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Edward Thomas Fellowship Poetry Competition – 2023 and Earlier Years Judge’s Reports and Winning Poems

Previous Years Competition Reports and Winning Poems

Edward Thomas Fellowship Poetry Competition 2023

The 2023 Competition attracted over three hundred poems.  The judge, Jane Draycott, wrote that she found the sifting and final choices very difficult, with poems of powerful  quality, strong and strongly-felt. Jane’s full report is available here.

The First Prize  was  for ‘Marsh Angels’ by Jane Burn.

Joint Second prizes  were for  ‘Seal’  by Joanna Lowry and ‘We will be out until the Light has Gone’ by   David Thomas.

Highly recommended poems were by, Kathryn Bevis, Harriet Truscott, Shirley Nicholson, Glen Wilson, Alex McDonald and Laura Jenner.


                           Marsh Angels 

Horses, pale as bone,        pale as snow,
wick and wild, who would think such bodies
could live on waves?     Live where the water writes

such a faint line between its cool length and bleached pages
of sky,
where water makes the horses seem
to come alive twice —        once above, cannon deep and once

again beneath — a rippled self —blurred,
disturbed by the droplets falling from its own soft mouth —
a self

it seems to kiss,    whenever it stoops its milky cobble of a head
to drink.

Horse has found its own way to never be                alone.
The water holds so many mirrored friends
so gently asking nothing more
than to be beloved to another.

There is no cost but standing here,    or running here—
no price for peace
but moon, reflected moon, reflected clouds, stars,
ribbons of hardy delta grass.

The water dries upon them like second skin.      Salt skin, silver skin.
They are not afraid to live as ghosts—       babies born
in fading pelts

at their dam’s side like a beautiful stain.

The Camargue’s Cradle holds them safe,    holds their tails like spray
against the wind—
holds their speed,     their love.

their resting weight.   The sand keeps
the echoes of their feet.




Seeking the freedom of sleep I conjure myself as a seal,

sleek and swollen, edging clumsily towards the rim

of a frozen ice floe, then slipping down

into the ocean, rolling and diving, instantly free.

I picture the way I move, released from all constraint,

and deep in my belly coiled intestines, bundles

of transparent lace, floating in their own black sea.


I saw a seal’s intestines once in a museum.

I was tired from lack of sleep, and stepped out of a dark corridor.

It was flash-lit: that luminous cloak sewn from seal gut,

stretched, brittle and tissue-paper thin.

Torn from deep inside the seal’s body,

it was magical, and proof against all weather,

blizzards, ice, the arctic wind.


At night my dead husband appears on a dais

in a beam of light. Sliding those slim tweezers

down his throat he pulls out a shimmering strand of gut.

It pools in coils at his feet. He seems at that moment

pharaonic, at the mouth of a shining delta,

or at the centre of a circle of wavelets on hard black water –

where a seal has just plunged out of sight.


We Will Be Out until the Light Has Gone

We will be out until the light has gone –

Guns broken open,

Cold and hard across crooked arms.

I am a child, but I wish to be a man. So.

I roll silently into his footprints,

And hope to kill something;

To dip hands sacramentally

In blood and leaf litter,

The ring of the metal report still in my ears.

I do not understand why I want these things.

Sometimes, as we work the wood

Or carefully crab-step the quarry bank,

I think it is the broad, blind,

Damp, bullying back of him I’ll bring down.

An accident, they would surely say.

And perhaps it would have been.


Edward Thomas Fellowship Poetry Competition 2022

These are the 2022 Poetry Competition winning poems, judged by Jamie McKendrick.

We were delighted by the quality and number of entries – over 480 – this year, and warmly thank everyone who entered.

The winning poem of the Competition is ‘Shadowland’  by James Driver.  Joint second are ‘This’ by Kathryn Bevis   and ‘Kaze no Denwa (The Wind Phone)’  by  Theresa Giffard. Highly commended were  Derek Sellen (for two poems), Bill Dodd,  Lawrence Wray, James Driver (for a second poem.)

Jamie’s report may be read here but before reading it you may like to read these wonderful poems and join us in congratulating the winners.

Shadowland         By James Driver

He was the bailiff here. This is his map.

Six inches to the statute mile. The names

Are still the same – Frome Copse and White Beech Lane –

But all the trees it shows went long ago,

Clear felled one winter, 1921.

Work for the unemployed, two hundred men

Out in the rain with tools they couldn’t name.

He gave them sacks to keep their shoulders dry.

They left no tales to tell, no photographs;

Their stories, like the paths his old map shows,

Are lost and yet, just like he said it would,

All that was slight and aimless still survives:

A stretch of woodland runs by High Street Green –

Replanted, felled, replanted once again –

The Sadler brothers owned it. Thomas lived

At Pockford. His favourite horse was Plantain.

Ajax and Dewdrop, Bosphorus, his hounds.

James, on the Petworth Road, kept Cherfold House.

August the thirteenth, 1855,

He took his ball and bat to Shillinglee, played in

The famous match where no-one scored a run.

William, too, lived somewhere hereabouts.

They gave that belt of trees – the way they rode

To Sidney Wood – the name Botany Bay,

And told themselves they’d made a jest as fine

As all the captions on the Punch cartoons

They cut out, trimmed and framed and liked to hang

Around the tack room walls. Hung there too was

The harness of the horses used by him

To drag the hewn trunks out on furrowed tracks

Which, once the timber tug had gone, the deer

Took as their own, pushed further on, and jays

Flew through to plant their acorns out while soft

Seeds floated in and ash keys tumbled down.

When I was young he drew a map for me,

Named all the places that he walked and worked,

And painted pictures of his favourite trees

As true to life as any photograph.

Across that spot he printed “PERFECT WOOD’.

Across the rest he scribbled “shadowland”.


Joint Second prize poems

This,     by Kathryn Bevis

A fire has been lit in new leaves,

will grow to a green world

in the dark wood. Small whites

rise in drifts to the swish of our boots.

Nothing is worth more than this day.


A pair of grey wagtails fly low,

gold-bellied, over the rushing river.

Their bodies translate water

to sunlight, sunlight to water.

Nothing is worth more than this day.


Here, the wind toys with leaves like loose

change in the pockets of the sky.

High above, a wood pigeon calls to us,

wild and true, Who are you, who who?

Nothing is worth more than this day.


Kaze no Denwa (The Wind Phone)  by Theresa Giffard

On a hill above Otsuche

there is a phone box

in a garden

overlooking the building site

that used to be the town

before it was swallowed up

by the sea


The locals come

one by one, or in pairs

shuffling outside

clutching tissues

anxious faces

scarves and thick coats

wrapped up against the cold


Pushing the door open

lifting the receiver

they dial numbers of homes

that are no longer standing

and speak to the missing

to loved ones who are lost

presumed drowned


A teenage son

has walked from the station

his father a lorry driver

last heard of on the coast road

when the wave came

“I miss you dad” he said

“I made the baseball team”


An old woman climbs the path

her back bent like an apple tree

she calls her husband

whose body has never been found

and asks if he is warm enough

there is no reply

just the sound of the wind

The report of Jane Draycott (competition judge 2021) may be read here. That year’s winning poem can be read here, and the runners up here and here respectively.

Details of winning poems and the judge’s report from earlier years are available here.