Competitions

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WINNERS OF OUR TREE COMPETITION

 

1ST PLACE: EMILY ZOBEL MARSHALL

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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 POEM

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 

RUNNER-UP: BRANDON MCQUADE

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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.

THE POEM

Mother

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.