The 2013 National Poetry Competition winners have been announced.
I liked the winning poem by Patricia McCarthy very much, and one of the other poems that caught my eye was ‘Thaw’ by Sally Goldsmith.
I wanted to post the poem here, so I contacted Sally and asked for her permission. I also asked Sally to provide some background to her writing career and experiences, which she has kindly done.
Sally’s first full collection, ‘Are We There Yet?’ is published by Smith/Doorstop
and will be launched in Sheffield on July 11th.
Sally Goldsmith on Sally Goldsmith
I started my writing life as a songwriter and worked for years on community arts projects helping people of all ages and abilities to write, perform and record songs.
We performed on the sides of streams, in old people’s homes, community centres, the middle of woods and it was wonderful but exhausting.
Then I started to give more priority to my own writing, making touring shows of songs and taking the shows all over the country. Along the way I became quite a connoisseur of village halls.
With playwright Rony Robinson I collaborated on Radio 4 dramas, writing songs to be sung within them by local voices. For a while, we became flavour of the month with the BBC and won a Sony Award, a BBC Radio and Music Award, lots of other awards.
I have been writing poetry seriously for about seven years. Starting an MA at Sheffield Hallam made me begin to take myself seriously and sharpened my craft.
In 2006 I was one of the runners-up for the Arvon Competition. It was so encouraging early in my poetry journey. In 2008 I was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition judged by Michael Longley. I have since been short listed or runner-up in The Bridport twice, The Rialto/RSPB Nature Competition, Mslexia and Magma Poetry Competition.
Being commended for the National out of thirteen thousand entries is probably my biggest success so far and came as a real surprise. The poem they chose, ‘Thaw’, was written on a Hawthornden Retreat. It was such a privilege to have a whole month without distractions, and I’d encourage anyone to try for one of these awards. I loved my owl haunted room, the peace.
I find it really hard to write when I have other obligations and so the retreat was just perfect. The poem came out of a magical encounter one still frosty morning while I was there and I knew I had to write about it. Some poems do that – insist that they get written. It’s a much quieter poem than many of mine.
I have had such support from other poets and poetry organisations. I can’t remember who said it, but one of my favourite sayings is “No matter what your achievements somebody helped you.” It’s true. Spread it.
A field snapped with frost and stitched with brittle docks,
a metal gate where I hung, still, like the horses there –
the grey standing gentle over the bay mare, held
inside their listening; wick-wick of a pigeon,
the chat of a jackdaw flock. Each second was a frozen bead,
but lovely to the touch. Once, he barely whisked his tail,
I watched. Then shifting my weight against the gate,
both turned and the mare lifted, nut-bright, out of her dream
then came slowly, and again on, slowly; the sky stretched
drum-skin, the sun low and sucked to a thin sweet.
She looked to the grey as if to say, should I? and a man
came, walking his dog. The mare whickered. Grand!
said the man. It is, I said, some strange thing thawing,
and she brought me her breath, timid to my hand.