THE WINNERS PT 3: 2nd Prize - 'Nunkin' by Phillip Binding
Second prize was awarded to Phillip Binding for his poem 'Nunkin':
At dusk, when tired midges half-heartedly
suck the wee lambs dry, driving them mad
so their bleats shriek like whipped children,
the Nunkin stalks. He doesn’t care for light.
Nor for the dark if truth be admitted.
He loves the cloven comfortable hours
when busy folk like you finish your tasks,
forget your fear for a few moments.
That Nunkin he’s a caution, sliding under smiles,
whooshing a crafty breeze at your back door,
shaking it in moaning rattles so your tiny
neck-whiskers stand up like hair on a rat’s back.
His fingers are the choking clouds of twilight,
his feet great lapping waves across the loch,
oh aye! and his eyes are shaded lamps
blinking in the conspiratorial trees.
Nunkin will suck you dry. He’ll heap you,
wring your vulnerable brain like a dishcloth,
soak it in winter twilight, silent Glen,
abandoned landscape, brooding Brae and Ben.
When your back’s turned and you’re half relaxed
his little sting goes in with a soft squirt,
inseminates venom in your veins.
Now all the wanton world is inside you.
Too late now! Nunkin squats hunched on
your perfect lawn as night rumbles by,
his fading headlight eyes grinning in
a gloating gape of callous orgasms.
Nunkin slinks away before dawn eats his fear,
stuffing your laughter in his bag of swag,
whistling as his boots crunch over
the shards of your forsaken future.
Phillip, tell us a little about yourself and your life as a writer...
I have been writing on and off for many years, but finally took the plunge performing my poetry about 8 years ago in Derby with what was then the "Quad Poets". It was a great opportunity to listen to other poets and hear different styles and subject matter. In time, we moved to a new venue, and eventually were interrupted by Covid. I am also a member of The Lichfield Poets, where a number of members take turns running poetry workshops and performing as a team at events around Staffordshire. This is a joy, and means we get to visit a lot of places to read, and meet even more poets. We run a quarterly open mic where we invite a guest poet or two from a variety of backgrounds. I also attend a number of regular and one-off open mics to read my work and attend workshops run by established poets. This has helped me develop my style and skills, and importantly get feedback and help with editing.
What appealed to you about this particular competition and theme?
The theme of "Sanity" appealed particularly for two reasons; firstly I have experienced periods of mental problems at times; secondly I worked for a mental health charity as a support worker for ten years. Each person I met had been given a label, but their experiences are all unique and personal. I wanted to explore how my own experiences compared with those of others. To me, depression is like a willful little imp or devil that catches you at your most vulnerable. Others have entirely different views.
Who or what inspired your winning poem?
This particular poem was "inspired" by an event some years ago, when I was visiting Fort William in the West Highlands. I was gazing across a still loch one morning at the reflection of Ben Nevis, and said to a passing dog-walker, "Wow, what a view!" He replied, "Aye, it's ruddy awful". This was a bit deflating but it got me thinking. It's all very well a tourist waxing lyrical, but what must it be like living there all the time, through long, cold and wet winters with hardly anything going on outside the season? I did some research and learned that depression is a real problem locally. Beauty often hides difficult truths.
Whose poetry do you admire, past or present?
I have very broad tastes in poetry, from the quirks of Ivor Cutler to modern poets like Benjamin Zephaniah, Jo Bell and Kate Tempest. My favourite book of poetry is "A Shropshire Lad" by A E Housman. I trawl second hand bookshops and charity shops for unusual titles! If it grabs me, I buy it.