John Betjeman Poetry Prize 2009

Roger McGough presented the prizes for the John Betjeman Poetry Competition 2009 at St Pancras International station on 20th October to Molly Tawney, Olivia Roxborough, Keturah Civelek and Helen Atkinson.

Roger McGough with Olivia Roxborough, Keturah Civelek, Molly Tawney and Helen Atkinson. Photo credit: Hugo Dixon.


Laura Dockrill leaning on the statue of John Betjeman. Photo credit: Hugo Dixon.


Betjeman's beloved bear Archie (right) with his companion Jumbo the Elephant. Photo credit: Hugo Dixon.


The winners of the John Betjeman Poetry Competition 2009 by the statue of Betjeman. Photo credit: Hugo Dixon

Winner:   Lapland by Molly Tawney

The snow,
Crisp and new,
Remembers my foot
As it crunches through it.

I make sure that
I am the only one
Who asks the snow to remember me
Day after day.

There is no colour,
Just white upon white.
The only thing apart from snow
Is us and the tall green trees.

Falling like raindrops from the sky,
I just stand in awe and watch
The beautiful whiteness
Sit and rest on their companions.

I breathe in the frozen cold air
And watch my dragon breath
Spiral up and out of sight
Just like hot air from a chimney.

I just stop and listen
For the smallest sound
Until my ears
Are screaming in silence.

The snow reminds me
Of precious jewels,
Glistening in
The morning sunshine.

Have you ever been to a place,
Just like this one and felt completely alone?
Like you have the world in your grasp?
I have.
This is Lapland.

© Molly Tawney, 2009

Runner-up:    Holkham by Olivia Roxborough

I see my younger self
A small determined figure
In new canvas shoes with
Shiny buckles.
Making her way along the board walk
Under the weight of an oversized beach bag.
She fixes her steady gaze at a point right out on the horizon
Where the sky meets the sea
Wondering at the endless expanse
Below her.

She pauses for a moment
Then drops bag and shoes
Her bare feet break the sands crisp crust
Throwing up a cloud of icing sugar.
As she runs into the wind
Filling her lungs with freedom.
Chasing something, catching something
That isn’t there
Towards the sky of
Lapis lazuli.

In the drowsy afternoon
There is no sound but the beating of a
Butterfly’s diaphanous wings
And the rhythmic swishing of
A far off sea.
A sylph-like figure
Lost in concentration
Gathering pocketfuls of
Tiny, tightly-coiled,
Perfect, pale pink shells.

And now in my mind
I inhabit that memorising view
Unchanging, timeless.

© Olivia Roxborough , 2009

Highly Commended winner:  Evensong by  Keturah Civelek

Our bench is roughly hewn,
beech perhaps, a pale dense wood
sitting among the scrubby
brushes while crickets cry
their incessant song.
Only the occasional
dog walker interrupts.

thickets of sun-bleached grasses,
rustling gently, reed-like, in an
evening breeze:
a few sparse saplings, fragile,
leaning on their
black lacquered supports….

the open expanses of
park, soft vibrant green
and the vaulted heights of
blue, blue sky, swept
through with creamy trails….

The sun peers through the
vegetation, warming our backs
like friendly love, spilling deep
shadows along pathways.
Buttery light illuminates
our skin: we glow
like Gods.

The air chills
bringing the scent of night,
mystery, melancholy revelations…..

And the sun slips gently beneath the ground.

© Keturah Civelek , 2009

Highly Commended winner: The Treasure of the North by Helen Atkinson

My small town is not that new
And it may have mould.
But what it has just down the road
Could almost be pure gold.

The cry of gulls, the crash of sea
Just echoes in my mind.
I can’t wait to see this place
I’m hoping for some time.

As my foot steps on the sand
My eyes just flood with glee.
I’ve become a child once more
I’ve lost all maturity.

No it isn’t perfect
Maybe it’s not clean.
And yes it’s a mining town
With some history.

But none of this could matter less
This feeling you can’t teach
No-one else can get this buzz
I get from Skinningrove Beach.

©  Helen Atkinson, 2009


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