The Frogmore Poetry Prize Winners 2010

Adjudicators Report
and winning entries


This year's entries (over 300 in all) were refreshingly diverse in subject and approach. Some hooked me instantly. Others kept nagging, or grabbed at my coat-tails when I least expected it. To survive a preliminary whittling-down they had to persuade me that besides showing an ear for language, having something compelling to say and engaging my feelings, they were well crafted – though it meant less in what metric (I'm with Bob Dylan on this: 'If it rhymes it rhymes, if it don't it don't') than that they met the demands of whatever mode they'd adopted.

Once into the home straight this last stricture reverted to snuffling alongside, alert but unobtrusive, giving taste and instinct free rein, and letting the poem go about its business. Reading each out loud tapped its energy, put its rhythms to the test and brought out its individual music: in other words, enabled it to breathe. Being drawn into their imaginative worlds proved absorbing, startling, at times disturbing. Only with the final order resolved was I able to stand back and take in how stimulating my voyage of discovery had been.

'...and Not a Trace of Bass or Bass', like a jazz fantasia with its wordplay, verbal riffs, internal rhymes and concluding frog-croaks I found fun. The limpid brevity of 'Carlyle alone' speaks volumes about a marriage, even if we know nothing of its subjects. 'Break of Day' conveys a sense of loss movingly but with a lightsome touch, until there is a stab of pain and its ghosts vanish. 'The Green Child' and its mother's desperation to keep it are rendered all the more fascinating and mysterious by the poem's Sci-Fi trappings and lucent imagery.

'River, Lake, Sea' paints a pellucid picture of a woman swimmer and her surroundings, before revealing the poignancy of the title. 'Mairi it is Summer' surveys, through their flora and qualities the light, dissimilar terrains and their cultures: one redolent of frescoes and luminosity, the other of mortality and the Ballads. 'Home' is transformed by the felicitous glimpse of the tortoise in the dome that is his home, and the balm of the final phrase.

Of the prize-winners 'Writ in Stone' visualises with measured grace both a 'very English garden' vulnerable to time's passage and the ravages of war and, like the flowering cherries near the haiku stone, the beauties of the Japanese landscape. In evoking the atmosphere of the river below, its past and metamorphosis,'Fleet' is note-perfect from its 'orchestra of oars' to the bus's 'dimly boxed glitter' – while on our return to the present, a dark undertow remains.

In 'Coast Guard' the doughty Gertrude who 'cares not a kipper' is sculpted colourfully and with muscularity, against the turbulence of sea and sky. Tone and idiom are spot on, with just the right degree of irony in the closing clarion-call. I picture her, imbued with an elemental, timeless quality, dominating our shoreline: an unforgettable image.

I hope the poems give pleasure. To the poets themselves, many congratulations – and fair breezes.

Stewart Conn


The winner, and runners-up
FLEET (Frances-Anne King)
arrow WRIT IN STONE (Carolyn King)

Shortlisted entries
HOME (Pat Borthwick)
BREAK OF DAY (Charles Evans)
RIVER, LAKE, SEA (Melinda Lovell)

CARLYLE ALONE (Tracey S Rosenberg)