Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival Open Poetry Competition 2016

Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival

Open Poetry Competition 2016

1st prize: £600    2nd prize: £150    3rd prize: £50



Judge: Alison Brackenbury

Entry fee: £5 per poem, £3 per poem thereafter

Closing date: 3 September, 2016

Alison Brackenbury was born in Lincolnshire in 1953 and studied at Oxford. She now lives in Gloucestershire, where until recently she worked, as a director and manual worker, in the family metal finishing business. Her collections include Dreams of Power (1981), Breaking Ground (1984), Christmas Roses (1988), Selected Poems (1991), 1829 (1995), After Beethoven (2000), Bricks and Ballads (2004) and Then (2013), all published by Carcanet. Her poems have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and 1829 was produced by Julian May for Radio 3. Her work recently won a Cholmondeley Award.

Rules and instructions for entry

1   The competition is open to anyone aged 16 or over.

2   Poems should be in English, must not have been published either in print or on a website, nor be currently submitted or accepted for future publication. They must not have been awarded a prize in any other competition.

3   Poems must be your own original work and may be on any subject.

4   Poems must be typed and no longer than 40 lines.

5   If sending poems by post, each poem must be on a separate sheet of paper, which must not bear your name or any other means of identification. On a separate sheet of paper, you should give your name and address and the title(s) of the poem(s) submitted. Please include a cheque in payment for your entry/entries (see below) or, if you have paid by PayPal, the receipt number(s) for your payment(s). Please let us know where you heard about the competition.

6   If sending poems by email, each poem should be in a separate Word document, which must not bear your name or any other means of identification. In the text of your email, please include the PayPal receipt number that you received when you paid for your entry/entries, and please give your name and address and the title(s) of the poem(s) submitted. Please let us know where you heard about the competition.

7   Any number of poems may be submitted on payment of the appropriate fee, which is £5 for the first poem and £3 for each additional entry. Cheques (in sterling only) should be made payable to “Falmouth Poetry Group”.

8   We regret that we are unable to return poems, or amend them after entry.

9   The closing date is 3 September 2016. Results will be sent out in mid-October. Eight finalists will be invited by phone or email to read their poems at the festival, where the winners will be announced.

10  Copyright remains with the authors, but Falmouth Poetry Group reserves the right to publish the winning poems on the festival website.

11  Entries by post should be sent to:

The Competition Secretary, Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival, 33 Church Street, Helston, Cornwall TR13 8TD

12  Entries by email should be sent to:

13  The judge will read all poems submitted to the competition. There will be no sifting of entries.

Much more from the shed… but from three years to the day…



Something to listen to as you read work by Jill Munro, Bill Greenwell, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Graham Burchell, Pat Buik and Leigh Spiers…



Jealous Skybarley-fields

Long ago, before I fell in love with Sting,
heard him sing
Fields of Gold,
I’d written a sweet
prize-winning poem
Golden Wheat in the Meadow Neat.
Simplistically, a farmer came,
scythed down my fields of barley.
Far off days before I lay
in fields entwining molten hearts

as eighteen carat coloured hair
spread across grounding earth
and nature’s own ore joined me.
Golden globe drifted across my jealous sky,
distant ripples of the west winds
moved – and I remembered him.

Jill Munro



Coq D’Argent

We double-deckered along to Poultry
from Victoria’s hotly heaving throng
boarded a glass lift, all bold steel and shine,
travelled way, way up to Coq D’Argent
with a view to a rooftop view across
London’s spine – the Shard, half-made Cheese Grater −
seeking a sunlit hazy, lazy June,
but were met with a windy, dove grey sky.

Would high hopes of a balmy garden lunch
be unfilled as chilled in unjumpered sleeves,
we’d be cold-forced indoors? No, without care for global warmth
heaters ramped on full blast, scarlet a-glow
summer reproduced for hungry diners
and far above the hard bitten city
where bankers smashed through ceilings, down through floors,
we chewed on the bones of Poultry
with a hope our oil would not run dry.

.Jill Munro


Jill Munro has had her childhood interest in poetry re-ignited during Creative Writing modules of an Open University English Literature degree.  She has appeared on the Weakest Link and her uncle wrote Desperate Dan. She has two poems forthcoming in the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society’s Folio.




