Simon says: 1st prize for a Leopard poet

The Leopard’s next guest on Tuesday October 15th is multi-award winning poet Roger Elkin. He’ll be followed by Martin Figura and Helen Ivory on Tuesday 22nd. Both sessions start at 7.30pm and admission is free.

Phil & SimonMeanwhile, one of the Leopard regulars has also won a prize. Phil Williams has a long way to go to match Roger’s prize-winning record, but he’s pretty chuffed to have won 1st Prize in the Nantwich Words & Music Festival poetry competition.


He’s particularly chuffed as the judge was no less a luminary than Simon Armitage.

You can read Phil’s winning poem below and the background to it on his blog


She practices her scales, feels the promise
beneath her hollow palms, how it rises
from within the shuttered case –
Ragtime, Rachmaninov, Clair de Lune.

As the bar fills with hubbub, boots and smoke
she rolls out the barrel, follows the van,
clings to an old rugged cross till closing time.

She stores their tossed coins in a jar,
the way her father stands his stale
and frothy piss in a bucket in the yard.

When the factory whistle melts the men
into side-alleys, back-to-backs,
he sends their Jack to fetch his snap
to him in the snug, only brings his slow
unsteady stomp homeward after dark.

When the coppers rise and reach the neck
he turns their silver promise into a bucketful
of froth, pours it on the rhubarb out the back.

Each week they help their mother
fold their Nelly into a leather chair,
wheel her where nurses pummel
her fixed limbs, hoist her into harness
to stretch and tune her straight.

We want redemption. And if it’s found
in suffering it’s not just Nell but Elsie,
abandoned by her husband in the war,
or Min’s own Dicky Dale forked on crutches
since a football kick connected with his spine,
Olive lost to kidneys at the age of thirty-eight,
Stanley taken from them at sixteen.

If time’s the healer, hear how the old man prised
two tanners for us from a tin box, how the nurses
left Nell to nature with nothing but love to tend her.

Listen to her laughter as they fill kettles for her bath –
Dot’ and Hilda, Harry, Beat’. See the vicar bring her Jesus
once a week. And if faith, let’s end this litany where it began,
with Lil’, the first and last of twelve, closing the lid gently
on her own century, its sounds and faces, their names.

Leopard sig (small)


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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4 Responses to Simon says: 1st prize for a Leopard poet

  1. Betsy Clewlow says:

    Masterful Phil. So pleased for you that your poem won….it seemed, as I read on, that I knew all of the people mentioned.

  2. soloneili says:

    One of the best poems I have ever read, full of inventive but accessible language, a really powerful narrative and an unerringly familiar truth especially to anyone who can still conect to that era. I am blown away by the consistent heights this poem reaches throughout its span. I started living inside these words as they unfolded, I really did connect. Thank you for this and congratulations on such thoroughly deserved recognition for it. Thank you not least for what I consider to be a poetry lesson. To think I had the nerve to comment on your poem at my first stanza visit lol. Oh shucks……this is stunning, truly stunning.

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