Please note our Annual Poetry Slam is postponed until further notice.

Unfortunately we will not be running the Nottingham Open Poetry Competition for the foreseeable future.

April Poetry Competition

In April this year, Nottingham Poetry Society ran a competition for our members and supporters. This was judged by our Honorary President, Jeremy Duffield, a very fine Derbyshire poet and playwright with two poetry collections: Danced by the Light of the Moon (1994) and Oak Apples and Heavenly Kisses (2000).   This small competiton had a very good response. Here are the winning poets and a selection of the winning poems, published underneath.

1st       Invasion Beach – David Duncombe 

2nd      Portrait by Picasso – Elizabeth Sanders 

3rd      Bike Shop 1950 – Bobbie Prime


Estuarine – Fiona Theokritoff 

Florence – Rosie Hunt

Going Back – Bobbie Brotherton 

Hedera – Jan Clare

Holding My Breath – Pam Butler

I Come From – Barry Harper

Inspired by the Bard – Ronne Randall

Metamorphosis – Sue Forrester

Last of the Great Oaks – Trish Kerrison 

Slide – Lizzie Dunford 


Invasion Beach – David Duncombe

Arromanches – generations on
At the only occupied table
outside an out-of-season café
strafed by a hostile Channel breeze,
I warm breadcrumbs in my palms,
to scatter for the hen sparrow pecking
by my chair in her dull camouflage.
We seem to belong to the same side.

Pigeons touch down to swagger, sleek
and chevroned, across the patio.
I stand, order them away. But why?

I scan the shore. Gulls hover and dive
to hunt and scavenge and scramble back
to form another soaring patrol.
Others bob on the waves, hopeful
as landing craft, seeming out of range,
like history in black and white.

Inside the café there’s a khaki scarf,
an airman’s faded cap and photos
of advance and retreat: Wehrmacht
helmets, and Tommy tin hats,
soldiers smoking, all with guns.

A notice: Bienvenu Welcome Welkom
English Spoken
Deutsch Gesprochen

There’s a war museum somewhere near,
but ghosts of the battle surround me here.

Bike Shop 1950 – Bobbie Prime

My father sold freedom
to lads who spent all day hewing coal in darkness,
to girls who sat hour upon hour before a row
of clattering knitting machines
steel needles jolted up and down,
ready to snatch their fingers.

Saturday mornings, they came,
gazed through the shop window,
yearned for the gleaming, sleek, dropped handle-barred,
double-clangered Raleigh Sports, Claude Butlers, Daw’s Double Blue;
Rolls Royces of bicycles; their passports to freedom;

bikes that could transport them on Sundays
from the grimy town
to swoop down Pennine slopes in a swishing throng,
a breeze rushing through their hair,
world of work lost in the harmony of the hum of wheels
powered only by pumping legs, rippling muscles.

The shop was a cavern of chaos;
smelt of new rubber, old leather, oil,
the cold, sour odour of metal.
Silvery, fine-spoked wheels hung from the roof,
dangled like bunches of exotic fruit;
a bundle of tyres sprung from
hairy string that bound them;
inner-tubes writhed like an octopus,
trying to escape their box,
endless trays with heaps of nuts, bolts,
washers, spirals of wire, obscure bits of metal,
their mysterious purposes known only to Dad.

I can see him now,
dog end of a cigarette in his mouth,
cursing dérailleur gears as,
bike upturned on our kitchen floor,
his massive hands turn the pedals,
make the wheel hum, thrum.
The oily chain leaps with a clink and click
over sharp-toothed sprockets
‘til it runs smoothly without grating.

Dad knew all there was to know about bikes
but I never, ever saw him ride one.

Estuarine – Fiona Theokritoff

I grew where the flat brown earth
speaks of borrowing not taking,
of exchange, not change.

I learned to read
my mother’s compressed lips. Her words
spent as carefully as coins.

But I yearned for extravagance,
sought out dramatic word topography:
the impossible, fantastic, phantasmagoric.

I braved steep inclines of rising intonation,
the sheer drop of an exclamation mark. I even
tackled wild cliffs of exaggeration. Now

instead, I merge with silky silty mud, clinging
moisture-heavy round my legs,
which dries to a second skin I thought I’d shed.

Soil and seed have long memories.
They wait until germination
in my mouth, the mouth my mother gave me.