Dunstanburgh in sunlight

for Chris

Where does the walk start? you said.
At the harbour in Craster, I replied, unpeeling
the car-park’s sweaty sticker on to the windscreen.
Ah, you said, The Harbour Inn, Craster. You can’t
read maps, but an almanac of pubs
would see you right. Correcting you was a pity.

The castle has fallen apart
with far greater style than its original earl, commissioning it
as a sort of holiday home, could ever have
imagined. He started in 1313. Unlucky for some:
he was beheaded before he’d even had the chance
to distribute invites.

It greets its visitors with a lower jaw,
a set of badly-sculpted teeth more spectacular
than you’d find on an X-ray
at a Whitby convention. It’s like half a half-smile
resting, insouciant, I’d say,
on well-heathered stretch of gum:

you can almost sense the missing upper lip.
And yes it was hot, despite the clouds:
even the soft waft of the sea-air was warm.
The golfers scratched their scalps but kept their hats
in case of cancer. And there was you,
a mirage as ever, smiling wryly

over the dunes beyond the ruin, your palm
heating in mine, the words
like camera-shutters – occasional, sudden, particular –
as we walked through the sun-stretched dunes,
six miles to the start, our heartbeats
measured implausibly on your pedometer.

Some think you don’t catch a snifter
of sunshine up here, not a glimpse of it, no:
which is why we could stroll, the day steaming
like a fish-kettle, from harbour-cobbles
to harbour-cobbles. Fine by us.
Our sky is always secretly on fire.


Bill Greenwell

Bill was New Statesman’s weekly satirical poet from 1994 to 2002. His Impossible Objects (2006) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection. His second collection, Ringers, was published in 2011. Both are published by Cinnamon.



among the production lines of dappled summer, Dragon
I look up through lampshade leaves
and bulb green apples to become a dreamer, one
who begins by asking why a tree-scar is painted blue;
one severing ringed by a healing, blessed with moss.

I see more, on another tree, and another beyond;
waist-height eyes unblinking, figuring, content
with silence, with nothing more happening
than the sway of grasses
and the scatty plays of gnats.

Dragon’s trees morph into beautiful monsters
with belly-button eyes and armpit mistletoe.
It’s a blue trail to follow; a zig-zag
across the rows until I’m snagged
by one that’s black. Deliberately burned? A curse?
Why do wanderings always end like this for me?


Graham Burchell

Graham Burchell has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. His collection Vermeer’s Corner was published by Foothills Publishing in the United States in 2008. His latest collection, The Chongololo Club is published by Pindrop Press.



Sundown by the Abattoir

We are falling down, it’s summer; we are falling through time
worn thin. Summer is wasted, is pale and screwed up
in the clouds above our childhood town
and our dizzy heads.

Nobody trusts a blue sky.
I am too good to be true and you are too good to be true.
(Last night I dreamt I fell in love all over again
and when he kissed me I woke with a start.)

I feel there is nothing more intact than your mind.
Mine is lost. Things up there are loose.
I walked down by the abattoir with the kids-
I said, kids, this is where they kill the cows and lambs

and chop them into meat, mince.
One didn’t believe me and the other didn’t care.
The sun was sagging in the sky,
we held hands to cross the roads.

They’ve dismantled the phone box by the abattoir
on Park Lane, the one I used to ring you on with stolen
20 p coins, your mother’s house just around the corner,
making sure she wasn’t home

when sometimes you just hung on the line.
The sadness was exquisite, like a razor nick brought to your mouth.
You would lie in bed, half-asleep, drowning in it.
I don’t know why I needed you, I never knew.

I worked early mornings at the abattoir one winter,
its stainless steel chambers, the meat hanging-
the boys and girls who would skin you alive for a twenty.
I never let anyone make me cry. You’d have been proud of me.

The sun’s going down now darling- there’s a rare pink sky;
I have just read your email
about the Indian boy you got drunk, about buying Scandinavian furniture
and how you’d like to be there for me now.

I have your number programmed into my phone,
just in case anything bad happens. The sun is going down,
in this beaten, pitiless sky. You console me; I need you to know
the dark that rushes in after the dusk has a hold on me.

