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We’re pleased to announce the results of our latest competition at Black Cat Press!

Read below for the Judges' report and the results.



As a judge, I ask myself the following questions when selecting the winning poems: How does the poem hold together? What poem made you forget you’re a judge and want to read the poem again, as a reader? 


There was something charmingly self-unaware about ‘Bugging Me’ by Charlie Bowden that kept me returning to it. I was impressed at the poem’s narrative ease and how it effortlessly combines humour, fear and vexation.


Special commendations go to Steve Denehan for ‘Jardin des Plantes’ and to Atar Hadari for ‘Black Leather, Glasses.’


I was impressed and a little overwhelmed by the massive number of entries to the Black Cat Poetry Competition, poems ranging from the lyrical to the concrete and from love poems to eco-activist. Thank you everyone for sharing them with me. 


Finally, thank you Satya Bosman for asking me to judge the competition. 

Astrid Alben




Steve Denehan.jpg

Steve Denehan lives in Kildare, Ireland with his wife Eimear and daughter Robin. He is the author of two chapbooks and four poetry collections. Winner of the Anthony Cronin Poetry Award and twice winner of Irish Times' New Irish Writing, his numerous publication credits include Poetry Ireland Review and Westerly.'


Jardin des Plantes

Jardin des Plantes


For many, Paris is paradise

and in Paris

there is a botanical garden

the Jardin des Plantes

a paradise in paradise


within this hidden world

is another

the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes

the second oldest zoo

in the world


it was here that a zoologist

grew close to, befriended

a particularly sensitive ape

and endeavoured to bridge

the interspecies gap


the zoologist found a blackboard

and some chalk and drew

bananas, trees, and flowers

a stickman

a rudimentary ape


he left the blackboard and the chalk

with the ape

for weeks, and for weeks

the ape

did nothing


until one sunshine morning

the zoologist arrived

to see

nothing short

of a miracle


in this paradise within a paradise

the ape had finally picked up the chalk

to draw the first picture

ever drawn by an animal

the bars of her cage


Charlie Bowden.jpg

Charlie Bowden is a student from Hampshire who discovered a love for writing poetry in lockdown after spending years studying it at school. His work has been included in collections by Young Writers and the Stratford Literary Festival among others and he won the 2021 Forward/emagazine Creative Critics Competition. 


His Instagram and Twitter both have the handle @charliebpoetry. 


Bugging Me


I hate daddy longlegs.

Their size, their shape, the way that they fly,

are offensive to me. They don’t die, they just cause

anxiety, the feeling of a hair in your eye

that I get from their little, long legs

when they brush against my neck.

Oh god, now one’s in my room,

chasing the light through the window,

blurry, fading in and out of sight.

It’s eight minutes to midnight,

do you honestly think I’ll sleep tonight

with that thing clinging skittishly to my wall?

What if it flies through my open drooling mouth,

climbs up my nostrils, lays eggs in my brain?

Then I’ll prove myself right, you all

with your shit eating grins

as you tell me “don’t cry, they don’t hurt anyone”

while their skittered buzzing fills my ears like a hellish hymn.

The little pricks.


Atar Hadari’s collection “Rembrandt’s Bible” published by Indigo Dreams in 2013. His Pen Translates award winning “Lives of the Dead: Collected Poems of Hanoch Levin” appeared from Arc. His second collection ‘Gethsemane’ is forthcoming from Shearsman in 2023.


Black Leather, Glasses

Lou Reed has died. No hallelujahs.

No junkies shooting up to a red sky.

Nobody chase the dragon for Leonard,

No leather jacket on the box of pine awash with cigarette ash.


No-one to play guitar, no-one to say

That was the way they did things uptown;

Or say that he walked wild

Or the world curved a little bit when he fell down.


Nobody to say, “Such a Perfect Day’ or “The Thing About a Small Town”.

It took Lou to say things, and he won’t be singing them now.

Atar Hadari.jpg



person with long brown hair and a dress with tigers standing at a train station.

Originally from the Yorkshire coast, Kristina Diprose now lives in Saltaire with her husband Jed and their black rescue cat Lucy. She co-runs Rhubarb at the Triangle, a monthly open mic night.

