The results of the Frogmore Poetry Prize for 2017, sponsored by the Frogmore Foundation and adjudicated by Maggie Butt:
The Frogmore Poetry Prize for 2017 is awarded to Emily Wills of Dursley, Gloucestershire for the poem HER LABOUR’S FRUITS. She receives the sum of two hundred and fifty guineas and a two-year subscription to The Frogmore Papers.
The first runner-up is Vaughan Pilikian of London for the poem MAY IT BE YOU. He receives the sum of seventy-five guineas and a year’s subscription to The Frogmore Papers.
The joint second runners-up are Nicola Daly of Waverton, Chester for the poem THINGS I TELL MY UNBORN and Emily Wills for the poem SURFER. They each receive the sum of twenty-five guineas and a year’s subscription to The Frogmore Papers.
Other poems shortlisted were:
HOLLOWED by Sarah Doyle
AS TREES WALKING by Alan Dunnett
GIRL by Jonathan Edwards
OFFCOMER by Katie Hale
TIMEPIECE by Anthony Head
WHAT LOVE FEELS LIKE TO A CHILD REMEMBERED by Sarah Wallis
GUNFIRE IN THE WOODS by Mary Williams
These poems are all published in number 90 of The Frogmore Papers in September 2017.
I confess to being a serial competition-enterer. I seldom win them, and it’s easy to see why when the quality of entries is so high. I’ve thought a lot about what makes a winning competition poem, and I don’t think my favourite poems in the world would necessarily have won competitions. A competition winner is a particular kind of poem, one which leaps out of the pile of 390, and says, ‘look at me, remember me, read me again and again.’
Judging the Frogmore Prize, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I knew I had to be open to be surprised – perhaps by an old subject in a new form (‘old wine in new bottles’ as Angela Carter called it) or something which conjures the world in a fresh way, with a resonance beyond the life of the poet. I was aware of how much hope is invested in each submission.
There were many excellent poems among the entries. I was dazzled by the range of subject matter, from Patagonian rock painting to Batik tablecloths. Poets drew inspiration from science, travel, art, music, history and from their own observations and lives. The most popular subjects were Syria, the Manchester bombing, migrants, poetry, ageing, birds, animals, flowers, loss, Trump and Brexit. There were poems whose subject was fascinating, or which took interesting risks with form, or included some magical images, but had minor imperfections, or didn’t give me anything more with a second reading.
I reluctantly cut down to a longlist of 54 and would have liked to give a prize to all of them. From there it became even more difficult. I read them all aloud, and managed to cut down to 20, with four clear favourites. All the shortlisted poems are exceptional, and the rest came very, very close.
The Prize winner, ‘Her Labour’s Fruits’ by Emily Wills, leapt out at me from the first reading. The first line the buttery cool of milk just on the turn, held promise which was fulfilled over and over again with sensual images, tastes and colours. I was immersed and then led into the slow reveal of the viewpoint of the speaker, the accomplished way the poet trusts the reader to complete the story.
The second prize goes to ‘May it be you’, by Vaughan Pilikian, a 15-line, single sentence of just 48 words, which uses vivid imagery fluted/in plainsong,/ shuttled in the blood, musical repetition and religious allusions to create a multi-faceted and jewel-like love poem. Read it to someone you love!
The third prize is shared between two very different poems.
‘Things I Tell My Unborn,’ by Nicola Daly, opens with a surprise, Always carry a piece of bat bone in your pocket and builds into a rich cultural picture of the family which will welcome this child, with a universal wish to finish.
‘Surfer,’ by Emily Wills, is original in tone, in its assured voice, and in the form, which looks and feels like waves crashing in after each other. The rhythms and composite words, the language and broken syntax are all alive with the brief magnificence of the mad charioteer.