The Bristol Poetry Prize 2015 Results.

We are pleased to announce the results of the competition awarded by judge W N Herbert.

Rachael Boast
1st Prize (£600) Belle Époque - Rachael Boast
2nd Prize (£300) The Lictors, 1964 - Malcolm Watson
3rd Prize (£100) Mapping Hi-Zex Island - Janet Lees
Rachael will also be reading at Bristol Poetry Festival 2016 in the autumn.

Congratulations to our three winners and the commended poets.

Thank you to everyone who entered.


Commended poems

Cassandra's Ghost - Bill Holloway

Saga – Paul Jeffcutt

The King in the Mountain – Paul Collins

Biking from Downtown to Uptown and Back – Sarah C Paley

Porcelain Fungus – Luke Palmer

Museum Meteorite – Afra Kindon

Elvis Everywhere – Mark Fiddes

Sparrow – Tessa Foley

To read the winning poems and more about their authors, scroll down or click on the poem titles.

1st   Belle Époque - Rachael Boast

2nd  The Lictors, 1964 - Malcolm Watson

3rd   Mapping Hi-Zex Island - Janet Lees


First Prize

Rachael Boast


 Rachael Boast was born in Suffolk in 1975. She studied Literature and Philosophy at Wolverhampton University and was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing from St Andrews University. Sidereal (Picador 2011) was long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize. She is editor of The Echoing Gallery: Bristol Poets and Art in the City (Redcliffe Press). Pilgrim's Flower (Picador 2013) was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize. A third collection, Void Studies, is due in November 2016.



Belle Époque


What we're given is a sidelong view of her, you say,

meaning a view through the eyes of another on the page


of a memoir, but what I see is a woman on a couch

with raven hair tied back in contrast to the length


of her limbs and the space allowed those long fingers

softly abstracting into the white of the canvas to become


completely relaxed, as is the neck and face, the attitude

of the times, the growing need for her Parisian visits,


for hours of Egyptology, the red roses appearing on the floor

so perfectly on the day the studio was locked by mistake,


the elegance of the line from then on, each woman elongated

in the reach that desire makes towards its ideal, reaching


back to Anna, always Anna, silent woman with a memory

that holds like ice the poems of the Neva, flowing on


through small joys and terror, through marriage

and divorce, until the thaw came at last, I say,


looking over at your profile in the soft light we share,

your sensitive hands turning the yellowed page.


 Second Prize

 Malcolm Watson

 Malcolm WatsonMalcolm Watson was born in Annfield Plain, a pit village in County Durham, and is now an artist living in Hull. He has worked at a variety of occupations including builder’s labourer, blast-furnaceman, DHSS Visiting Officer, hospital porter, advertising copywriter, PhD student and civil servant in various policy divisions of Government Departments in Whitehall.

Malcolm has been widely anthologised and has won prizes in many competitions including the Hull Open, the Yorkshire Open, the Ware Open, the Peterloo, the Bridport and the Middlesex University Press Literary Awards. Most recently, he has won commendations in the National Poetry Competitions of 2006 and 2008 and in the English Association Fellows’ Prize 2007. He won First Prize in the Basil Bunting Poetry Awards in 2010, and First Prize in the Stafford Poetry Competition 2011.


 The Lictors, 1964


Just in from work one Saturday, he rises to the knocking of the door.

“The Rose and Crown. The drain's backed up. They've had to close.”

He takes me with him - “Bring that old shirt” - and a heavy canvas bag.


Follow the stink. The pans are full. The floor's afloat. The sunny yard's

the Somme, awash in excrement. He kneels in it and fishes round and jemmies

up the edges of the manhole cover and, two-handed, lifts it out. I gag.


He finds the cleaning eye by Braille, a foot below the slop. “The plunger

end's no good for this. Screw on the pig.” The brass corkscrew glints

golden in the sun. I join the rods and join the rods and pass them to him


from behind his shoulders as he shoves and twists and pulls and twists

and shoves and pulls. He lifts a dripping mass out of the inspection pit.

The stinking sorry waste of all our lives, the slurried rods festooned


with turds and tissue, piss and paper towels, condoms and Kotex...

I think of all the misconceptions. Once again. And once again.

The scrape and slop and stink. A growing pile. Until the chamber


and the pipes suddenly belch and sigh. The level drops and drops.

And after that, it's bucket after bucket down the pans and down the drain

and brush the yard and sluice the yard and clean the bricks inside the manhole


and the manhole cover and the toilet floor. A tin of Jeyes. A bottle of

Domestos. Then our boots. And then he brushes clean each unscrewed rod

and dips it in the pail and tears the old shirt into strips and wipes it clean


until the brass joints shine and lays it out to dry. Never a word of indignation.

Never a doubt of what we do. He brings a nailbrush from the bag and side

by side, we scrub away like surgeons before the grateful landlord pulls us both


a private pint. Sitting in the back seat of the truck, he holds the bag before him,

bundles of rods tied up with rags, fasces without the axe. We smile.

We have cleared the Cloaca Maxima. We have made it work again,

restored to its functions. Good as new.


Safely withdrawn our hands from the Bocca della Veritá. We are

the lictors, the chosen ones, complete in our authority. I look out

of the window, and Heaven is as pleased as us. I could eat the sunshine

with a spoon. Make a new shirt out of the blue.


Third prize

Janet Lees


After working as a freelance copywriter for 20 years, Janet rediscovered her love of poetry and embarked on a Creative Writing MA at Lancaster University, graduating with distinction in 2014.

Her poetry has been published in journals including Magma, Poetry News, The Missing Slate and Right Hand Pointing. She's been anthologised – most recently via the Aesthetica Creative Writing Prize – and shortlisted/highly commended in competitions including the Poetry School and Pighog Press Pamphlet Competition, Ó'Bhéal Five Words and Cannon Poets Sonnet or Not.

The video poems she's created and collaborated on have been selected for various international festivals, competitions and art prizes, including Filmpoem, the Aesthetica Art Prize, the Neo Art Prize and the Ó'Bhéal International Poetry Film Competition.


Mapping Hi-Zex Island

On the first day
we viewed the island from above:
a lightning flower flung across the skin of the sea
under the burning eye of the sun.

On the second day, we approached it from the water,
observing aspects of permanence –
three years and four months an island now,
its shape shifting between evening and morning.

On the third day we walked it, measured its synthetic drumlins,
its rope beaches, its tightly woven coves,
weighed the miles of clouded water beneath our feet.
Earth of a kind. Sea of a kind.

On the fourth day, we went down to meet
this land mass in its own twilight. Ghost nets reached out
to finger our hair, calling us to the mausoleum
of the island’s rusted underbelly.

On the fifth day, we saw the ocean swarm –
angelfish and rainbow runners twisting through drifts
of polymer confetti that playact as food,
feeding the very body of our island.

The sixth day we spent logging life.
A shore crab. Clams. An albatross in flight
off the western peninsular. We collected old eel traps,
scraps like pastel coloured sharks’ teeth

with which to make a necklace for the children.
We bowed our heads under the weight of that night’s stars.
And when the seventh dawn came,
we saw our work was done.


Discovered by ocean activist Captain Charles Moore, Hi-Zex Island is made up of fishing gear, nets
and buoys believed to have come from the 2011 tsunami that devastated parts of Japan.