The judges for 2002 were Jean Sprackland and Matthew Sweeney.
The title for the anthology is taken from Anbara Khalidi's poem, 'Gigging'.
Scroll down to read the winning poems and the commended poets.
He knows more than they think,
As the rust tricycle harries
The grey-evening puddles.
Slut. Bitch. Whore.
Why always in the kitchen,
Where the fierce strip light
Shies drawn out spectres?
She by the sink,
Pretending to wash up;
He by the stove, probing
Until she turns.
Yell, murmur, yell,
Despite the pitter-patter rain?
While a TV set hums next door,
Its light a brilliant blue.
And always, if you strain,
The swish of a car up on the road -
The promise of something else but this.
I know what it is to drown.
Not emotionally, the aching sweet, lyrical deaths
writers and lovers will have you believe in.
I talk of water, and salt
And cold like marble slabs
on which the dead are laid
filling your nose and tongue
and every dark crevice
until you freeze from within
and your skin splits as you expand.
I talk of waves, and foam
so unbelievably strong,
so many million million millions of atoms
pouring down on you like rock.
We were not born with gills
and the purity of water chokes us:
it is lighter than air, and more bright,
of more quality and substance than oxygen.
More gentle and more powerful.
More clear and more dark.
It is where we came from.
I know what it is like to drown
and my desire is to return to the ocean's womb
the soft heartbeat of the deep.
This time there will be no saviour,
no hand to pluck me out of my foetal dream.
I will cut my gills with this razor
and I will swim.
We shall learn
how the footsteps should be
printed together, so that
the light of the Moons
does not hurt when we
count them and stars
will keep their distance
We shall learn
through the rhythm of
a raised eyebrow and
quivering lips, the same
truth only an ant in a
puddle of honey can reach
Bitterness surfaces in the middle
of a spring fountain
nursing a garden of roses
under the second Moon tonight
A tear of wonder
born in the movement of
your lips, up against
your cheek, but
sacrificed to the
blink of your eye
By now the Eclipse should have informed me
You will not be there
Check the pockets for the tickets,
Reds, Lighter, Travelcard,
tied shoes, keys and cash. No rush, no hurry -
No matter how late you try to turn up
there's always a support band to sit through,
a guy with a beard, a banjo and a bad hairdo.
And after an hour of standing still, pressed into the perfect space,
your legs have gone numb, your pockets are pinned,
you check the people next door,
not spinning about giddily, wearing an anorak,
trying to enfold you in Jesus' love,
likely to vomit all over your shoes, or try anything funny.
Once reassured, and the lights go out,
there's a stampede of huge, drunken elephant-men,
wearing oversized England shirts over thick necks
or the tallest chick ever - wielding an afro
who decides to push right in front of you.
So after an hour of keeping your place, bang goes the view.
During the slow songs, the elephant men
form an 'ironic' circle pit,
and you're forced to elbow one in the face
when they come careering off the merry-go-round
and grope you, though the fifty year old
trying out some solo dance routine doesn't deserve much less.
And the bad moshers, who can't pogo-stick
up and down to the simplest bass,
must be a part of some huge conspiracy
to force you to catch snatches of the band through one squinted eye.
So you tuck in your elbows and bounce through
the people-thicket to the even thicker pit, now seething
and frothing - where you don't even have to move your legs,
the surge will bring you to the top for air,
like a shoal of fish, craning for the sunlight.
On the down, it's hot and damp,
Without DMs your feet get trampled
on and with one sway, or mis-stepped
step, you're on the floor, butts embedded in your skin,
and a sandwich pile-up of bodies will crush your bones for bread.
So, you must stay alert to each seismic shift
fracturing your shins to and fro like a packed ship
in a heavy sweat-spray storm.
At least everyone's way too busy
staying alive to sing along with Strongbow-soaked
vocal cords and drown out the sweetest song
With their blend of lager sponging discord.
The hot bodies bruise you, spill beer down your top,
Flail about with their Camel Lights and stab you,
Ram you with their mohicans and jab you,
Pepper spray and rob you,
rub you, and dive on top of your head.
But, just maybe tonight, give you a wicked gig -
as the music drills through all the bones
in your jaw through to your heart,
the floor would tremble if your feet could touch it.