.First published in Hearing Voices

Melissa Lee-Houghton

Melissa Lee-Houghton is a poet & writer of short fiction and is based in North West England. Her first collection of poems, A Body Made of You was published by Penned in the Margins (April 2011). Her new collection, Beautiful Girls is forthcoming.



Darling street



as I walk east
down Darling Street
a full moon swells
as day fades

long-gone seas
leave traces
across its gleaming sphere
The Sea of …
memory fails me

names drift
like mist dispersing
more elusive
as each day fades

yet in the peace
this Summer evening
as I stroll east
it comes to me

Leigh Spiers

Leigh Spiers, after decades of working for hospital patients, then museum and gallery visitors, is devoting most of her time to art, literature and the increasing number of children to whom she is related.



Landscape: Birchfields

This is a garden at peace with itself, perennial
for generations of children and labradors
and wise owners called Wendy and Bill,
who let its grasses romp with crêches of daisies
and honeysuckle climb the apple trees.
What is wild restores the status quo
brings childhood scampering from long ago.

The old brick house is mellow and warm
as an elderly nurse. There are patterns of slanting shade
and windows are open. Cream roses frame
the panama-hatted back view of Ted
in his blue shirt, leaning on weathered wood
of the picnic table, writing in concentration.
Wendy scribbles, in half-lotus position.

A bicycle leans, pressing the ivy hedge.
Jeanne writes, perched on the lower swing.
A bosom of pink roses blouses the edge
of the philadelphus wall, and a birch is drooping
affected by drought, beyond. Blackbirds sing
and the air is a still-room of summer perfumes.
On the studio step, Frances considers poems.

There are dog bowls, and planted patches of camomile
grass in the lawn, where rugs and cushions and Gay
lie, she on her stomach propping a thoughtful
cheek while her biro catches the odd ray
of light. The herbaceous border’s bright and cottagey –
poppies, campanulas, ox-eye daisies,
and most of the pansies have benevolent faces.

.First published in The Frogmore Papers

Pat Buik

Pat Buik has had many poems published in a wide variety of magazines including The London MagazineStand, Acumen and Other Poetry.

Cora Greenhill featured poet

Cora greenhill

A Hum

A colony has been moved from the loft
this morning, the rafters scraped clear
of their stash of sticky gold.

Brick-sized ingots drip into buckets,
bowls overflow. The girl who cleans knows
honey’s royal role in winter remedies

and how it keeps you young. Her grandma’s
skin is soft as a baby’s at eighty, she says.
Today, she’s straining and storing the harvest

for the bankers who bought the house
with the honey in it. They know nothing about it,
she says. Just sniff at the mess.

They know even less about her, the help,
and the man who’s followed her from Waterford,
erected a tent in their orchard.

How she trickles downstairs, slides into night,
belly brimming amber, trembling
to be touched, to be tasted.

How the tent walls billow,
how the orchard is flooded with light,
and the lovers are humming somewhere

outside of themselves, without names,
or addresses, on sweet rooty earth, where air
smells of honey musk, the heather in bloom.

By the end of the week, jars are sealed,
shelves stacked, tables scrubbed –
the kitchen reeks of Vim.

She is replete, still perfumed by him.
The bankers pay her to leave.


Cora Greenhill grew up in rural Ulster, mostly outdoors, escaping the turbulence of family life. She has lived in The Peak District for nearly 30 years. She studied literature at Warwick University, most memorably with tutor Germaine Greer, a lifelong inspiration. She’s had a long and varied teaching career, the high point of which came early, at The University of Nigeria just after the Biafran War.

Cora’s latest collection, Far From Kind is published by Pindrop Press. She self-published two collections and The Point of Waking came out with Oversteps Books in 2013. She hosts Writers in The Bath, the premier poetry reading venue in Sheffield!

Marija Smits -Gibbous

Gibbous moon (with added pencil)


Gibbous moon, shape of my pre-menstrual belly,
all bloated flesh and tenderness;
fat swelling surrounded by stars.

Gibbous moon, unfathomable globe
like my post-menstrual belly;
rathe, expectant, not-quite fecund.

Gibbous — tender, fretful, pendulous phase.
Waxing, waning, I forget.


