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Poetry Competition Overall Winner 2023

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Overall Winner

“The Rhyme of the Modern Mariner” by Claire Barwood

I saw The Ancient Mariner drinking whisky in a bar,
I wondered why he wasn’t stopping one of three,
So I went inside to ask him why
Before he had had time to flee.
I fixed him with my glittering eye
And held his skinny hand
‘Ancient Mariner please tell me why you are still here
In such a modern land?’
‘Unhand me red haired enchantress,’ quoth he
‘Can I not retire from all that dross?
It’s been many years long gone by
Since I shot the albatross’
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was sat close by
And came to see what was going on
‘Can you leave my friend alone?’ said he
‘It’s best  that you be gone.’
‘I’m an admirer of your work,’ I replied
‘And though you’re supposed to be deceased,
I’d like to know why you still live
That much I need to know at least.’
‘There was a ship,’ the mariner began,
‘For to sail to the heavenly abode,
But we jumped overboard as it cast off
And since have walked this earthly road’
‘Tis true!’ master Coleridge replied
As an albatross flew by the bar
‘We played dice with death and we did win
Life forever ‘neath a yellow star.’
‘The spell is broken,’ the mariner said
There’s no need to bother one in three,
I live my life and you live yours,
And do so joyfully.’

Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:
 “Claire’s poem is a clever pastiche of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  There are many echoes of the original poem, transposed now to the twenty- first century and given an ironic twist. The speaker confronts the Mariner and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and quizzes them both.  Their answers are humorous and unexpected.

 Characteristics of the original poem are displaced and attributed to the wrong person, so that it is the speaker who has a ‘glittering eye’, not the Mariner; the presence of the Mariner in a modern dive drinking whiskey; Coleridge’s plea to leave the Mariner alone whereas in the original it is the Mariner who pesters the unfortunate wedding guest; the hellish ship becomes a conveyance to heaven which they have abandoned to live on earth-all these elements transform the original into something piquant and entertaining.

 Once they abandon the ghostly ship, they tread the earth, having also defeated the two vampire women who played dice for the lives of the Mariner and his crew.  And, of course, an albatross flits past the bar unexpectedly!  Claire has mastered both the content and the style of the original; she has also employed the language we find in many of Lewis Carroll’s parody of popular verses and hymns in the Alice books.  This is a tour de force and makes Claire’s poem a very worthy overall winner.

 Claire’s poem is wonderfully constructed (notice the rhyme in lines 2 and 4 in every stanza), clever, sophisticated, funny, showing a deep understanding and appreciation of Coleridge’s enigmatic poem.  Well done!”

Adult Winner

"The end the beginning of the journey
(modern haiku sequence)"
by Eduard Tara

the first flock of cranes –
unfolding the old map of
my missing father
my silent garden
full of forget-me-nots –
yet closing the gate
buying the last ticket –
taking with me the smile
from my mother’s photo
empty small airport –
a window frames the sunset
and the deep silence
boat on the calm sea –
a dolphin suddenly breaks
the moon into shards
the horse’s mane –
teaching about how the wind
can speak without words
campfire between us –
the old man’s story wrapped
in flames and sparkles
still in the middle
of the unknown answers –
a cold Milky Way
children’s laughter –
on a dusty road sharing
the flight of a kite
returning home –
the last bus carrying
only me and the light
first fallen petals –
the wind is gathering light
along my old street
my blossoming plum tree –
the end and the beginning
of the journey

Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:
 “Eduard Tara with the end and the beginning of the journey (modern haiku sequence). We’ve all read Basho’s famous haiku about the frog and the pond.  This jewel of a poem is an iconic exemplar of a Japanese form of poetic composition and Eduard’s collection of haikus, called a renga, is a worthy offshoot of Basho’s masterpiece.  Traditionally consisting of three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, the haiku celebrates a season, draws on many natural images and freezes a moment in time.

 Eduard starts with a journey, closing the gate, buying a last ticket, arriving at the airport, undertaking a sea voyage, possibly riding a horse, looking up at the night sky ‘a cold Milky Way,’ returning on a bus to the old street.  But this provides a bare framework for stunning images: the leaping dolphin shattering the moonlight on the sea, the horse’s mane fluttering in the wind which endows the wind with language, the playful children flying their kite, the dusk, and the end of the journey with ‘the first fallen petals’ and ‘blossoming plum tree.’ 

 In keeping with the hallowed haiku tradition, flowers punctuate the journey and silence (my silent garden, deep silence, speak without words) is treasured above sound. 

 Traditional Japanese haiku is culturally indebted to Buddhism, Taoism, and animism. Though these thought worlds are not evoked directly in Eduard’s haikus, they permeate the feelings of nostalgia, repose, yearning and natural beauty which his poems embody.

 This is a wonderful collection of haikus.  Eduard has sensitively re-created the Japanese form and made it his own.  Well done!”

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