Saturday, 20 August 2016


Judged by Alison Brackenbury

1st Prize £200, 2nd Prize £100, 3rd Prize £75
Prizewinners will also be invited to take part in a special Reading in Taunton

Closing date 31st October 2016 for online and postal entries

Alison Brackenbury was born in Lincolnshire in 1953, and comes from a long line of skilled farm workers. She now lives in Gloucestershire and has published nine collections of poems. Her work has won an Eric Gregory Award and a Cholmondeley Award. She reviews poetry for leading journals, including P N Review and Poetry London. Her work has been broadcast many times on BBC Radio, and she has been interviewed in the national press about her interest in promoting poetry via the Internet, especially on Facebook and Twitter.

Her latest collection, Skies, was published by Carcanet in 2016. Skies has been featured in The Guardian, The Independent, The Poetry Book Society Bulletin, and on Radio 4’s arts programme, Front Row. The award-winning poet Helen Mort has called it ‘her best, most urgent collection to date … tender, exact and unflinching’. Skies has also been selected as The Observer's Poetry Book of the Month. Kate Kellaway, the reviewer, wrote ‘The seasoned craft and musicality of Alison Brackenbury’s poetry shine through in this humble, haunting and humorous collection'. 
More information, including new poems and a blog, can be found at Alison’s website: NB: Alison will read all the competition entries.

Fire River Poets Open Poetry Competition 2016 – Rules

Closing Date: 31st October 2016

Prizes: 1st Prize £200 2nd Prize £100 3rd Prize £75

Fee: £4 for one poem; £3 for each additional poem up to a maximum of 6 poems

  • Poems may be in any style and on any subject. They must be the entrant’s original and unaided work; in English and not a translation; have a maximum of 40 lines per poem excluding the title and be printed or printable on one side of A4 paper.
  • Up to six poems per entrant may be submitted, provided each is on a separate sheet and the correct entry fee is paid.
  • The entrant’s name mustnotappear on the poem.
  • Poems must not have been published (in print or online), or have won a prize in a previous competition, or be currently submitted to another competition or for publication.
  • Members of Fire River Poets and their immediate families are not eligible.
  • It is regretted that entries cannot be returned.
  • The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence can be entered into. 
  • Submission of a poem implies the entrant’s acceptance of the rules.

Postal Entries (with cheque or Money Order
  • Poems must be accompanied by the correct payment and a sheet of paper giving titles of poems, entrant’s name, address, telephone number and e-mail address.
Send to: Fire River Poets Poetry Competition 2016, 2, Deane View, Bishop’s Hull Road,
Taunton TA1 5EG.  (Please ensure sufficient postage is paid.)
  • Please make cheques and International Money Orders payable to FIRE RIVER POETS. We can only accept pounds sterling (GBP).
  • If acknowledgement of entry is required by post, send SAE marked ‘A’ for acknowledgement.

Online Entries (via PayPal)
Please see our website for full details of how to enter online:

We will notify prizewinners by the end of January 2017. A list of prizewinners and
winning poems will appear on the Fire River Poets website as soon as possible after
this notification. Copyright remains with the author.

Friday, 19 August 2016


Two brief poems of praise this post.
The first was written recently and is about the end of summer, the cycle of the seasons.

The rain surprised me,
ambushed as I was
by my own indolence.
The summer, falling hot,
had led me to believe
such days as these
could go on forever,
until outside of Exeter,
the rain began to freckle the train windows.
The first intimation of what is to come,
the axial tilt and the fall
towards the shortest day.

There is a symmetry here – rejoice.
The second is an older poem that I have been working on for a number of years. That is to say I have never felt that it worked and every so often I pull it out from the pile of half completed poems and fiddle with it some more.
Here is the latest version:

now my four hour drive is forgotten
this winter afternoon
a string of starlings circle the bridge
they wheel and flow in beauty
I praise The Creator
who makes such things possible
I had driven back to Widnes from Taunton, a journey of usually three and a half hours, it had taken me over four and I was feeling fed up. In the afternoon light that winter's day I did see a murmuration of starlings and the journey was worth that moment.
I have been in a Mountain Goats frame of mind this week but I leave you with Vidar Norheim. He has an ep out on the 25th August. You may know him from his work with Lizzie Nunnery
You can read my interview with Lizzie here, and my review of their second album here and their last ep here.
Until next time...

Friday, 12 August 2016


A love poem today. 
I was asked to write a poem for my sister-in-law's renewal of her wedding vows. This was to mark the twenty five year anniversary of her marriage to my wife's brother. Such briefs can be difficult, no words may flow, or the deadline leads you to settle for second best. Happily this was not the case, though I spent a good two months pondering, searching for the right image.
When it arrived it gave me the first stanza and the skeleton of the second.
Again I have to thank the Secret Poets for their support and insight.

On the roof of the garage,
opposite my bedroom window,
from out of an abandoned sandbag,
I have watched two poppies
explode into blood red beauty.