Florence – Rosie Hunt

She’s here again with them pictures
smiling faces in strange places
pushing, pushing.
“You must remember” she says
Must I? Why?
The fuchsias wink at me.
This house is nice
It’s clean and I have my favourite cushion
to hold if I need to.

My world isn’t her world. Why
does she want me in hers?
I don’t know her.
She should go.

I had a granddaughter once
Rose….Mary…, I forget.
Came to see me, she did
Then upped and left, no goodbye
She had bluey brown eyes or were they brown, like mine?
Rose doesn’t come anymore……I don’t think?
Still, it’s nice here, and clean
And I have my favourite cushion
to hold if I need to.

It’s tea-time. Maybe this woman
will take a break, take a breath
and watch the fuchsias
bobbing by the window.
Rose liked fuchsias
We’d pretend they were waving
and we’d wave back in fits of giggles.
Was it Rose?
I forget.

That woman doesn’t come anymore.
They say she can’t now.
Maybe if I’d pretended to remember
That would’ve been kinder.

Going Back – Bobbie Brotherton

Memories from my past remain
from times before my dreams all died.
Cornwall only looks the same.

Back on once well-loved terrain
phantoms from my past reside,
memories from my past remain.

It’s no longer my domain,
sense of home, now denied
Cornwall only looks the same.

Once I sang the wind’s refrain
danced in spray from the tide
Memories from my past remain.

I thought once back, I’d regain
emotions I had set aside.
Cornwall only looks the same.

No longer can I entertain
fantasies I held inside,
though shadows from my past remain,
Cornwall only looks the same.

I Come From… Barry Harper

I come from
soot soaked bricks,
the bitter smell of coal fires
and the drone of
Rolls Royce Merlin engines
from smashed panes
and broken buildings
from dirty pavements
and dusty dreams
from honest working folk
toiling hard to
eek out good money
I come from church school
with cane and slipper
I sometimes deserved
I am from a place where
I’m proud to belong
but desire to be different
the consequence of being
an identical twin
I come from
Origin of the Species
and Frozen Planet
from belief in ozone
not a depleted coal seam
I come from ‘Ay up me duck’
and generations of miners
from a town with
a headstock but no pits
I come from breaking up fights
and walking damp streets
from saxophones and violin
but not from a place
where people can sing
I come from a greenhouse
growing dahlias like my dad
mending socks without moaning
just like my mum
I’m now from
central heating
but can still
smell the smog
of a roaring fire
being drawn
by a stretched
Daily Sketch
I still haven’t read…

Inspired by the Bard – Ronne Randall

        I have been a number of shapes
Before I assumed a consistent form…
from The Battle of Goddeu, by Taliesin

I have been a quill, words flowing from me on to water,
Swallowed by the waves.
I have been a sunrise, breaking the sky open with colour,
And a sunset, shutting it down in flames.
I have been a shriek in the wind.
I have been a rosebush, ripped by my roots from the earth,
Only to find new soil in which to send out tendrils.
I have been a lamb, standing on trembling legs,
Suddenly discovering I could skip and run.
I have been a mole, hiding in dark tunnels underground,
Learning to dig myself out.
I have been a tree, offering respite and shelter to birds,
Nourishing them with my fruit.
I have been a bird, soaring over forests and oceans,
My feathers frayed, wings worn with travel,
Coming to rest and nest in the embrace of home.

Metamorphosis – Sue Forrester

Not to disturb
his satisfied sleep,
she slides from the bed,
feels for her robe,
eases doors open.

Cool tiles underfoot,
warm rain sounds softly
on fig tree leaves,
rinses juice beads
from ripe purple fruit.

Droplets of syrup fall
onto her shoulders
spread, soak,
darken pale silk
to transparency.

She tilts her mouth,
tastes the sweetness,
licks her lips, smiles,
her arms spread wide:
a golden swallowtail.

Last of the Great Oaks – Trish Kerrison

Long years have I stood on this woodland edge,
I gaze across the grassy leas, past the lonely church
to the great North Sea beyond.
Since sapling youth, a hundred thousand tides
have landed on this beach, charged up the creek
as if to grab me by the roots, spittled salt
across my leaves before falling back, defeated,
leaving me, and All the Saints, in peace.

Parishioners rarely walk this way for prayer,
mostly, I go unmolested here. But on a summer Sunday
a dozen laughing children come crocodile marching
into church. Delighted to be disturbed, the warden stands
in heavenly stained-glass glow, explains how the organ works,
bids the children look up at the criss-cross timbers
of my ancestors holding the roof aloft.
You can’t get much nearer to God than that.