And once the band make their encore exit,
the light comes on, and people blankly
stare at their sweat-stuck companions
peel their hair from their foreheads and
fumble for the cloakroom ticket.
And we begin to follow the lines out, like cattle
into the night; thankfully, cold and dark.
A culture of men with limp fags drooping
out of their mouths harass you
with poorly sewn rip-off t-shirts
and petitions for similarly shoddy looking
'minicabs?' - no thank you.
Worn and aching, mashed and bruised
from godknows what, the tubes
pump full of people analysing the playlist
or merely dazed from drugs or a good time
staring straight ahead,
smiles stuck skin-tight across their pasty faces.
I used to keep
potatoes in my cellar
in brown bags. But
they grew green shoots
and wanted to be planted.
When it rained my friend
came and looked at them. They were coal painted
and their green roots were neon bulbs.
He said I should give them some ground,
a little bit of light,
and time. In time, he said
their luminous tentacles would spread
and I would have a maze of potato
under my little garden,
under the apple tree
and the rosemary bush
and the daffodils,
it would be a green yellow flood, he said
giving the worms
and the moles
their eyes, a rest, if they have eyes,
he wasn't sure
but I liked the idea,
I could walk my
and know the ground could see.
I used to bring my boys here, I tell him,
back when the sea was further from the village
than it is now, and they used to run into the
garden of the b&b early each morning to scramble
down the bramble-clogged bank at the back
onto the narrow beach. Even in the rain,
pearls of water flying from the thorns they
never slowed, but dashed to meet the moon-cooled
new tide each day, carrying their footprints
to the grey waves.
Thanks, I say, as he places another pint
on the table. I suppose their footprints may
still be there, beneath the water - one morning
the tide must have climbed the beach and
never fallen, never taken the imprints of
my boys back to the ocean - it's a slower
process than that, he says as though he were
a geologist, not merely a hoar-bearded man
growing stout drinking out his last years in
a dark damp inn by the sea.
Maybe, I consider, I in fact quite like the
thought of the current dragging their footsteps
backwards to float beneath the waves -
the old echoes of my boys' feet drifting in the
sea, stamping from here to Cape Horn - maybe,
watching on the southern shore, I'll see them walking
past someday -
- maybe, he says. His seaman's eyes, flat and
grey, stare beyond me as though already
tired. Who wants a woman who can only
talk of motherhood's slow erosion, I suppose,
when one lives here? When the cold
ocean creeps to your threshold each night,
beckoning you from your worn-down years into
the waves chill path, their slow territorial
yawnings swallowing churches and
graveyards, silencing bells and sowing ice along
the streets? Perhaps he sees footprints in the
pock-marks down my cheeks. It hardly
matters - already he turns from me, as though
I drag him too fast into the distance, faster
than the subtle ebb that pulls him
closer to the low sky each year.
'Into the Distance' was also the overall winner of the Christopher Tower Prize for 2002, and is reproduced by permission of the Christopher Tower Poetry Prizes, Christ Church, Oxford.
I peel open the door and everything becomes real.
My heavy footsteps embarrass me,
Though only the grass notices.
I sit upright on a damp log bench
And feel the wind running through me,
Humming and uncoiling and draining away
With the waves of traffic and treelimbs
Filtering together. Every sound gone
Before it reaches me. The blue night
Holding every orange-haloed streetlight.
Feeling slightly seasick I
Drop my head between my knees,
My stomach turning forwards over itself
Bubbling in my throat but still nothing comes.
I sit up refreshed and stand slowly turning,
Pulled in every direction, so aware
Of the bristled conifer playground smells
And the weight of my own skull,
I look at the grass glistening dully
And feel like tasting it, tasting the soil underneath,
Though it's probably not a good idea.
The holly bush draws me sharply over -
How sharp it feels on my palms I think,
I lean my whole body into it, the tiny spikes
All over my arms and chest, and feel not it
But those little points of myself.
I step away happy and guilty, thinking
Of the people behind curtained windows
All laughing along with the canned laughter,
All weeping along to synthesized violin music.
The shadows grow denser and wider -
They seem to bulge out between branches
And the rocks in the wall, infinite empty volumes
That would swallow you up without a trace.