Kristina's poems have been published in various journals and anthologies including Stirred#1(Björk), Un/Forced Rhubarb (Ings Poetry, 2017), And the Stones Fell Open: A Leeds Poetry Anthology (Yaffle, 2020), Green Aire (Saltaire Festival, 2020), and Lighting Out (Beautiful Dragons, 2021). Her festival appearances include Poetry at the Parsonage, Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe, and Leeds Literature Festival. In 2020, she was shortlisted for the Ginkgo Prize/AONB Best Poem of Landscape anthology and placed first in Seafront Cottages’ lockdown poetry competition. She is working on her first collection.


A rare one

a prehistoric fish looms

ripples and gills


and you are spellbound

gesturing wildly up


summoning a name

of uncharted elements:


a species so rare

until cameras grew smart


to catch a glimpse of it

gliding across your street


you’re late for practice

the band can wait


you exclaim

the magic kicks in


in a child-sized plane

skirting Hurricane Bob


blissfully oblivious

hum of the captain


clenched smiles

as you stare


its depths harbouring

you will dream of

above the school yard

almost surfacing


under its shadow

at whoever will look


from one of your books

stratoculumus asperitas.


it didn’t officially exist

and nimble enough


and here it is

on a Monday night.


but for once

you need to see this!


to whoever will listen.

you dive cloud-high


above New England

five years old


to the low pressure

your parents’


keeping you afloat

at the restless sky


wonderous creatures

your whole life.


black and white photo of man in suit with tie

Christopher Martin is a poet and songwriter.  Over the last couple of years his poetry has become his main focus creatively.

Last year folk singer Sam Lee and the Nestcollective included him in their singing with nightingales live stream event 'Homecoming'. Later the same year he took part in Linda France and New Writing North's Dawn Chorus: 'a collective sound poem for the beginning of the world'.

He is currently working on his first collection. A practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, he lives in Tynemouth on the North East coast of England. 


An Cuan a Tuath 

Living by the shoulder of the North East coast is An Cuan a Tuath—

North Sea. Held by the earth in its cold, cupped hands, moving 

like a blue tongue between the mute river mouths of even colder lands, 

reciting a litany of flux. It lives here by me now, poised, as then in the photo 

by the soft, bare shoulders of the child I was on Longsands Beach. 

The photo you carried in your purse at all times. I wonder 

was it the last thing you saw before turning out the light? How 

strong was your grip? How steady was your hand? Did you raise your lips 

to my face as you lowered me into the sand?

"please never forget me as the years go by"

The sand envelope sheathing the photo and a note, a litany of grief, 

lowered into the grip of words like the disembodied, pressed leaf. Memory 

begins with our mother, she is that to which we first return; to

warm, cupped hands, never spilling a drop, never dropping a stitch; held out 

like St. Kevin's unconditional nest, cradling the delicate bones of faith. 

Those hands captured this small, sea bleached window, out from which 

I'm looking back at you, An Cuan a Tuath by my side, a litany suspended 

in blue. The tide will find its way in, to sand in photos, to words held in sand

to the dune formed from the delicate, hollow bones crushed in the hand.


person smiling at the beach with a black shirt, glasses, jeans, and long brown hair

Jen Feroze lives by the sea in Essex with her husband and two small sleep thieves. Her work has appeared in Atrium, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Madrigal and Chestnut Review, among others. Her first collection, The Colour of Hope, was published in 2020. She loves turquoise things, chunky knitwear and cheese you can eat with a spoon. Find her on instagram @the_colourofhope and on twitter @jenlareine.


Mussels And My Mother

As a child I remember walking by the waves,

hair blowing wild, laughing with my mother.

When mussel shells crunched underneath

our wellingtoned feet, and I could taste

salt on my lips. They were deep blue,

the mussels, and I shouted how I loved this place.


Later, warmer, she smiled with a sadness I couldn’t place

and looked out of the window at the waves.

The walls of the pub were pale blue,

I remember. I had scampi and my mother

ordered mussels. She asked me if I wanted a taste

and I balked at the open shells, the salty bodies underneath.


I watched her eat them deftly, peering from underneath

my fringe, scratched patterns with my fork on the place

mat and wished that I could acquire that particular taste,

and that my hair didn’t fall in stubborn waves.

