We’re pleased to announce the results of our latest competition at Black Cat Press!
Read below for the Judges' report and the results.
COMPETITION JUDGE: ASTRID ALBEN
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.
WINNERS OF OUR "ATTITUDES" COMPETITION
2ND PLACE: STEVE DENEHAN
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
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 rudimentary ape
he left the blackboard and the chalk
with the ape
for weeks, and for weeks
until one sunshine morning
the zoologist arrived
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
1ST PLACE: CHARLIE BOWDEN
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.
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.
3RD PLACE: ATAR HADARI
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.
WINNERS OF OUR SEA COMPETITION
1ST PLACE: KRISTINA DIPROSE
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
the magic kicks in
in a child-sized plane
skirting Hurricane Bob
hum of the captain
as you stare
its depths harbouring
you will dream of
above the school yard
under its shadow
at whoever will look
from one of your books
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
keeping you afloat
at the restless sky
your whole life.
JOINT RUNNER-UP: CHRISTOPHER MARTIN
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.
JOINT RUNNER-UP: JEN FEROZE
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.
WINNERS OF OUR TREE COMPETITION
1ST PLACE: EMILY ZOBEL MARSHALL
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
RUNNER-UP: BRANDON MCQUADE
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.