Slide – Lizzie Dunford

Royal blue stripe of sky.
A lemon asterisk beams spidery rays
on a black rectangular dog with legs too stiff to chase
a ball the colour of a pillar-box.
Green triangles and lollipops for trees.
A stick-girl sits on a swing.

Slide, you suggest, offer a purple crayon.
Slide. You savour the sibilants,
roll your tongue against your brand-new teeth,
pronounce the slippery L,
stretch out the vowel,
prolong the descent.

Slide. You taste the word, admire it,
the way you lick the satiny slick of yogurt from your spoon,
dip your fingers in the birthday icing,
sample the slither of avocado for the first time.

Slide, you insist, and guide my hand to the page
to draw a boy with orange squiggle-curls
who climbs the metal rungs,
pauses a moment, then, arms wide,
toboggans down the slope.




First Prize: Testament: in an Embankment Garden      Kathleen Bell
Second Prize: Darling, What If …                                       Julie Mellor
Third Prize: Spring on Bardon Field, with love              John Gallas

Merit Prize-winners: Adrian Buckner; Lesley Burt; Katy Carrington; Alan Dunnett; Marianne Hellwig John; Roy Marshall; Matthew Smith; Paul Stephenson ;David Thear; E K Wall



Testament: in an Embankment Garden

Blackbird, I see this garden
should have been planned for you

and now it’s yours, as the woman
sprawled on the bench spits phlegm

and the man clutching the railings
taps at his phone, willing the screen to load

but there’s no reply, and the sky brightens
and doves descend, a bicycle crumples

and roots wrench roads out of true, a tree twists
to demolish a wall, leaves break through brick –

so sing, blackbird. The river rises. We dying bequeath
this garden to you and to your heirs

and ask that you use it well who stay
– and look at me, blackbird, now and sing

till you splinter air with your sweetness –
here, blackbird, here – let me hear you sing as I vanish


Kathleen Bell



Darling, What If …

What if I choose this one small fly, iridescent on the daisy’s white ruff.

What if I choose to follow it with my eye from flower to flower
as I sit on this bench, a wooden sleeper resting on two grindstones.
And what if other flies circle, for example, that fat atheist bluebottle,
searching for something more akin to a shopping mall than a lawn.

What if nothing happens but sound, trains across the way
sliding in and out of town like pharmaceutical salesmen or lovers
who’ve met on the internet. What if the wind repeats the rumours
of their wedding vows from mid-week town hall ceremonies.

What if the fly disappears, only for a minute, but completely,
dizzying blindly through a portal into another world.

I know this can’t happen, because a fly has a thousand eyes
and can’t go anywhere blindly. Imagine our world as it appears to the fly,
like a shop front on a 70s high street, stacked with colour t.v.s,
all tuned to the same channel.

This is the closest you’ll ever get to understanding, not being a fly,
but at least being able to picture it, that feeling inside my messed-up head.


Julie Mellor



Spring on Bardon Field, with love

Here, the hedges bristle. Bosky blades burst
swording at the sky. And from the general barrack
of the earth its flagged army shoulder-storms into the field.

The sun provokes. The air excites.
How surely Spring is sprung.

This little, ranty daisy, see, blundering to snatch
existence with its petal-fist upon a ram of glaucous flesh,
will do well enough to figure this,

the earth’s renewed attack,
which you have made on me.

No room! No room! Let fail and fall the contents of
my last years’ arms before this green; occupy, and overthrow,
erupt in your advance, unsheath from me,

whose Wintertime I was,
and whose Summer I will be.


John Gallas



Darling, meet me by some water

My inclination is
to write you a love poem
in the time honoured

contemporary style.
There might be a moon in it,
or a sun westering

below an urban roof,
but mostly it would fix
on interior details –

the rented
space we share,
all the grimy lyrical things

that lie around
when we wake
in the evening after red wine and love.

But poets
have re-discovered rivers
and their flowing,

deeper selves.
is now an important word

and I feel a little shallow
in our entire, sealed

So Darling,
put on your shiny boots,
clumpy and dewy,

and meet me
by some water – whether in full spate,

or even
dried up and lamented –

as long as
there is enough of it
to string the measure of a proper line.


