After a slightly fallow patch in terms of this blog, it feels good to return to it, and to start with a few words about the Red Shed’s awards ceremony, which took place yesterday at the Mocca Moocha cafe in Wakefield.
This year’s judge, John Foggin, opened the event with a reading of his own work: a range of powerful poems that grab you in that visceral way John’s poems do, and make sure you sit up and pay attention. John’s own blog, The Great Fogginzo’s Cobweb, is a fantastic example of how a blog should really be done, so follow the link. Helpfully, he has put the winning poems on there for people to read, but he’s also given a few pointers in terms of what he looks for when judging, something I’ve found more than helpful. It’s good to be reminded about the things you thought you knew!
What was good about the Red Shed’s prize giving event was that the winning and commended poems all held their own. This is testimony to the quality of the entries, and the fact that the competition continues to go from strength to strength.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Sarah Wimbush, whose poem ‘Things My Mother Taught Me’, won first prize. As the poems were read out, we were constantly nodding to each other and whispering ‘That’s a great poem’ or ‘That’s a good last line’. So many turns of phrase stood out that I found myself scribbling them down in my notebook for future reference.
The competition organiser, another John, this time John Irving Clarke, works hard to ensure that Wakefield is, in terms of the spoken work, constantly on the map. This year he produced a pamphlet containing the winning and short listed poems, which was given away free at the event. I think that says a lot about the spirit of the competition. John himself has recently launched a full collection, Listening to Owls, which is full of ‘quality moments’ (a term the Red Shed Poetry Competition has coined for the hits that good poems deliver). Take this stanza, from his poem, ‘Three Little Birds’:
It was a hair-raising experience in itself
smuggling the girl who became my wife
into my psychedelic bedroom
feeling around for where it was really at
with Van der Graf Generator
playing on repeat.
In my endorsement for Listening to Owls, I said John’s work deals with ‘the subtle resonance of each fleeting moment’, which is surely one of the reasons we read and write poetry. We want to capture, relive and perhaps re-evaluate those points in our lives that won’t or can’t be forgotten. All this is subtly done in John’s work, yet somehow he also manages to find time to facilitate so many other people’s work in the Wakefield area and beyond. Hats off to you John!
Listening to Owls is available from Currock Press.