I close the door behind me quietly.
Inside again the hum of boilers
The ticking of clocks
Lightbulbs burn my eyes,
The overdue sickness welling up
As I climb the stairs to the
Dark landing and step step step
Across the bathroom pulling
On the light automatically, lean over
The sink and feel the oily acid combining inside
And scratching over my teeth then I am
Turning the tap and the water flows through by magic
Washing it all down the drain, and
I swill the lukewarm water in my mouth
And feel it rattling against the cheek walls,
Before letting it fall over my bottom lip and into the sink.
The taste is still in my mouth and I am sick three more times
and I still don't know if that's the last of it,
but I'm bored of it anyway, and lie face down on the bed
with my eyes sweating into the pillow and the curtains rattling.
Hold my hand - you're not safe.
Your skin can't take the heat
Of the lights or the burn of
Humiliation. Don't look at
The people we meet.
Our skins are like wings
Flown too close to the sun -
A blush would kill us,
A loss of face would
Be a loss of life.
Ready to run?
Does my hand chafe
Your skin? I'm sorry. Start
Moving now. Head down. The spurn of
This society is no shame. Remember that:
You cannot melt into nothing. Your heart
Is strong enough to withstand the things
They shout. What you did was a sin,
Against their natures. The fuss
They kicked up was because of the knife
You had. And... her life had just begun...
The child unchilder and his mother
Fled from the court. Each mechanical shutter
And blistering flash gave yet another
Headline photograph. The camera-stutter
Recorded their flight, but they had no angel-wings to flutter.
The boy, as he cried, wished to melt like butter.
It seems I complained too hard
about the rain shrivelling my skin
or feet burning on hot sand,
making me dance madly
like a chained bear.
Perhaps I sighed too loudly
about the rough tugging
of a snagged nail
or the way my raw feet
would bud blisters.
For, when I opened my eyes
this morning, I found
I had been sedated in my sleep;
numbed and dulled into heaviness
so that all the world was bubbled
and I could not touch it
without bursting my swelled armour.
Every toe was stubbed,
every finger frozen.
My head was a heavy thing
that would not crack from
hammer blows, unprotected falls.
Better to be blind, forsake
the bright pleasures of the eyes
or deaf and miss the sweet throb
of music. Better to be anything
than so deadened,
never again to feel
the agonising tingles of cold snow,
the subtle fingers of a shy breeze
or flesh; warm,
reassuringly like your own,
shuddering into goosebumps.
It slides up the smooth, damp tube
Rough friction as bristles squeeze through.
Quick slurpy toad-kiss
And it's out. Deep channel of mud
Crust of old dried-out mud
Clings to the top of the long
Thin wand, reluctant
To join the rest. Blackness pushes
Though the gaps. So strong!
Stronger than the wilting head
Like a mushy screw, messing things
Up. Hairy caterpillar soaked
Coils smugly around the tip.
Gunky ammunition trapped in the gaps.
Scratching and pointing. It's ready.
And Bukit Timah Road is glowing orange
With the visitations of
I am alone on the bus
That groans and mumbles as if
I have company
But this is a solitary din
I dissolve into the evening on my own
Full of expatriates in transit
With Cold Storage* strawberries and
I see open lorries
Foreign construction workers precariously perched
Faces bristly as they dream sleeplessly
About dreaming by sleeping hometown rivers
At skeletal bus-stops
I see a beeautiful boy and a beautiful girl
Standing and watching the falling of silence
And I hunger for and loathe them
For they are beautiful
And they are still and quiet
All the while
The stars spin on as if the magic
Of our grandmothers works still
In our nameless midnights
On these widening roads.
Doors are opening like nails
pricking tiny points into limbs, she thinks
but nothing says. Oh, this is the time
of the coming, the future, the eyes strained ahead
to the one perfect rhyme and the rest
of the dead.
She says nothing of memories of parks
and her dad on the see-saw. For lollypopped years
weight gave him the firm upper-hand, but one time
a overdue growth-spurt left things in the balance.
Bit by bit she started to climb. There was silence.
All the sad sentiment, all the rusty old fears
she'd end up with a poet or (better) in tears
hurt the more. He slowly eyed up from below
what the babe had become. How she'd grown. And right there
sprouted that instant a newborn grey hair.
