The Frogmore Poetry Prize Winners 2004

Adjudicators Report
and winning entries


This has been a tough gig – tougher than I’d expected. The standard of poems was very high, so my first ‘sift’ involved two piles – ‘possible’ and ‘not possible’. It became apparent very quickly that my ‘possible’ pile was growing steadily. I gnawed my nails and sifted again. Weeding was painful; I was aware of discounting really promising and interesting work sometimes because of a weak last line, or a predictable image buried among fresher writing, or simply because I’d already ‘long-listed’ several poems about death, or weather, or whatever. One or two really stunning poems were discounted because they were over 40 lines – one in particular would have been a winner if it hadn’t disobeyed the rules. I’m aware that many of the poems I discounted were of publishable standard, but I hardened my heart and turned my attention to those poems which had survived the cull.

The poem which eventually won, ‘Suntrap’ (Howard Wright); snared me from the first reading. It’s a short poem – only 8 lines in length – but the precision of the language, the freshness of the imagery – especially ‘The buzz of a live wire in an electric flower’ – resonated with such conviction that I felt fully part of the poem’s landscape. ‘Murder’ (Pat Borthwick) with its unsettlingly flat tone, its odd juxtaposition of ‘adult’ and ‘childish’ language haunted and intrigued me. ‘That song’ (Graham Clifford), which was second runner-up uses wonderfully ‘ordinary’ concrete imagery to build the structure of a poem that travels a great distance – it demonstrates how restraint can work powerfully, how the reader can share the most profound emotions if left sufficient ‘space’ by the poet.

The seven other shortlisted poems (published below) have much to recommend them – and I could happily have selected another ten to recommend to you.

Catherine Smith
August 2004

The winner (by Howard Wrightl), runners-up(by Pat Borthwick and Graham Clifford) and shortlisted poems appear below

The winner, and runners-up
SUNTRAP (Howard Wright)
MURDER (Pat Borthwick)
THAT SONG (Graham Clifford)

Shortlisted entries
CREATION( Kim Lasky)
NIGHT VISITS (Pauline Rowe)
HOLY NIGHT (Maria Jastrzebska)
after Antonello da Messina (Alex Smith)
IF YOU DON'T LOOK (Michael Swan)
SOUVENIR (Pat Borthwick)