I remember I wanted people to tell me I looked like my mother,

that I had the same elfin face, that our eyes were the same blue.


We moved on, but I take the sea with me now. Fill each of my homes with its blue,

its wild salt. Jars of shells line up on the mantelpiece, and underneath

propped up in the hearth, is a painting of a lighthouse by my mother.

The perspective is wrong, the rocks too big; but it anchors me as I move from place

to place, its thick, white paintbeam bright against the darkness of the waves.

After too much wine, my best friend laughs and tells me I have no taste.


I smile and say it’s not a question of taste,

that the picture, the shells, seaweed garlands and the cracked, blue

vase that reminds me so much of the whorls of mussel shells and the waves

as they break on the beach, are my charms. That underneath

the job, the rent, the ability to sew on a button, there is that place

where I’m still a child, where, secretly, I miss my mother.


She used to tell me stories about her own mother

and their travels together. How she’d developed a taste

for the new on her tongue and the soles of her feet. In each new place

she’d whirl laughing through fresh rooms as I watched. Sometimes I’d find blue

stains on her pillow. They oozed from the lavender sprigs she kept underneath

as she slept, crushed in her fingers, soothing the homesickness that came in waves.


So there will always be a place for you here, Mother, wherever here

happens to be. Your lavender talisman and my wild waves have the same taste,

the sweet, blue tang of home that stays with us, pulsing, underneath it all.



a person with blond curly hair and a vibrant colored dress in front of a brick background

Emily is of French-Caribbean and British heritage and grew up in the mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales. She is a Reader in Postcolonial Literature at Leeds Beckett University. Her research specialisms are the cultures and literatures of the African Diaspora and she is widely published in these fields. She develops her creative work alongside her academic writing and has had poems published in the Peepal Tree Press anthology Weighted Words (2021), Magma (‘The Loss’, Issue 75, 2019), Smoke Magazine (Issue 67, 2020), The Caribbean Writer (Vol 34, 2020, Vol 35, 2021 & Vol 36, 2021) and Stand (Vol. 19, No. 4). She also consults several arts, historical and educational organisations on decolonial methodologies and approaches.


Emily is Co-Chair of the David Oluwale Memorial Association, a charity committed to fighting racism and homelessness, and a Creative Associate of the arts-based youth charity The Geraldine Connor Foundation. She has lived in Leeds for over two decades, has two children and, when she’s not working, can often be found on her allotment or running in the mud in Meanwood woods. 


The Shape of Trees


Let me climb the crag, see the

land open wide, hear the hum of

distant motorcycles, caws of

worm-hunting gulls far from sandy shores

and feel memories of lava flow, interrupted


There on rocks I will knot words

to landscape, bring side by side images of

open palms of emerald fields held by

blackened fingers of winter beeches


But the distant shape of trees resists

description for each twig belongs only to itself

and not to me; I cannot name the

fleeting dance of light beneath the clouds

the final flame of amber leaves

crowning the sycamores


Not in words but rhythm, then;

the rise and swell of breath

the thud of footsteps hitting frosted mud

only in this syncopated heartbeat lies the

thing that ties me to the shape of trees 


person with a beard, glasses, and a baseball cap standing in front of a house

Brandon McQuade is the founding editor of Duck Head Journal. His debut chapbook, Bleeding Heart was published by Kelsay Books (2021) and is available on Amazon. His debut collection, Mango Seed, is forthcoming with Scurfpea Publishing. He lives in Gillette, Wyoming with his wife, Jacqlyn and their children.



She climbs the pine tree in search of her mother.

Her fingers sticky with sap. If she doesn’t find her

when she reaches the top, perhaps her mother

will spot her up there. Perhaps not. I was her age

when I got lost in the woods behind my house.

I walked in circles, the same three birds soaring

over the same trees. My child brain couldn’t understand

how every path had grown green with wild ferns.

I cut them down with a stick and found my way home.

She fell from a broken branch and broke her elbow.

If she hadn’t fallen, she’d be climbing still.

Using the sticky branches to build a bridge to the sky.

Searching for the gateless gate that holds her mother

in the endless blue that connects us all.

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