Alsager Poetry Competition – results

Roger McGough‘Leopard’ regulars and over 120 people from across the UK entered the Alsager Poetry Competition this summer. The competition accompanied the town’s Summer Festival, took the theme ‘Books’ and was judged by Roger McGough – who read at St Mary’s Church on Friday 28th June.

Roger announced the winners during his reading and you can read them for yourselves here on The Leopard blog.

Roger’s comments are reproduced below followed by the winning entries from the youth (11-14) and then the adult categories.

Roger wrote:
I was very impressed indeed by the quality of poems, particularly in the adult section. I think that the subject chosen i.e. Books, really stimulated imaginations in often unexpected and exciting ways. Nothing dull or dusty here.

In fact I had a problem choosing an outright winner among the adult writers, and any one of the first four could have been selected.

The Missionary Book I liked because of its unusual setting, and the voice that carried the poem. ‘He carried his God inside a tree’ is such a great first line that invites the reader straight into the story, and he is not disappointed.

A Bookish Life was an elegant poem, musical and perfect with its sense of nostalgia moving on to the present day. Witty and ‘bookish’ in a stylish way. Clever rhymes and perfectly pitched.

Library Books I enjoyed for its sense of mystery. Who is this Mrs Allen? Mum and Dad, bullwhips and ‘hair interrogated by curlers’ all helped create an off-kilter strangeness that was attractive.

The Library Assistant Dreams of Books I enjoyed for the Marc Chagall, surreal picture the poet created. From the opening flutter of paper wings to the frottage amongst the thrillers the reader is immersed.

In the section for young writers, I had no problems picking a winner.

Read Between My Lines stood out because it was a poem that took the subject Books and found different voices to illustrate these objects that surround us, and which we take so much for granted.

Those trembling, clammy hands in the dentist’s waiting room, that book consigned to propping up ‘a chair with a limp’ Wonderful stuff.

Definitely and One Two Three I also enjoyed although they were not strictly about books.

So here are the poems themselves:


3rd Prize | Ruth Stevens | One, Two, Three
A new aroma
A new horizon
A new world
A new adventure.

A distant memory
A long-lost friend
A familiar tune
A free souvenir.

A single wish,
pray it be granted
to live in the moment
my book began.

First time is an adventure.
Next a memory.
Third a wish –
and a new life for me.

2nd Prize | Fern Brown | Definitely
The list
Of things that will get done,
Definitely in the future.

That job.
Been there for months now,
Years now,
Definitely in the future.

That shelf,
Sitting there alone,
Definitely in the future.

The lawn,
Growing, growing, growing.
Definitely in the future,

The light,
The flickering light. Change,
Change it now,
Definitely in the future.

This list,
Is a book, now.
It will get done,
Definitely in the future.

1st Prize | Miranda McLaren | Read Between My Lines

I’m the book that
Collects dust on the third shelf down in the second hand books store.
Waiting, wondering, worrying,
Speculating over how much longer I will be here for.
Light fingers shiver down my spine
And pluck me from the shelf,
Flicking through my pages
Into my sentences they delve,
Carrying me over to the till
Placing me softly on the cold table
Asking how much I’m worth
Fumbling for my label.

I’m the book that
Is in a basket of toys at a nursery full of brats.
Tortured, tormented on a daily basis,
Read by the teacher to fidgeting kids sitting on mats.
They don’t think before they act,
Don’t think that books have feelings too,
My pages are always being scribbled over
And torn out to be flushed down the loo.
I’m the book that
Is used to prop up the chair with the limp, or to fan your sweaty face on a hot day.
I can be used to flatten pieces of paper
Or you can lean on me to write down a phone number, say

I’m the book that
Is clutched by trembling hands in the dentist waiting room.
I try my best to distract them
From the pain that will come soon.
But they just can’t seem to
engage in me right,
Unable to concentrate on a single line,
My cover is squeezed tighter with clammy palms
It’s not long until their time.

I’m the lucky book that
Is treasured beneath your pillow, and in your heart I will always keep
The best book you’ve ever read
I can make you laugh or cry. I can make you see.


Joint 3rd Prize Rob Blaney | The Missionary Book

He carried his God inside a tree
and said he would speak like a rainstorm
and burn like fire.

Its skin was like elephant hide
and its flesh opened like the feathers of a bird.
And the Missionary said the message would be proclaimed through men’s tongues
and the white God would speak in miracles.

We held the God in our palms and squinted
at its black fingers and golden faces
but it did not make rains nor save the crops
and sickness returned to swell our bellies.

They delivered more of their crop
and stored them in huts,
where they steamed in the season of rain
and browned in the dry,
and to revive our faltering belief
to each family he gave a God-Book.

