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Troubadour Poetry Prize 2010

May 28, 2010

A London-based poet and friend alerted me to The Annual Troubador Poetry Prize. It’s run by Coffee House Poetry and takes its name from a café founded in 1954 for writers and artists. It was frequented by famous names such as Stanley Kubrick and its cellar nightclub played host to acts ranging from Paul Simon and Bob Dylan to Eric Clapton and the Stones. Blimey.

Nowadays, aspiring poets have the poetry prize, judged this year by Gwyneth Lewis and Maurice Riordan. I don’t know about you lot, but I’m feeling a bit intimidated already. First prize in this competition, now in its fourth year, is a not-to-be-sniffed-at £1000. Second prize is £500, and third £250, with 20 prizes of £20 up for grabs too. The website promises that both esteemed judges will read all entries (intimidated-ness rising). Being deemed prize-worthy by the likes of Lewis and Riordan is a covetable honour to any would-be poet, and I must admit I’m tempted. There is, however an entry fee of a fiver per poem. The idea of paying to enter a competition such as this makes me slightly uncomfortable, though I’m not sure why. But I’ll never get anywhere with that attitude, so I think I might give it a shot, and I’d encourage anyone else interested to do the same (but not if you’re better than me).

The final deadline for entries is 15th October 2010, so you have plenty of time to overcome any nerves or monetary concerns about entering. Full details and terms of entry can be found here.

Last year, joint third prize went to this poem by David Gilbert. While I enjoyed the play between the intimate and the metaphysical in the overall winner, this struck me on a more personal level. For all its clinical language, I find it both beautiful and moving:

The Liberian Pygmy Hippopotamus

These days, the Preferred Place of Care
(or PPC) according to academics
is The Home or The Hospice.

Dad prefers to ignore
the finality of words
and officiates from Bed 6 on Ward 11E

summoning us
with parting gifts
as we gather

in comfy chairs provided
by the Project Coordinator for the Patient Pathway (or Matron)
and Betty, the cleaner.

He doesn’t want to go home.
He refuses the sweetened pleas of bed managers
to go home. This is home.

Contained by the, at last, certainty
of the rhythmic swish of the morphine pump
and ward rounds.

He swears the profile of a golden lioness
rises glowering from the trees
overlooking The Heath

and the paths where we handfed
Nuthatches, Chaffinches and Robins.
Fewer of them now.

He is more tired today.
I feed him slow spoonfuls
of leek and potato soup

tell him that Samuel
went to the zoo yesterday
held out his hand to touch

the Liberian Pygmy Hippopotamus
almost wiped out by civil war.
That Adam wants to bring it home.

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