The Frogmore Poetry Prize Winners 2012

Adjudicators Report
and winning entries


It was with curiosity and delight that I received a box crammed full of three hundred and sixty five poems. I read each carefully and made an initial selection. The ‘yes’ pile grew to more than forty, the ‘maybe’ pile was triple that, so I read both groups of poems aloud to check music, breath and lineation and gradually, over the next few weeks, whittled them down.

Poetry is a concentrated form and the poems I chose initially were those which demanded several readings and which took me deeper in with energy and technical assurance.

My final choice was made between fourteen very fine poems. Rather like the process of falling in love three suitors hove into view bearing different gifts.

‘Island’, the fabulous winning poem, by Emily Wills, pulls the idea of radio’s Desert Island Discs into the domestic realm. It has an intimate stream of consciousness, an easy familiarity with the specifics of Jeff Buckley and Dido that terrible angel of a voice. The poem moves sure-footedly through its metaphor which surely is about love. It considers gratitude and leaves us for a luxury with the washing on the line and the clematis massed pink, unreachable in the still-bare trees.

Second prize went to ‘The Curative Harp’ by Virginia Astley. This wonderful poem tells a story about an ornate harp and its owner, Tito, who sings to it for its sympathetic resonance. The poem is full of gorgeous detail and careful reference, the golden dust on the harp strings, for example, is biblical. The final stanza tells us by a liver-spotted hand that his last notes refers poignantly both to the music and to his approaching death.

The third prize poem, ‘Yellow Yolks’, by Melinda Lovell, simply but beautifully describes a grandfather who has not been to war showing his grandson how to cook an omelette. The poem is full of simple detail from the farmer’s mad wife to the array of cooking knives.

‘Glory be to these’ by Jo Bell movingly lists extraordinary men and women, including My mother at Dave Goucher’s sixtieth. ‘Moonrise’ by John Whitworth, in full and glorious rhyme, puts us into the Fiefdom of the Moth with Stalwart Simon and Clever Keith. ‘The Joy of Chickens’ by Dorothy Fryd is muscularly and deliciously odd the chicken won’t hold still/ he wants/to put his legs inside your mouth// and push against your membranes. ‘A Photo of you in Ghent’, by Derek Sellen, movingly describes his friend Elaine Sweeney in Ghent and uses the history of the city to consider individual courage and the rustle of revolution. Howard Wright’s poem, ‘Rust’, captures a family photo at Christmas. The poem is a study of passing time encapsulated in the rusting caps of Advocaat and Babycham in the great aunt’s larder. ‘Her story’, by Abegail Morley, begins lyrically in the womb She curls in the curve/ of the crescent moon. In three sections the poem moves through a life, with repetitions making echoes that build and shift.

Many congratulations to all the winning poets and thanks to all the poets who entered. It was a privilege to read your poems.

Janet Sutherland
July 2012


The winner, and runners-up
ISLAND (Emily Wills)
THE CURATIVE HARP (Virginia Astley)
arrow YELLOW YOLKS (Melinda Lovell)

Shortlisted entries
MOONRISE (John Whitworth)
RUST (Howard Wright)
HER STORY (Abegail Morley)