Poetry: Winner, Runner Up and Highly Commended

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

three-word echoes.

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

no breath  


a feather’s for memory 

not the loss of it      not

the loss


today      two feathers





separate but close enough

for joy


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

pandemic Sunday

the Parish Church’s silence

deeper than the graves’