still Lives, Warning: May Contain Nuts, Splinters of Light and more recently in Fanfare, Poems by Contemporary Women Poets. In 2003, she appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Jean is very grateful to her tutors, namely Anne-Marie Fyfe, Gillian Clarke, Maura Dooley and Roger McGough, who have influenced and encouraged her, as well as regular meetings with fellow poets,The Lambs. For ten years Jean organised poetry evenings as fund-raisers for The North London Hospice and often reads at The Torriano and The Troubadour.


Emily Anderson


Elinor Brooks

was born in Edinburgh but now lives in Swindon where, recently retired from teaching, she works as a volunteer for The Reader organisation. A founder member of BlueGate Poets (now Poetry Swindon), she enjoys collaborating, exhibiting and sometimes performing with local artists and musicians. Her poems have appeared on fridge magnets, on the Big Screen and even on an Ad-shel: her work has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies including Domestic Cherry, And Other Poems, The Listening Walk (Bath Poetry Café anthology) and The Other Side of Sleep (Arachne Press).


Di Coffey


Oz Hardwick

is a York-based writer, photographer and musician, who has been published extensively worldwide, and has read everywhere from Glastonbury Festival to New York, via countless back rooms of pubs. His latest poetry collection (his fifth) is The Ringmaster’s Apprentice (Valley Press, 2014). A keen collaborator with other artists, his tanka sequence co-written with Amina Alyal, Close as Second Skins (Indigo Dreams, 2015) was shortlisted in the Best Collaborative Work category at 2015’s Saboteur Awards.

Oz is Professor of English and Programme Leader for English and Writing at Leeds Trinity University. In an academic capacity, he has published the monograph, English Medieval Misericords: The Margins of Meaning (Boydell, 2011), edited a number of books on the Middle Ages and myth, and written many articles on the Middle Ages and medievalism.



David Hawkins

is an ecologist and editor from Bristol. He has work forthcoming from Dunlin Press. He sings with the band Until the Bird.'


Michael James

Andrew McDonnell


Shereen Asha Murugayah

Originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Shereen currently resides in Dunedin, New Zealand pursuing her postgraduate degree.



4 - Afterword

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