Joan Michelson Wins The Bristol Poetry Prize

We are proud to announce the winners of the Bristol Poetry Prize.

Judge Penelope Shuttle said: I have, in addition to the three winners, named seven poems as Highly-Commended, and a further thirteen

as Commended. These  poems formed the shortlist (along with the winners) of strong poems. The upper echelon of the poems, once I had

read through all the entries, were of a very high standard. So a very rewarding read. Thank you! 

 

FIRST PRIZEStories by Joan Michelson 

SECOND PRIZE: Rough Salvage by Bethany W Pope 

THIRD PRIZE: That Childhood Street by Mallory Tater

 

Highly Commended                      

Commended

 

FIRST PRIZE:

Stories by Joan Michelson 

Joan MichelsonOriginally from Boston, Massachusetts, Joan has been Head of Creative Writing and Holocaust

Literature at the University of Wolverhampton and lecturer in Creative Writing and Poetry at

Birkbeck College, University of London. She is currently directing story-telling and book-making

workshops in North London schools and poetry workshops in the community.

Her poems, fiction and essays have been published in British Council anthologies, New Writing

Magazine and numerous other magazines and anthologies in the USA and UK and her poem

Moslem Girl (retitled Bosnian Girl) won the Poetry Society's Hamish Canham Prize in 2012.

Joan’s publications include: Toward the Heliopause (Poetic Matrix Publishers, USA, 2011).

 

Stories

It was always the 1920s, the place, the Jewish ghetto

around Blue Hill Avenue, a school day inevitably

 

without weather, or season, or other young children.

My father, who was the story-teller and hero,

 

his own Pinocchio, was six years old.

He had a special costume, his mother’s clothes.

 

He wore her cloche, her red fox fur with paws

and hanging from his shoulder, her shiny bag.

 

Like Pinocchio, my father forgot to go to school.

He wandered to the harbour and to L-Street Beach,

 

which had a fence of board and kept the women

separate from the men. Through a crack,

 

he watched his mother with her ‘yenta’ friends,

which meant ‘talkers’. ‘gnoshing’, which meant eating,

 

and sticking out their legs. His sisters, old enough

to be his mother, worked in Downtown Boston.

 

His brothers, old enough to be his father,

attended College. He hardly saw them. His friend

 

was the police. They had him sharpen pencils and draw

picture-stories until his sisters could collect him.

 

Or, as happened sometimes, his mother,

always crazy worried. For the telling,

 

my father kept changing roles. He was Emma Micey,

the little boy, the policemen, and his mother.

 

His voice rose high for her distress.

‘My little boy is lost. I need help.

 

For the policeman, my father’s voice was gruff.

‘Certainly, Madame Mother, we will do our best.’

 

The horror was that she didn’t recognise

her little boy. He had to throw his costume off

 

and throw his arms around himself and cry

in child-voice, ‘Mummy, I’m right here.’

 

I can’t remember if, hearing this,

we laughed or cried or, if frightened

 

but in on all and knowing,

we were consoled and we stayed silent.

 

At my father’s funeral I told the stories

I remembered and the family laughed.

 

ii

 

Again my father talked about the 1920s

but I heard this story in 2000.

 

I’d flown in from London for his birthday.

Woken early, I thought, ‘We should see the ocean.’

 

It was a journey, by bus, subway, commuter rail.

We emerged at Lynn high-platform station,

 

From there we walked down many flights of steps,

and through seemingly neglected streets

 

of shops and houses stuck in time and aging

towards collapse. My father kept us going.

 

I thought we’d make it to the stony inlet

at the tip of the Nahant peninsula

 

where he used to take us. I thought he thought it

and could make the distance. But he stopped us

 

on a beachside bench at the neck.

Perhaps I knew the story, only this time

 

I felt it differently. Beneath his words

I saw the child, delivered to his uncle

 

for the summer, wandering here alone

inside the man who leaned his weight

 

against me and felt heavy. I wanted us to face

the open ocean this time too, to climb

 

the heaped up boulders as we could, and dip,

or dive into the rollers that brought England

 

closer and had been a bridge between us,

as he had written long ago, at peace

 

with distance. I shifted to ease my shoulder

and felt his loss and longing. In time

 

a policeman stopped. In the official car

my father came alive. He remembered

 

his childhood story teller self, his own

Pinocchio who so relished his adventures,

 

he forgot to go to school. Lost again

and found, he spent hours as a helper

 

to the police. By evening, our day was cast

as great adventure. He’d seen England

 

across the water and met a young man

so courteous he drove us to our train.

 

SECOND PRIZE:

Rough Salvage by Bethany W Pope 

Bethany W Pope

Bethany is an LBA winning author, a finalist for Ink, Sweat and Tears poetry commission and she was recently

highly commended in the Poetry London Competition. She has been published in many magazines and her work

is due to appear in the following anthologies:The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear), Gothic Anthology (Parthian

Books), andRaving Beauties (Bloodaxe Books).

Publications include: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012); Crown of Thorns (Oneiros Books, 2013);The Gospel of

Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014); Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). 

 

Rough Salvage1

 

The day I found the eagle in the trash,

(hard cold brass that glittered in the gutter) treasure

enough for a little girl, I dragged it home and kept

the thing above my bed. What once was lost

had finally been found.

It gave me something I was happy to take.

 

Nearly a year later, it had been taken.

Grinning, my mother returned it as trash.

She'd painted it pink. Trimmed its wings. The found,

wild creature was dead. It wasn't my treasure.

 

Eventually, I brought home other lost,

lovely things: a fox-faced Indonesian kite I kept

on my bookcase. My father threw it out when I kept

setting the thermostat lower, so I could take

enough sleep. The pine-cask that looked like a lost

diamond hutch. The doll with human hair, stuck in the trash.

Each discovery, I hoarded, secretly treasured.

Finally, my parents found

I was too much, had too much, for them. I found

new hiding places. In trees my grandfather kept

excising from the yard, though they bled sap; gold treasure.

Under our neighbour's deck, where I took

stock of the horse-teeth I sifted from the sand. 'Trash,

a lot of garbage,' Mom said, 'better off lost.'

 

Spot, the stuffed dog whose tail I chewed on, lost,

my father said, while I was seeing the shrink. I found,

under the bed, a pamphlet for the orphanage. Trash

can tell you a lot about yourself. I kept

hold of nothing. My hair was shaved, my clothes taken,

a new mother locked me up, like treasure,

stuck in the shed. Even there, I found treasure

on the floor, by the water-heater. A few lost,

undernourished kittens to play with. Later, they were taken,

reduced to gristle by a boy I knew. I found

greasy tufts of fur and some clumps of wet skin. I kept

interesting fragments of bones, to save from the trash.

 

Find a new hoard. Treasures can be found anywhere.

They are always lost. The world is a rich trash-heap.

Secrets can be kept for years.

1 This is an acrostic-sestina. The acrostic reads, ‘The things we lose define us as much as our gifts.

 

THIRD PRIZE:

That Childhood Street by Mallory Tater

Mallory Tater

Mallory Tater is from Ottawa, Canada and it is studying on the Masters of Fine Arts programme at University

of British Columbia. Her poetry and fiction have been published in Bywords JournalIsland Writer Magazine

The Danforth Reviewand PRISM International.

She has work slated to be published in both Descant and CV2 this year.  

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