I’m delighted to feature a poem by Maria Isakova Bennett.
I met Maria at the prize giving and launch of the anthology of the Ver open poetry competition. Maria won first prize with her poem ‘Adrift.’
My poem, ‘The Horses’ was highly commended by the adjudicator, Clare Pollard. This is the second year I have attended the event, having been lucky enough to have had a poem highly commended by Nick Drake last year.
The prize giving and reading takes place in the wonderful theatre in Verulamium Park in St. Albans, a short walk from the flat where I used to live. I had several reasons for entering again this year. Firstly, I was blown away by the quality of entrants last year. Secondly I knew Clare Pollard would be reading. I’m a huge fan of Clare’s and have met her once or twice before so was looking forward to saying hello. And thirdly, a proportion of the monies from this event go to a local charity, this year a shelter and support organization for homeless people in the area.
There were 865 entries and the quality of the winning and selected poems was once again outstanding. Clare gave an insight into the difficulty of selecting the 40 anthology poems. She explained, prior to giving a virtuoso reading of her own work in the second half, how ultimately, each time she reread the winning poems her sense of having made the right decisions got stronger.
Maria’s poem ‘Adrift’ packs a subtle and powerful emotional punch. It is highly empathetic and carries a compassion for its characters’ lives that seems rooted in experience. You can click on the link above to read the poem. Maria has also been kind enough to provide the poem below.
Maria mostly lives in Liverpool close to the Irish sea where she makes art, stories, cakes and poetry – but mostly poetry. After filling diaries with unshared meanderings for over twenty years Maria studied Creative Writing with the Open University 2007-09, and at Lancaster University 2010-12 where she graduated with an MA. She has recently participated in Bill Greenwell’s online poetry clinics at Exeter University. Maria’s poems have been published in the UK, Ireland and the US. She also reviews for Orbis.
Maria’s first pamphlet is forthcoming later this year and will be published by Poetry Bus Press. Her work has been highly commended in the Gregory O’ Donoghue International Poetry Competition and has been shortlisted in and Cinnamon Press debut poetry collection.
The Paper Tree
I thrash from a sea bed to the surface, breathe,
backstroke through dreams. Last night –
Oxford. Jericho, cafes lit
in the afternoon. A panini, an Americano,
and I’m in every cafe where I talked with him
from here to Rosapenna.
The years flicker – notebook pages turn –
the story sleeps. I dig into my bag
for scissors, shred and quill paper. A tree rises
from the pages’ heart: its branches frayed.
The table is scattered with paper remnants –
the book won’t close:
I hug it to me, leave
and wander through crisp air. The tree
in my arms as my boots echo
I am with him again –
late at night in a cellar bar,
drinking till we fall.
First published in Prole