Marija Smits Marija Smits is the pen name of Dr Teika Bellamy, a mother-of-two, ex-scientist and editor whose art and writing has appeared in a variety of publications. When she’s not busy with her children or running the indie press, Mother’s Milk Books, she likes to draw, paint and, of course, write. She is continually delighted by the fact that Teika means ‘fairy tale story’ in Latvian. Her  website

Mother’s Milk Books








First Published in Orbis 169

HiddenThe Hidden Word of Poetry by Adam Wyeth. 

147pp, Salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

Salmon Poetry

Adam Wyeth’s book, The Hidden World of Poetry, comprising sixteen accessible but detailed essays, aims to showcase Ireland’s leading contemporary poetry, serve as a primer to analyse poems in depth, and to explore Celtic mythology’s exciting and popular heroes, gods and folktales.

The basic structure of each chapter is consistent: the poem under consideration is set opposite an ink painting by Miriam Logan with a quotation relating to myth from a range of writers as diverse as William Blake and Björk. Each quotation in itself is worthy of reflection. A brief biography of the poet, and a close analysis of the poem follows.

Each of the essays vary slightly in length with those on Borders by Eiléan Ni Chuillenáin, and Paul Muldoon’s A Mayfly comprising a longer analysis suggesting many alternative interpretations of some sections of the poem. For instance, Borders as a definition is considered as, ‘… the border of driving across the republic to Northern Ireland… the metaphysical border of life and death, … the crossing from one world to another…’ (p.117), and later, ‘… border is suggested in the image of the speaker becoming ‘the witch’, … historically, independent women living on the borders of society were often portrayed as witches.’ Some interpretations, although providing detailed analysis, seem a little tenuous, ‘borders of a page… bordered with stanzas, line-breaks and end-rhyme.’; ‘…borders also form a decorative ‘band’ around the edge of something – as rhyme does.’ (p.119).

I enjoyed in particular the tight analysis of form and content, and the references to musicality and sound in the essays generally. Discussing Mary O’Malley’s poem Bean Sidhe, Wyeth comments, “The sound-echoes sensuality is deepened through the physical end-rhymes that move down the poem, such as, ‘lips/hips’, ‘oh/grow’, ‘dry/eyes’.”  Enlightening.

It was interesting to see recurring concerns in Irish poetry over time. Westering Home, by Bernard O’Donoghue, Paul Durcan’s, The Mayo Accent, and The Old Ways by Desmond O’Grady, focused on an ongoing quest for Ireland as home; while goddesses, women, sex and fertility were  major concerns in: Badb by Maurice O’Riordan which references the Irish shape-shifting goddess who appears as a crow or raven; Leanne O’Sullivan’s Promise exploring the mythology surrounding the Hag of Beara, and ideas of metamorphosis focusing on the transformative power of love; Paula Meehan’s Well at which ‘… a sex spell / cast by the spirit who guards the source’ occurs; and the aptly entitled, Making of an Irish Goddess by Eavan Boland in which the female body becomes the embodiment of Ireland.

Wyeth’s ability to produce each short essay brim full of analysis and packed with information about Irish myth and legend is inspiring. I can’t fault the book save to wonder whether the biographies of each poet should occur at the end of the book rather than interrupting the flow from poem to analysis, although Wyeth does address this point, ‘Putting the poet into context also helps unravel some of its hidden world.’ (p. 116)

I am left then with only admiration and one suggestion for the reader that you see this book not as one to read cover to cover but as an appetizer for further study.

Jess Mookherjee featured poet




*Temeslos is Celtic name for the River Thames, the Latin is Tameses and in Sanskrit, Tamas meaning Dark Water

Hard water, you curl soft lapping
slaps against your green tide-marked chest.
Roman nose, flared, you turn cheek bones,

your receding hair-line to the sea, out to Tilbury,
you knew what the rush of wind would bring.
your knotted brows saw the tea-clipper off

with sea shanties and rum. Fish swam in your cataract
eyes and your cracked breast.
Boatmen barged stones on your back. You forget

once you were the tideway,
the dark man, the slither – pushing into yourself,
into a land denned by banks, planks, turnpikes and sewers.

