First of all we would like to say thank you once again to everyone who entered the Victorina Press Vo(i)ces Literary Contest 2022.
We received a wonderful variety of entries from countries all around the world, and it was a pleasure to read each and every one of your poems. After much deliberation and several meetings, our four judges finally agreed on their shortlist of twelve and the three winning poems.
Huge congratulations to our winners and everyone else who made it onto the list.
Keep your eyes peeled for the release date of our Vo(i)ces 2023 Contest.
Poetry Contest Winners 2022
Joint 1st Prize – Overgrown by Sarah Leavesley
Joint 1st Prize – The First of November by Virginia Ramos
3rd Prize – Sussex by Mark Totterdell
- The Cygnet by Lee Nash – Special Mention
- Death Came Twice by Caroline Vaughan – Commended
- Choosing Mother’s Last Flowers by Marina Sanchez – Commended
- Funeral Plan by David Bleiman – Commended
- For Winter by Sarah Leavesley – Commended
- Three Postcards From Havana by Mandy MacDonald – Special Mention
- Instructions for My Death by Keith Jarrett – Commended
- Perhaps Death Means Coming Back to Your Mother by Mabel Encinas – Commended
- Uncle Pedro by Lester Gomez – Commended
Judges' Report by Amanda Huggins on behalf of the jury
First of all, I would like to commend each and every poet who entered the Victorina Press Vo(i)ces award this year – thank you for making that leap of faith and for trusting us with your work. I know I speak for all the jury when I say that it has been a great pleasure and a privilege to read and discuss your poetry.
Before I talk about this year’s winning and commended poems, I’d like to share my thoughts about the judging process again.
It always feels like a daunting challenge when I begin the first read-through for an award – I’m setting out on a quest to find poems containing indefinable magic! From a personal perspective, I need to feel the poet is communicating with me rather talking to themselves. Beautiful language and arresting imagery are meaningless if there are no concrete ideas and no clear message. The best poetry is never overcrowded, the words are reduced to an essential essence that dances to a unique rhythm. There needs to be a confident voice, and even if that voice is a delicate one, it needs to have surety. But winning poems need more than deft technique, originality and a distinct message. They have to surprise, resonate, demand re-reading, touch the soul and linger in the mind.
The poems which the jury finally chose did all of these things, and although the judges didn’t always see eye to eye on a few of the finer details, by the time we concluded our third meeting we were in total agreement as to the winners.
The contest had a broad and universal theme this year: ‘Life, Death and Beyond’, and this encompassing remit was widely interpreted by the participating poets. Death and grief were undoubtedly the most common topics covered, but these subjects were often explored from new perspectives which kept the poems feeling fresh and relevant. We were treated to lush, evocative memories; to humour and hope; to soaring and plummeting emotions; to poems examining the loss of parents, children and lovers; poems looking back at lives well-lived; poems appraising relationships with mothers, nature and spirituality.
Our eventual shortlist was very strong, and we had a hard task whittling these twelve commended poems down to three. In the end, the judges agreed that the two winning poems, ‘Overgrown’ and ‘The First of November’, were impossible to choose between.
The Spanish-speaking members of the jury were particularly impressed by the breathtaking musicality of ‘The First of November’ by Virginia Ramos, and I personally loved the evocative imagery in the second half of the poem:
‘photographs//on the pages//of albums//with holes that let in//the air of my town//colour of ancient brushes//the river among the reed beds//takes fog music//to and fro//at dawn on the first//of November‘.
‘las fotos//de las hojas//de los álbumes//con agujeros que dejan pasar//el aire de mi pueblo//color de pinceles milenarios//el rio entre los juncales//trae y lleva música//de niebla//al amanecer del primero//de noviembre‘.
’Overgrown’ by Sarah Leavesley (which moved one member of the jury to tears) is another beautifully constructed poem; a series of poignant images evoking the vision of a verdant garden. This is an enchanted place where nature’s abundance represents the tangled depths of the poet’s grief for a lost love, a garden where life carries on at full tilt even though the poet’s world has come to a standstill:
’Life keeps on beating, brambled//and bird-laden, bursting with berries.’
‘Blood moons blossom from knots//in the wood.’
The third poem chosen by the jury was ‘Sussex’ by Mark Totterdell. In this ravishing piece, the images tumble onto the page, almost falling over themselves:
‘a medley of orchids and pheasant’s eye, hound’s-tongue//and bugloss. The downs were the thighs of enormous//green women, and chubby grey mullet swam strongly//up-river like sperm to an egg and the lawn was//a room with a ceiling of stars’.
It is richly evocative, nostalgic without being sentimental, and the closing lines are perfect:
‘and we were so sure we had more years before than//behind us, and most of us did.’
The jury also decided to give a Special Mention to the original and haunting poem by Lee Nash, ‘The Cygnet’, which depicts the funeral of a child seen through the eyes of a church musician from an altogether different world, and the brief yet beautiful ‘Three Postcards From Havana’ by Mandy MacDonald, which manages to say so much in a handful of lines. Both of these poems could easily have made the top three, but hard decisions had to be made!
In conclusion, I’d like to thank Adam Feinstein, Maria Eugenia Bravo-Calderara and Bethany Rivers for being such insightful judges. It was a pleasure to work with them and a real treat to read and discuss all the poems entered into this year’s award. Thanks again to all the contestants for trusting us with your work – and congratulations to the winners and commended poets