Our 2023 Prose Poetry Competition was adjudicated by Ingrid Jendrzejewski. There winning poems are:
Editors’ Choice Award: ‘Unknown Provenance’ by Oz Hardwick
It has been an honour and privilege to read the entries for The Prose Poem’s inaugural prose poetry competition. Given that this was a new project I didn’t know what to expect, but suffice it to say I was blown away by the poems I’ve been reading over the past weeks. There were so many tremendous pieces, and it was incredibly difficult coming up with a longlist and then a shortlist. Choosing winners felt nigh impossible at times! I read my favourite pieces over and over again, and had to really search for reasons to leave poems off my final list. In the end, I had to roll up my sleeves and get quite brutal.
There were a few things that I looked for in my final selections. I looked for poems with precise language and fresh ideas. I looked for poems that took risks and succeeded in the challenges they set out for themselves. I looked for poems that took me on a journey or suspended me in a moment of time, and then landed solidly, without a misstep.
I also chose tried to choose pieces that felt to me like celebrations of the prose poetry form. There were a number of brilliant submissions that seemed like they’d be right at home in a flash fiction publication or a journal for more traditional poetic forms. Since these pieces have many options for publication, I tended to shy away from these pieces in my final selection.
In the end, I went with my gut and chose the pieces that wouldn’t leave me alone…the pieces that followed me around, rattled about in my head and begged to be read and reread and read again out loud and then read some more. Some pieces grew on me and I was swapping around my choices until the very last minute.
I found something to admire in each and every piece submitted. All competitions are subjective, and this one is no different; at a different time or with a different judge or even, the results would, I’m sure, be different. But after delaying as much as I could, I did have to submit a final selection, so without further ado, huge congratulations to the authors of the following poems….
1st Place: 2000 Years BCC
I love the trajectory this poems takes, and the way it holds several stories within it at the same time. I am struggling to say anything that won’t spoil the sheer pleasure of reading it for the first time, but I think I’m safe in saying that I found the writing tight, the subject intriguing, and the playfulness utterly delightful. I liked it from the first read and it continued to grow on me with each subsequent reading.
2nd Place: Pub #6
This short poem has a sharp, narrow focus on a particular moment. I admire its brevity and precision, and the way it transports me to this very specific place. I am impressed at how rich a picture it paints with so few words.
3rd Place: The Bagworm
I love poems that throw the reader head first into a new universe and this poem does just that. From the opening lines, the poem trusts the reader to keep up, and I was thrilled to go along for the ride. It’s one of those poems that came to mean different things to me the more I read it, which made me want to keep going back for more….
Congratulations as well to the following poems which have been awarded honourable mentions:
I love the rich language and imagery in this poem. It’s a powerhouse of character and setting as well as diction and syntax!
This poem grabbed me with its opening line and never let me go. I love the premise and the way this talk of evenings takes on different resonances as the poem progresses.
This poem feels like a pointillist painting to me; out of many desperate elements emerges one clear, familiar picture.
I also wanted to give a shout out to several of the pieces that came very close. I loved the shift in the last paragraph of ‘A Double Effort’, the format and play with language in ‘Sainsbury’s’, the defamiliarisation of a snowy landscape in ‘Snow Poem’, the experiments with form in ‘Outside In’, the gorgeous storytelling in ‘Jimmy runs away from home’, the braiding of family narratives and personal exploration in ‘Something In Between’, and the world-building in ‘Crone’, and the boldness and brevity in ‘Careful’ and ‘Meditation on Isaac’. (Did I mention already that it was a difficult decision?!)
Thank you again to everyone who submitted work; I am grateful for the chance to spend time with your words. I am thrilled that many of the shortlisted pieces and some of the longlisted pieces will be published here in the coming months, and I am sure many of those that don’t are destined for good homes somewhere else. I will be cheering them on!
Congratulations again to everyone on the long and shortlists, and especially, the winners. And, finally, thank you to The Prose Poem for trusting me with this first round of submissions. I look forward to everything that is to come from this project.
— Ingrid Jendrzejewski, November 2023