2024 Spring Short Competition Results

Our 2024 Spring Short Prose Poetry Competition was adjudicated by Ingrid Jendrzejewski whose Judge’s Report appears below.

The 2024 results are:

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Honourable Mention

Commended

  • ‘Dentists and Farriers Drink Too Much’ by Christa Fairbrother
  • ‘Fetch’ by Anne Marie Wells
  • ‘Sundowners’ by Sandra L. Faulkner

 

Judge’s Report

There are few things I love more than spending time with new writing, and reading work for The Prose Poem’s first Spring Short Competition was no exception.  I was impressed by the overall quality and range of the competition, and I’m delighted that many of the pieces from the shortlist and some from the longlist will appear at The Prose Poem in weeks to come.

With some competitions, the winners rise to the top of my pile quickly, and it’s a simple matter of ordering.  Not so, this time, by any means: I took my full allotted time for adjudication and read the shortlisted poems daily, changing my mind regularly as the poems settled into my bones.

Sometimes the shifts were dramatic. For example, a piece that I initially thought might be my first-place pick didn’t make it into the selection below, and a piece that I initially set aside ended up winning a cash prize.  The more time I spent with these poems, the more difficult it became; I noticed new things and I ended up re-weighting different features.

On a different day or with a different judge, the results may have been very different, but my brief as an adjudicator was to award first, second and first place, and up to two honourable mentions and I had a deadline to meet, so I had to make some decisions.

Here is my final list.  (I’ve cheated a bit and have added in a ‘Commended’ category, but even that was difficult – there was a hair’s breadth between some of the pieces that did and did not make it onto that list.)  I’d like to take a few moments to celebrate each poem and explain why it spoke to me.

 

First Place: First Meeting

The opening of this poem is simple and direct, focusing on the memory of a shared moment between an adult and a newborn. The invocation of ‘Alison’ at the beginning and the intimacy in the poem’s voice pulled me right in and made me feel as if I was overhearing an intimate conversation between two people that I wasn’t meant to hear.  We don’t know for sure who the adult is in relation to the child – we might guess father or non-birth-parent, but it could be a grandparent, older sibling or any number of other people who are part of a child’s life as they journey into adulthood. It doesn’t really matter; the narrator’s love for this child radiates through the poem in a fresh and palpable manner. I really appreciated the chance to experience this first meeting through the lens of someone other than a birth-mother (as much as I love many poems about the mother/baby birth experience); it was a perspective we don’t see often enough.

For most of the poem, we’re grounded in one moment, but then the poem whisks us forward in time: the last two lines hit me hard and continue to rattle around in my brain….  Those two lines express so effectively a feeling that creeps up on anyone who is in a loving or caring role for a growing or grown child, and its simple, straightforward language and focus on concrete detail helps the poem avoid any semblance of over-sentimentality.  The more I read this poem, the more it grew on me, and even now, several days after I submitted my final list, it keeps burbling up in my mind at unexpected moments, prompting me to go hug my kid.

 

Second Place: For a while, after a funeral

This poem is a beautiful-rendered meditation on grief that rang so true to me; with each read, I was right there with the narrator, allowing myself to believe in the signs.  The sharp, specific details make the poem come alive.  I love the range of emotions the poem evokes; the grief and nostalgia and longing and heartache come through, but I also felt buoyed by an uplifting sense of hope and connection – such a lot to pack into so few words!  I also admired the poem’s construction; it reads naturally, yet if you tear yourself away from the meaning and look under the bonnet, the sentences are gorgeously constructed, precise and nuanced.  There is poetry in and between the lines….

 

Third Place: Blue Heart

The ‘Spring Short’ competition was launched to make a space for poems at the shorter end of the spectrum.  Most of the poems submitted weighed in somewhere between 100 to 150 words – at the longer end of our 150 word limit.  This poem, however, does its job in just 31 words, truly embodying the spirit of the competition.  It’s a deceptively simple poem that carries many undercurrents, and I particularly love how it so beautifully paints a picture of that tension between the different elements (head, heart, emotions, the physical body, and more) that make up our sense of self.

 

Honourable Mention: July

I love how ‘July’ presents a jarring juxtaposition of kids and their summer antics alongside a mother’s briefly-glimpsed grief.  Each time I read, I feel like I’m drawn deeper into the narrator’s particular impression of this particular July.  I love the poem’s honesty, and the way in leans in to the children’s experience, not just the socially acceptable emotions and behaviours adults might wish upon their kids.  Despite its brevity, the poem hints at enough of a world that we can both empathise with the mother in her lonely grief and the kids who are navigating the adult space of a funeral without being equipped with adult sensibilities, not to mention the dad who attempts a bridge between them. That brave, in-your-face, all-caps ending gives me a delicious jolt every time.

 

Honourable Mention: Mothers

This poem holds the reader at a distance with its unusual structure and the punctuation that hints at linebreaks, yet it draws us in with an intimate story about mothers and motherhood, and expectation and ways of knowing among other things.  Told in eggshell-like fragments, it invites the reader to make out its shape and meaning from the pieces, its meaning coming through the form as well as the words.  I don’t want to spoil it by saying too much, but from beginning to that beguiling ending, invites rereading after rereading.

 

I’d also like to take this opportunity to commend ‘Dentists and Farriers Drink Too Much’ for its storytelling and tight construction, ‘Fetch’ for its sonnet-like structure and volta that takes the poem into new territory, and ‘Sundowners’ with its beautiful approach to difficult subject matter.

The more I read the work on the long and shortlist, the more I came to admire each and every poem. Thank you to all the poets who gave me the opportunity to spend time with your work. It has been an honour and privilege.

— Ingrid Jendrzejewski, June 2024