The poems below are the winner and runner up in the Sussex Together Festival of the Arts, selected by judges Jeremy Page and Maggie Sawkins, assisted by Joan Secombe and Barry Smith. You can listen to recordings read by the poets themselves on YouTube, and also read the poems in full.
Winning Entry | Andy Waite, Adrift at Night on a Lake
I am perhaps too in love with
this hooded half-light,
embracing its indefinable contours,
dipping my toes in moonlight,
wearing shadows for clothes.
It feels right though to be here in this
small vessel made of trust,
sculling criss-cross, curious fish
whose concerns, as small and big as my own
are consumed by this kind black veil.
I am not heading anywhere,
there's no destination that would move me
and no current or past to surrender to,
pushing me one way or another,
there's just the dipping of wood on water,
the empty spaces between a bird's call,
and sweet scent from a late bonfire,
soon to be charcoal with which,
should I return home
I may make a drawing of a
man adrift at night on a lake.
Runner Up | Camilla Lambert, Sunflower spell
West to east, from Beacon Hill
to Rackham and Chanctonbury Ring
vanished weeks and months
curl in on themselves.
Light seeps round collapsed onions,
dribbles out from crusted gardens
into songless woods, until
bumblebees come to jewel
tall flaring flowers, explore
across their flecked hearts.
I dream a yellow avenue:
sunflowers erupt from flints,
paint a line round green hills,
into folds, creases and dips.
As clustered blackberries sign off
the last weeks of summer
headlight blooms blaze,
twist along miles of southland way
east to west, Birling towards Firle,
hugging the scarp from Devil’s Dyke.
Highly Commended | Denise Bennett, These Summer Evenings
he is in his workshop
working with wood,
turning the lathe
I am in my study
fretting over poems,
a comma, a dash;
the roses tremble
on the pergola –
a train rumbles past
later, I will hold
the newly turned bowl,
he will read my words:
there will be blessings
of tea and lamplight –
everything will be fine
(Inspired by Anglepoise by Paul Stephenson)
Highly Commended | Mark Cassidy, Twitten
Scarcely more than shoulder breadth,
you cannot see the opening
from this year’s end.
Two sides obstruct the solstice light:
no shadows dance
or – in its gloomy closing – slink
like alley cat round beer cans.
Walls so tall they seem to lean in.
Ivy overspills their coping,
reaches fingers down.
I approach our lengthening days
between brick piers;
but find each minute, newly lit,
is – by shallow angles – blinded.
There’s more time now, though less to say.
Listening for tongues, we hear only
How far this passage goes rests on
choice of measure:
careless whether yards or metres,
lichen clings in fractured mortar.
Highly Commended | Mandy Pannett, Close Enough
yesterday a feather by the fence dusty with grit
no hint of the bird that wore it but then
there never is
featherbrain featherweight featherwit
a figment a part
of the sorrows of Lear
no breath on the feather
a feather’s for memory
not the loss of it not
today two feathers
separate but close enough
Highly Commended |Margaret Wilmot, Eight Weeks into Lockdown
The man at the Garden Centre sells me a trowel
through the fence.
The garden is positively thriving despite no rain.
On the phone I forget to ask the price of things.
Voices float over the hedge from people
on their walks, chatting across a width of road.
There are six buds on the orchid I moved to a north window.
An old mill has got its wheel going again, grinds flour
for local bakers – whole wheat, every particle used.
A friend rings who tells of the pleasure of leaving
a plate of yeast waffles by a helpful neighbour’s door.
I remember in childhood the batter was left out overnight
on the kitchen counter, working.
Highly Commended | Geoffrey Winch, Haiku
the Parish Church’s silence
deeper than the graves’