Here are our three winners in the 'Highly Commended' category (all from the north of England!):
'Thirteen' by Natalie Crick
Julie is still mine – but maybe
only for another year, or less.
Her window is open and she is looking
past me, to the end of the road,
where the streetlamp glows sodium pink
where the road meets the dark sports field
where the boys have gathered
in black hoods to smoke, their breath
wisps of smut kisses.
I put my hands into Mam’s
Sunday meat in the big pot
just to feel the blood.
There may not be a reason why
Natalie Crick (Newcastle, UK) has poems published in The Moth, Banshee, The Dark Horse, The Poetry Review and elsewhere. She is studying for an MPhil in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. Last year one of Natalie's poems was commended in the Verve Poetry Festival Competition 2020 and awarded second prize in the Newcastle Poetry Competition 2020. This year a poem was highly commended in the Folklore Poetry Prize and highly commended in the Wales Poetry Award. Natalie is co-founder / poetry editor of a small literary press based in Newcastle and Prague, Fragmented Voices.
'the knife' by Jane Kite
the knife in the kitchen drawer
was just an impulse away
it was mild steel
made in Sheffield
six inches of blade and had appeared
in my mind insistently for weeks
had to gather my nerve
had to be quick
took it and put it
in a strong brown envelope
and like a mad woman
wrapped it in layers of newspaper
as you would broken glass
layer on layer of protection
like the parcel at a children’s party
then string round
it could have been a lump of meat
or a body part
having to hold back the murder of me
carried it gently like it was a baby
put it in the dustbin
covered it in rubbish
hid from it till Thursday
when the bin men came
Jane Kite lives in Otley, West Yorkshire. Her first collection, Distaff and pamphlet, Phobia and the Girl are published by Half Moon Books and available from janekite.co.uk.
'In Russia, in Winter' by Catherine Edmunds
The ice swimmers of Krasnoyarsk
enter a low, swollen river. I place my hope
in the water as they part its heaviness
with their long, slow movements.
The wharves are still, the last ships
long gone. The coldness, these last years,
has been unbearable. Night kisses my eyes,
my tears are salt, they cannot freeze.
Back home in Brixton, you ply me
with eggcups of love. They’re enough
for now. We eat a dish of peaches, a scattering
of almonds. But the Thames intrudes,
the music pauses, you ask me my thoughts.
I can’t answer—I’m drinking the dregs
of the vodka, savouring its bitterness,
there is salt in the air, no ice.
Catherine Edmunds is a writer, artist and professional violinist. Her published works include two poetry collections, five novels and a Holocaust memoir, as well as numerous short stories and poems in journals including Aesthetica, Crannóg and Ambit. She has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, shortlisted in the Bridport Prize four times, and was the 2020 winner of the Robert Graves Poetry Prize. Catherine is married and lives in historic Bishop Auckland, in the foothills of the Pennines in the North of England.