Your tide turns to the sound of bells, gulls,
applause and mobile phone ring tones.
You still have a dirty tongue and that strong-man swell.


The Changing

At night she dives into wet corridors,
seeps from blankets,
slathers across carpet, lost in the heft;
She’s flatfish slapping down stairs
leaving trails of silver moon-strike.
In night that tastes of felt, she gulps air,
chokes on magnolia walls. Her eyes bulge,
sight blurs. Her shrunken foils
fight her skin. She lungfish flaps
to the conservatory, lumbers
past cracked pots, one eyed broken dolls,
thrashes to the garden pond,
aching with stars, and bellyflops
into a dimpled velvet
where she reconstitutes in ripples
and, at last, she is night swimming,
free of her fins
in the swell of stars, arms stretched in a
yearning dance of encore.




Jessica Mookherjee is Bengali by heritage and was brought up in South Wales. after living in London for over twenty years – she now lives in Tunbridge Wells. She has a background in Biological Anthropology and public health research. She was shortlisted for the Fairacre first pamphlet competition in 2016. Jess’s first poem published was by Agenda in 2015. Her work has since been published regularly and widely in publications such as The Interpreter’s House, Brittle Star, Tears in the Fence among many others. Her reviews of poetry can be found in Ink,Sweat and Tears and the High Window. Her pamphlet – The Swell is to be published by Telltale in the Autumn and she is currently working on her first full collection.

Mara Bergman, Robin Houghton, Abegail Morley and Jeremy Page

Great evening of readings at the Pitcher and Piano (very nice venue)… thank you to my lovely guest readers and my wonderful editor Jane Commane who made my launch go brilliantly. Oh and thanks to all the people who came…





That Saturday I lay in bed, head throbbing,
throat on fire, my stepdad chose it
from the library, a biography

about three sisters who lived somewhere
in England. I loved to read
how they loved to write, I wanted to be

a sister like that. If it had been another day,
if I’d not had another throbbing throat…
I’m searching for it now, remembering

how I lay there turning pages
as the pain began to ease, releasing me
into winter on some windy heath.

Mara Bergman


River Ouse, Rodmell, 1941

The first she prises out, clenched in bindweed:
reluctance adds to its appeal.

And there: not so large as to burst pockets,
several flints conspire

their surfaces glass-perfect, all the better
to slip in without fuss.

From mud, she frees a stump of the fat chalk Down
walked each day, as worn

as the worsted that parcels up her reedy body
ready for anchoring.

Pebbles lean into her, take us they say, take us,
the floods are coming

but like Noah she must leave some behind,
the unbelievers.

Robin Houghton



Nesting in the wardrobe

She takes her child-small fists from her pockets, shakes them
till her fingers tingle at the pads, shelters air in her palms
as if it were a white-blue egg that might just wake.

Her time ticks in shameful hours – cedared, Yardley-soaped,
she hides at the back behind black dresses, chiffon blouses,
knee-high boots until the lolling egg rolls from her grasp, blue-white,

slips from her fingertips and she watches it (as if in slow motion)
collide with the edge of the wardrobe door. Skull first,
struck like plate glass, she’s stuck in no man’s land

with only startled air and centimetres between them.
Her voice, huddled in her throat, lets out only the slightest sound,
amniotic fluid flows in rivulets down her wrists, spills like silk.

Abegail Morley


Close Season

They say it smells of dead holidays.
I say it always did. And out of season
was never the time to connect anything
with anything here, where you can only
wonder at the sea in all the shades
of grey on Richter’s palette, wonder
where the ice-cream vendors go
and if the deckchair man can really
hibernate in his cave beneath the cliff,
with his chairs, his memories of summer.

On the pier a salt breeze ruffles
a scrap of gaudy poster, and offshore,
somewhere close, a ship’s bell tolls
for something gone, for some thing.

Jeremy Page




Pamphlet chat 3 with Sarah Barnsley

My third pamphlet chat is with Sarah Barnsley published by Telltale Press. I had the pleasure of reading with her recently in Lewes…

SJB-May-2015-300x219How did you put the pamphlet together?

