The one that didn’t get away

8 Oct

Ken Evans.jpg

Ken Evans – 2016 Battered Moons Competition Winner

I am the wastepaper basket under the desk of a tired poetry competition judge and I’m full.

I’m waiting for the black bag to come again to release me from this heavy weight of 40% hope and 60% despair that has me brimming over. 

But this time it’s different, I can sense a poem being uncrumpled, flattened out and reconsidered.

It is, of course, the winning poem and I am glad to give back for once.

Daljit Nagra hasn’t got to where he’s got to without being a disarmingly honest and funny bloke.

As 2016 judge of the Battered Moons Prize he freely admits that poem fatigue caused him to slip the eventual winner into the also-ran pile.

Luckily for winner Ken Evans competition organiser, Cristina Newton had his poem amongst her favourites and re-acquainted Daljit with the work, a re-acquaintance that blossomed into a deep affection that eventually to moved the judge to tears.

Daljit still says he loves judging competitions, he just hopes that very few people enter because it makes his job easier.

A thousand entries for this year’s Battered Moons Prize put the pressure on both judge and organiser as they tasked themselves with reading every poem.

It’s little wonder that great poems can slip through the net.

What is a reasonable amount of time to give an entry before putting it aside?

Surely a minute’s reflection is only just this side of insulting given the effort that would have gone into producing the poem?

So working on that sixty seconds per poem assumption, we are looking at 17 hours judging each for Cristina and Daljit.

No breaks, no time for Radio 4 appearances or Flamenco rehearsals, just 17 hours of hopeful poems.

Quite a task.

Despite its moment of rejection Rebecca by Ken Evans was able to dream of Manderley again, eventually taking top spot from a very strong set of commended and runners-up poems.

The emotional drive of the poem set it apart, with the line ‘the easy acceptance of weight that isn’t there’ the pivot of a piece which ached with loss and despair.

Thousands of poems pour into thousands of competitions every year, few emerge battered from the waste basket to win.

Most are forgotten, poetic failures, I wonder if they were any good?

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