William Bedford wins the Roundel Poetry Competition

WilliamThe winners of the Roundel Poetry Competition were announced last night at a prize-giving ceremony in Tonbridge. As the judge I knew the results a few weeks ago, but was sworn to secrecy and am so glad I can shout them from my website. I was delighted by the entries and there was a very strong group of shortlisted poets. William Bedford took first place with his poem Then, Geraldine Paine’s The Flint Waller was placed second and John Arnold’s A Significant Missed Rendezvous was placed third.


for Alison Brackenbury
(North Lincolnshire: 1959-1963)

I had to kill them when it was time to go,
take my leave and catch the stopping train.
Rhode Island Reds they were,
kept for the eggs and the kitchen table.
We tarred the wounds of the flock’s victim,
locked the hutch at night with twined wire.
If we left the gate open, two followed us
up the garden. One dared the kitchen,
sitting for a photograph on my shoulder.
I had to kill them when it was time to leave.
The one sitting on my knee was the tamest,
used to pecking seed from warm hands.
She seemed surprised, finding no seed,
not worrying I was going to break her neck.
My father had to fetch the farmer. I cried.
All twelve were gone in a heaven’s blink,
a grubby fiver, then biscuits and a cup of tea.
We sold them for the table. Our own stood empty.
Too poor a food for us in pheasant season.


fen-dancing2William Bedford’s new collection begins with poems about his father’s 1920s childhood in a remote farming community in Lincolnshire, and ends with the Manhattan skyline and the literary world of Greenwich Village.

Red Squirrel Press, £7.99 Paperback

William joined the Editorial Board of Poetry Salzburg Review in 2007. He was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Oxford Brookes University 2008 – 2011. He became a full-time novelist and children’s writer in 1984 and received an Arts Council Major Bursary for Poetry in 1978, Society of Authors Award in 1993, Yorkshire and Humberside Arts Award in 1993, Yorkshire Arts Award in 2000 for the publication of The Redlit Boys and a Royal Literary Fund Award in 2007. His first novel, Happiland, was runner-up for the 1990 Guardian Fiction Prize. Several of his short stories were broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Morning Story. “Orchards” appeared in the anthology God gives nuts to those who have no teeth (Heinemann, l990) and “Graceland” appeared in the anthology The Daily Telegraph Book of Contemporary Short Stories (Headline, 1995). In 1979 BBC Radio Sheffield broadcast his six-part musical drama The Man Who Invented Words, and in 2003 BBC Radio 4 broadcast his drama The Piano Player. His Collecting Bottle Tops: Selected Poetry 1960-2008 was published in 2009. His selected short stories and non-fiction – None of the Cadillacs Was Pink – was also published in 2009.

Full details can be found on the Roundel website.

2 thoughts on “William Bedford wins the Roundel Poetry Competition”

  1. That is a very strong, moving poem that took me back to my childhood and our own chickens. I find the repeat line very effective and the final line such an eye-opening surprise. I particularly like the contrast between the warmth of the relationship with the birds, the shock of their speedy death and then the matter of fact “biscuits and a cup of tea”. Thanks for sharing this poem and congratulations to William.

  2. Congratulations William! Life & death – the eternal themes. And the poem makes me think of the animal’s sacrifice, and the importance of respecting that sacrifice. Which the speaker did – he cried at the shock of it. And I almost cried too. A prize winning poem indeed. Well judged Abi. Thank you for posting.

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