Revealed! The shortlist for The York Poetry Prize 2021
Thank you to everyone who entered the competition this year.
Organised by YorkMix, in association with York Literature Festival, this year’s competition has attracted a total of 515 poems from 192 poets. Our judge, Kim Moore, has now selected a final shortlist of 27 entries.
Poets are competing for a top prize of £500. The runner-up will receive £150, with the third-placed entry receiving £75, and a fourth prize of £50.
Prizes for the best international entry (£50) and the best entry from a York postcode (£50) will also be awarded.
Winners, Highly Commended and Commended poets will be informed of their success on or before August 9, and the results will appear here on YorkMix at the end of that week.
Here, in alphabetical order by title, are the opening lines from the shortlisted poems.
If you look at gravel and see only dull stones that won’t stay in the path you’ve made
for them; if you lament how they pop from shoe soles like tiddlywinks to flip onto
lawn and flowerbed or skip into the road to be stolen by tyres, you’re not looking close
I see you ǀ ǀ hold the secrets of myself
To my ancestor-grandmother Brigid
I see you ǀ walk the Wicklow Mountains ǀ wind at the hem
of your shawl ǀ its tassels blown alive ǀ its wool hazed
with wetting rain ǀ your feet bare ǀ heels granite hard
on those soft shades of green ǀ your hair stripped
the total surface area of your intestines
is about half the size of a badminton court
september 3rd 2005 ten past twelve period 4
I spew my guts on the school sports hall floor
This afternoon, my Mjölnir -wielding son
chased Luna around the back garden till she crashed face
first into the sycamore. As he kneeled in the grass
to check on his new friend, his face a crumpled moon,
Fifteen floors up she sits tight.
Can’t give what’s already spent.
The housing officer will soon
I’ll amble down to my shed
and see what Norman has to say.
Norman McCaig the poet, that is.
Like an animal she sniffs him, says how
she’s missed that newborn smell,
inhales his scent like a drug.
Skin on skin she holds her son close.
— is an absence
where we expected a presence
— is the cry of a hunting owl
that fails to disturb our dreams
Love makes your scalp itch / I know because I’ve combed / week after week / each strand of their lovely
heads / unloosened pony tails / tugged and pulled / from root to tip / to clean unplaited hanks / of
crawling lice / their unhatched eggs / the weapon of my choice / a metal close-toothed comb / that digs
We meant to leave behind us:
Mum’s piano no longer played,
the rocking chair the dog had
worn down, into the ground,
Grandma Lily’s china cabinet,
The Pleasure Gardens with the stream,
its foot-bridges lit on their flanks
by bits of green and orange marble,
the monkey puzzle tree a parasol.
Quantum Theory of Moss
The world’s slowest moving magic carpet,
knitting the years across the sodden ground.
A velvet pole star, frizzled, fallen, rootbound.
Under my bed smells of dust, of winter blankets.
The mattress bulges through the slats
above my head. Linda Ford’s dad is downstairs
telling Mum and Dad about us
stealing sweets from RS McColl’s and cake decorations
from the baker’s. Any minute now
spilt / split
her fridge hums a lullaby to limp lettuce
pale mince dreaming on dark shelves
as the smoked glass jug slips through wet fingers
she has just enough time to think oh
The Gentleman in the Black Velvet Waistcoat
On a scale of hedgehog to fox, how many things do you know, mole?
From a distance it looks like fabric snagged on the wire
When I think about you, I think about the creature in Kafka’s burrow
but closer up the brain still can’t make sense of it all:
The poets never talk about the money
Not the little money, the hundreds-money
that buys a fancy meal, that cheeky frock,
the special tree or bench for the back garden.
No, I’m talking about the BIG money, the three
or four zeroes money,
The Wounded Dear
(inspired by The Wounded Deer by Frida Kahlo)
Fresh from dreams
of running from hunters
i go down to the kitchen
nursing old wounds
it’s always the same
early morning when a mist has fallen
How did it go?
you asked when I came home.
We got a little stuck, I said. Stuck, I didn’t say,
like a Texaco oil rig got stuck drilling into a
shallow lake and then after a series of loud
pops the platform tilted and began to sink
This sacred and tangled forest
There were shadows on both lungs, bronchioles leafing out of season.
Hearing you were ill again, people at work
would ask me how you were. Like a fool, I would try
to answer fully and honestly every time,
what does not return
a novice’s boomerang
bodies you’ve touched in dreams
the body you dream of (and had at sixteen)
Randa the Newfoundland who lived amongst the trees
the ex you block from social media and four email accounts
What colour today?
Here I am again encouraging you to remove
last week’s varnish with the soaked cotton wool
then washing your hands in a bowl of soapy water
balanced precariously on your lap.
Where we went to escape him
I picked you up from your house
and drove to the beach. Raised
inland, family lore dictated that
you dip your toes in every surf
you come by. We ran the tideline
shoes like necklaces or shackles.
Wonder Woman Questions her Status as a ’70s Symbol of Female Empowerment
All my villains like to tie me up. They lick
their lips and salivate: my body a shining slice
of cherry cheesecake, my breasts twin spaniels
off the leash, the bouncy castle of my thighs.
if I’d ever been kissed that way, as if it meant something
when you’ve been minding your own business
and if someone I know had leant down, slow, to meet my closed mouth
and someone random grabs you, from behind