Now the landscape was changed. Now the light
that may once have been left on all night
won't keep her safe.
The door's opening, girl. It's raining and dark
and the wind is blowing out the door, slowly,
disjointedly . . . you wonder
what it's opening for.
I have considered picking
these cow eyes from the ground
stowing them in woody-smelling bags
to moulder as I forget amongst
multi-coloured stickly bricks
(encumbered by cylindrical heads).
It would feel good again
to stash these off-spherical shapes
of marbled browns and creamy stain patches -
to roughly select the plummier specimens
fantasise about their potential
their spectacular performances
the effortless force, the explosion,
the sound and the pain of triumph
as an opponent's pieces hit your velcroed shoe
I bought a rechargeable torch
with winding mechanism
from my first salary.
By the sides of roads, under
bushes and plants,
geranium and box,
I find the choicest hedgehogs.
Then I light a safety match,
put the jars down,
and smoke the fleas out from the spikes.
If the hedgehog chokes on the smoke
it doesn't matter too much.
Wise men never grieve the dead,
they say, but you have to listen carefully
because hedgehogs talk quietly
and often get overwhelmed by leaves.
I keep my fleas under the bed,
in a shoebox. Once there was a riot,
a mutiny, and I had to escape through a window.
They jumped down the street in packs.
Dad was yellow, behind his greying beard.
" It's his liver," the doctor said, "It's failing."
He took it well, the news, because he'd feared
For a while: Dad could feel his body ailing.
It was the drugs that did it, we all reckoned.
The pink and white pills that were fixing him:
Saved from one death and served up to a second.
Now sweat clings to his face, deathly and grim,
As he drifts wordlessly about, almost
Lost, contemplating his end. I can't seem
To talk to him, this slouching, pale half-ghost;
He doesn't look like Dad, just some sad dream -
Ghostless machine, a form without a face -
Or something hollow left there in his place.
"It's good," he barely rasped, "When a man knows
His time is up, and makes sense of what's there,
So he can set things right before he goes."
But that still doesn't make it fair.
Liz Adams, Rosemary Adkins, Mehraj Safi Ahmed, Victoria Alebon, Ann Ang, Huw Angle, Harriet Archer, Laura Attridge, Rachel Bold, Hannah Bolt, Olivia Brown, Gavin Browne, Fiona Carr, Mary Chen, Clare Coatman, Justine S. Cohen, Catrin Cox, Harriet Crompton, Dominic Davies, Arti Dawar, Michael Donkor, Kye Dorricott, Naomi Elliot, Tom Fletcher, Georgina Fozard, Emma Gaen, Kezia Gaitskell, Julie Elsie Gaunt, Ian Gibson, Heather Golding, Rachel Grandey, Jacky Hall, Edmund Halliwell, Holly Hardacre, Laura Harris, Claire Harrisson, Rebecca Hawkes, Shirin Hirsch, Michael Hodgson, Ben Holroyd, Caoilinn Hughes, Rosa Jackson, Sarah Keynes, Sabastian Koehorst, Hazel Lancefield, Amanda Laycock, James Lees, Christine Leonard, Gary Lockley, Ben Marriott, Emer Martin, Isabel McArdle, Cara McVean, Emily Mercer, Christina Milton, Laura Molloy, Olivia Morrisson, Ruth Newrick, Peter Nicholson, Nathalia Norman, Kathryn Parmenter, Hazel Perryman, Elena Polydorou, Susannah Powell, Rosalind Powell, Genevieve Raghu, Sophie Reynolds, Emily Riall, Rachel Roberts, Alexandra Sarll, Jion Sheibani, Priya Shukla, Robyn Smith, Hazel Streeter, Carrie Swann, Sharlene Teo, Nicole Thyer, Abbie Todd, Frances Wainwright, Jen Wainwright, Ahren Warner, Leah Watt, Catriona Wright, Felicity Yeoh, Fang Yuan.
The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is Britain's most prestigious poetry prize for young writers between the ages of 11-17. Each year we look for a hundred of the best young poets in the UK and beyond, as well as some of the most active poetry schools with special prizes for both 11-14 and 15-17 year olds. The closing date each year is 31st July.
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