Love can erupt anywhere,
and if we are blessed it will stay.
It may not be easy, the soil too thin,
the sun and rain capricious,
but love will find a way.
The Secret Poets discussion centred on the use of the poppy as a metaphor for a robust, happy marriage, as it usually signifies death in war. I liked the idea of recasting the metaphor. 
The renewal was a wonderful happy affair and the poem kindly received.
Recently I was Poet in Residence at the Warwick Folk Festival having been invited back from 2015. I ran a number of interesting workshops, the first on transforming a set of directions into a poem and the second attempting to capture something big by writing lots of little poems.
I decided on the ocean, and here the best of my endeavours.

across the inlet she could hear the sounds of her wedding feast as the tide bore her away

molecules of water slide over one another, a fluid dance we mistake for ocean

we carry the ocean inside us, created as we were to allow water to walk across the land

she had sailed across the globe before she recognised the same difference of the oceans

fallen from space, this is not the first place the congregations of the ocean have met 
I like the idea of the bride hearing the wedding feast as she flees the celebration, the idea has legs I think. At present I am working on an idea inspired by the line "the coal boatman's daughter" and it may well dovetail into that. Watch this space.
Here's Anna Ternheim with My Heart Still Beats For You.

Friday, 5 August 2016


Apologies for the silence. Life has a habit of getting in the way, even of a poetry blog.
The poem this post is a recent one and it unfolds as the experience did in real time. Sometimes I tinker with the sequence of events to give more contrast but not in this case.
Taking the Tow Path from the Allotment

Just before the main road crosses over the canal,
on a day so still,
it could be a ribbon window on a submerged world,
I see a tent under the water,
all taut with tensioned poles.

The days after the flood must have been like this.
The works of man obliterated,
less debris each sunrise,
each corpse a feast for the fish
who would suffocate in their turn.

I watch the tent slide by, silent, top heavy.
Decide on a photograph,
reach for my phone,
then realise there is a man
camped under the bridge,
sat stock still in the chaos of his life,
and I stop.
He stares into the pellucid waters,
his face tells his story,
and I walk on,

beyond his tragedy,
past the three people with the bottle of Lambrusco
and little else, not even a plastic cup,
through the skaters clouds of weed,
back into my own life.
I do not think the tent belonged to the man under the bridge. I would have heard or seen it enter the water. I suspect it came from the green space by the locks. People camp there and it could have been thrown into the canal by someone wanting to move those people on.
I leave you with more Anna Ternheim.
The next post will be the 11.8.16.

Friday, 15 July 2016


More poems from my recent trip to Oregon.
There is some worth in capturing your impressions of a place as quickly as you can. I keep a notebook with me at all times and often just jot down lines, or ideas that I can work on later.
This first poem came from two such entries made a couple of hours apart that upon rereading wrote the poem.


The big white wooden letters of the sign on my motel room wall orders me to RELAX.

Through the wall, I hear a couple talk too loudly.

They argue at a pitch they do not believe will carry.

Perhaps the sign in their room commands them to BICKER.
 The second I wrote in a restaurant and I hope it captures the essence of the subject.


He has the obligatory tatts
and shorts that show a Tiki,
as bees swarm around his calf;
a goatee; is bald.
And on his nearest bicep
the hint of Karloff's Frankenstein.
I simply wanted to capture the impression of a person in passing, to sketch out half the outline in the hope that it will tell all.
Here's a video of Anna Ternheim singing Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, a hit originally for the Back Street Boys I believe.

Friday, 8 July 2016


I am just back from a trip to Portland in Oregon, a place I have wanted to visit for a long time. This post consists of a sequence of poems I wrote while over there.

First impressions Portland

On his head a Hydra hat,
metallic, chrome green sheen.
The seven snakes bob
as he twirls on his right heel,
paper barista coffee cup,
in his left hand.
He fills the sidewalk,
that's the pavement to me,
just off the plane and taking it all in.
Perspective may come tomorrow.

after colluding with the weather app the rain outsmarts me

however as I am not made of salt or sugar I will not melt

nor be in anyway diluted by the rain dripping off my nose

The man on the checkout
of the cooperative, organic food store,
nails my accent in one,
then narrates his two year drama degree
in London,
in somewhat non-committal terms.
Then to Hollywood
where he was up against electricians from Bradford,
guys from Ipswich, who really fancied their chances.
Every English wannabe!
Our transaction is completed
before I can listen to the next instalment.

Nearly 8am, looks like rain, a couple are packing their lives in to a suitcase, they cross the road to cross the square, I notice a book in her hand entitled Hope.
I do not want to make these poems into some sort of journal of my time in Portland. They are simply impressions. 
I leave you with The Decemberists.
Until next time.

Friday, 1 July 2016


 Another couple of revised poems this post.
The first was written last year after I watched a firework display for free.
I have changed the layout, it now has a line break that I think allows the poem to breathe. It is always worth spending time trying different layouts.

Gracie & Harry's Poem
5.11.15 Deal

it draws you outdoors
echoes across the houses
this is how dolphins navigate
in sonic sketches

we are drawn to a street corner
with other humans
to watch fireworks for free
to evaluate each blossom against our memories
it is over too soon
This second poem has had the lines moved around and I think it works better. If you find yourself with a poem that is not quite working move some of the lines about and see if that helps or hinders. That is the beauty of using a computer. A word of warning- keep all the different drafts.


made in russia
my analogue watch
much repaired
by chance
this once
mirrors the digital time projected on to the wall
it will not last
gears and entropy
will do for it and for me
Entropy is a common theme for me. It probably comes from growing up in the 1960's and reading too much science fiction about the heat death of the universe. I blame Michael Moorcock myself!
I leave you with Lizzie Nunnery and Vidar Norheim singing Company of Ghosts in 2015 in Glossop. Any chance of a new album chaps?