We put it back inside its tree
and hoped it would grow like a yam.
We sang and we believed
but the tree bleached in the sun,
alive with creatures eating our silent God.

Joint 3rd Prize | Jenny Ryan | A Bookish Life

In the Junior Library, the thing I adore
Is the squeaky clean lino that covers the floor.
In crepe-soled Clarks sandals I tiptoe around,
Afraid I’ll be scolded for making a sound.
Waiting for Rupert to be stamped with a date:
Fourteenth of February nineteen fifty-eight.

A high school my fiction-fuelled fancy takes flight:
As Cathy I dream of my Heathcliff at night.
But in Bible black school clothes, allure’s what I lack
And sadly my Heathcliff does not fancy back.
I start reading Sartre, Jack Kerouac and Peake
In hopes to look cool, intellectual and chic.

At College my study room’s yellow and green:
Yellow jackets that cover my Garnier Racine,
Corneille, Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Verlaine, Baudelaire;
Rough pages remain to cut open with care.
And in new girl Virago’s thick forest of green:
Sackville-West, Barbara Pym, Mary Webb, Molly Keane.

My collection of books wed an Irishman’s choice:
Great names like his countrymen Beckett and Joyce.
Not only we two are together forever
My Girl with Green Eyes chats up his William Trevor,
My Portrait of a Lady hangs with his Dorian Gray
While his Robert Frost warms to my Frost in May.

So yes, you can read me by the friends that I keep,
So many in number they’re lined up two deep,
Familiar and comforting there on the shelves,
Defining their reader as much as themselves.
Will the rise of the Kindle leave rooms somewhat bare?
Will books not speak volumes, And, if not, should we care?

2nd Prize | Joy Winkler | Library Books

Dad: Bullwhips westerns until they give up their storyline,
groans when a woman comes on the scene, wants vittles
to taste like his mother used to make. In the covered wagon
of his armchair, pipe-smoking, spurs on his slippers
he holds his hand poised for a quick draw,
sees nothing for miles but blissfully empty desert.

Mum: eats her way through Creasey novels
like McVities biscuits; one after the other,
sucks at the plot; juicy like blood oranges.
She takes him all around the house,
ends up in bed with him, her gritted teeth
in a glass, hair interrogated by curlers.

Mrs Allen: loves books. Doctors on pedestals,
nurses lusting after moquette three pieces, detached
houses in cul-de-sacs. She fingers the rose on the spine,
her legs on fat cushions aching for a hero, licks
her fingers which taste of marzipan, wets her
eyebrows, affecting surprise as she turns the pages.

And me: who trawls the library for a fat catch
to keep them happy for another week. They are
hungry, ungrateful, sometimes but Mrs Allen
gives me sixpence. I want to find the good books,
try from ‘Fiction A’ read all of Angela Brazil.
Repeatedly borrow Ballet Shoes: it smells of talc.

1st Prize | Clare Kirwan | The Library Assistant Dreams of Books

They flutter with paper wings around her
in visions where she is a slim volume
browsing in meadows, murmuring her reservations
as she herds returnees into Dewey order.

She sees the streets outside as aisles,
all vehicles compendiums and street lamps bent
over like reading lights, illuminating passages.
Houses are glass fronted cabinets, the birds

Bookmarks scattered across a blank page of sky.
Schools and factories are stacks, other people
are stories she may or may not have read
and either way she does not know the end of.

Her nightmares too are bibliographic:
great libraries lost to tsunamis, wash up
a flotsam of fiction on illiterate beaches long overdue
with all the people of the world withdrawn from stock;

Or date stamps pursue her through the stacks
for nights of erotic frottage amongst the thrillers,
imagining the borrowers licking their thumbs and
tenderly turning her pages.

Clare Kirwan 1st prize winning poet

1st prize winner Clare with Roger McGough

Congratulations to all the winners and many thanks to all who helped, particularly Jude, Lynne and all the wonderful staff at Alsager Library. We couldn’t have done it without them.

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About theleopard66

I am a member of the Stoke Stanza of The Poetry Society and run a bi-monthly Poems & Pints event in Alsager.
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2 Responses to Alsager Poetry Competition – results

  1. Mike Fuller says:

    Hi Rob ( Blaney ),

    Well done on your poetry success!!! It sounds like a fine poem!!! and must be GOOD to win Joint 3rd Prize!!! I didn’t understand it!!! William McGonagall is my limit in terms of intellectual writing!!! I tried to give you a ring but must have got the wrong number. Thanks for being such a lovely friend!!!

    With Love And Best Wishes!!!
    Cheers – Mike ( Fuller )

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