The Fire Station began life as a larger collection, drawing together two strands I developed over several years – one, a lyrical kind of poetry, focussed on the surreal and the sublime; the other, a grittier, narrative kind of poetry, focussed on growing up in the Midlands in the 70s and 80s in sight of the fire stations where my dad was based.
I resisted the second strand for a good while until I found a way of doing it that wasn’t descriptive or self-indulgent.

When it came to arranging The Fire Station, it was quite a straightforward exercise: the first part comprises the narrative poems (characterised by images of fire, cars, swearing, violence); the second part comprises the lyrical poems (characterised by images of water, boats, love, escapes). For me they tell a story of two kinds of fire stations, the ‘real’ and the symbolic – the physical fire stations of my upbringing and the psychological fire stations that a person might develop as a means of managing emotional fire.

Were you approached by Telltale and what was the process?

I was joint runner-up in the Poetry School/Pighog pamphlet competition in 2014. Following this, co-founders Robin Houghton and Peter Kenny wrote to me about possibly joining Telltale. Work and life got in the way a little, but once I had had time to think through the invitation I accepted it with a good deal of excitement – not just the opportunity to get The Fire Station published, but also the chance to be really involved in a press innovating a democratic model of collective membership.

Since becoming a member it took less than six months to get The Fire Station out into the world (it could have been sooner, but we decided that summer was not a good time to launch). Throughout the members of the collective were incredibly supportive, meeting with me, promoting the work, giving me a slot on the summer Telltale & Friends event and so on. Robin Houghton did exceptional work with the production – and tolerated my compulsive pedantry with good humour! The Fire Station was published in September 2015 and launched officially launched at Goldsmiths, where I work, in the November.

How did it feel when you first saw your publication?cover-image-FireStation2

At first, I was terrified to look at it in case there was a mistake that had slipped through! But once I dared, I was very pleased with it – cover, print quality, the size and texture of it. I already felt good about the selection as I had lived with the poems and their overarching story for so long, although I did omit a number of poems that had been in the Poetry Society/Pighog competition version in order to fit in with the Telltale ‘calling card’ pamphlet concept – they can always appear in a wider collection. The other thing I felt was massive relief – that it was finally out, and I could get on with writing something else without this project tugging at me to get published.

What’s it like to be part of a collective?

Every bit the democratic venture I had hoped and great fun too, even if I constantly feel as if I could do more. Robin Houghton, Peter Kenny, Siegfried Baber and Jess Mookherjee (our newest member) are all poets with whom I am very proud to be associated, each very different and distinctive in terms of poetic voice, and all clearly going places – in addition to Telltale pamphlets, members are published regularly in the magazines and our pamphlets have been reviewed fairly widely.

In terms of mechanics, the principle is that we share out jobs, from scouting for new poets, writing blog posts, arranging readings, typesetting and so on, and trying to make apt use of the different talents and skills that members bring; for example, I am particularly interested in reading new voices and the editorial process, so I’ve put a fair bit of time into that. It must be said that Robin and Peter, as co-founders, have done an incredible amount of work to get this all going, so hats off to them – and long may the collective thrive.


Sarah Barnsley was shortlisted for an Eric Gregory Award (2004) and the Bridport Prize (2010), she was joint runner-up in the Poetry School/Pighog Pamphlet Competition (2014). Her poems have appeared in Envoi, The Frogmore Papers, Magma, Mslexia, Obsessed with Pipework, Raindog, The Stinging Fly and anthologies by the Cinnamon Press and The Shuffle. Her debut pamphlet, The Fire Station, was published in September 2015 by Telltale Press.

Cross Wires

I do not trust telegraph poles.

It’s the way they stand stiff
in bowler hats

of spars and starlings,
twisting their slick Jack

pine canes hard into
the railway embankment.

The old duffers.
They have this air,

check freight against
pocket watches of knots,

frown chiselled hieroglyphics
few can decode.

Nothing is said to the fence
tiptoeing behind

like a child searching
for cereal.

Not a word to the signal box,
shut up as if it knows

what’s good for it,
nor to the abandoned

bicycle slung over the ridge
like spectacles

ripped from a face.
Cables seething sideways

into maroon flame insulators,
they are furious inside.

They burn with talk.

from Sarah Barnsley, The Fire Station, (Telltale Press, 2015); first published in Envoi 158