Adrian Buckner


Botticelli in the Hebrides

A moon-cast trail puckers ocean skin,
fades into some out-of-sight place
deeper than herring, and greyer.

Tide and wind grind shells to dust, blast onshore,
spatter with heath orchid, harebell;
oystercatchers gleam monochrome,

scoop scallops, shriek from shoreline nests –
northern birth’s buffeted on islands
that dissolve in changing currents.

Stars perforate navy-blue sky,
monsters lurk in murky caverns
beyond trawl-nets – bare dagger-teeth.

Chaperones on the machair wrap her
in fleece, lead her to a croft heated
by glowing peat and bowls of broth.


Lesley Burt


Turner in Saltfleet

Mr Joseph Mallord William’s safe with us, dear Aunt,
lost his travel Bag, two Waist coats in the mud,
tramping out across new Drain cuts from Louth wold.

His hat’s bob bobbing all hours atop the estuary Wall.
I told him, take the Lambing lamp. He says he goes
to meet a Greater light. On another Shore.

I’m his gray Pearl, his Pale. The Grump calls German Ocean
Smoke and Bleach. We’re his Haven interlude, icy Clarity, if you please –
sharp as Pickle to my mind to his lordship’s Dish of sunbursts.

Fowler’s lad as blows the Flute in the Crown, the Prussian –
Mr Turner made his Sketch last night in chalks and ink,
named it Willow, for the tune he says. And all the lines as thin, as Bright

as lad’s poor shins, white arms, the silvery Whistle,
then a bare Tree crowd like shipmasts through side window.
I’m cutting from your Chine tonight, dear Aunt,

Mr JMW says: Parsley, Samphire and a Jug of ale
are good as any inn in Alps. He’s drawing Buckthorns every day
and cattle over Paradise. With sails of all the coal boats beating seaward

from working up, he says, as big as our back Kitchen
with spring Tide flooding Marsh in moon Light
just as Dawntime silvers Sky.


Katy Carrington


Nothing to Declare

To this I do not bend – I mean, to grief –
and yet I yield like a reluctant thief
to staring dully on a dry red leaf

that fell that autumn when time hooped the back
and stopped in death, its memory a rack,
and everywhere I look, I see the lack.

Bad news shuns the brain but sharpens the eye.
I watch my hand pick up the phone and try
to return to you. Remember the lie

of the land, I say to myself. Break bread
and continue. Though nothing was declared,
something was understood, always, and bared

in secret, examined like stolen goods,
silk-bound, then buried, in the glowing woods.


Alan Dunnett


How to be obsolete

Be born yesterday
when the door to the dream world was still open.
Make coffee in a jug,
know that Glastonbury is famous for its thorn.

Be taught to suck eggs, to make Yorkshire pudding.
Still measure in inches, in ounces;
oil your sit-up-and-beg bicycle
for the long road to the present.

Write by hand
for those short seconds of inspiration;
know where to use apostrophes;
keep pencil sharpener and rubber in reach.

Keep shelves of real books,
read and reread old favourites
an unblinkered state of affairs.
Cherish quotations, remember where they’re from.

Remember heavy utility blankets, cold beds
for a sleep and a forgetting.
Wear woolen socks that need darning,
know how to darn,

Keep a tin of old buttons.
then is diffused now.

Prefer eau de Nil to shocking pink,
prefer eau de vie to Coca-Cola.

The Glasgow tram you went to school on
sits on a plinth in the Museum,
for others you are peripheral.
Class 6 children gaze in disbelief.

Spare parts are unobtainable
for the computer new to you.
You discover that the ON button also means OFF,
there is nothing between you and the horizon.


Marianne Hellwig John


New Model Village

Each house once held a family; the man
maybe an opener for the cricket team
or one who limped home from the pit
with a crook back and worn out knees:
the Dad who winked and fished for a coin
to buy a quarter of sweets; who, after his bath,
lifted children so their shadows filled the wall.
Or one who never laughed, face
dark as the peak, eyes, always coal.

And daughters who dreamed of boys
to bring them posies from the hill;
men who’d not get sick from drink,
grow generous with their fists, or both.
A man who’d not crack like a prop shaft;
the kind a woman might love enough
to rise like a lark over red-bricked yards,
lines of shirts, long-johns, a pinafore dress,
the blown bow of her camisole, cupping April hail.


Roy Marshall



Something bolder than her
alights on the stone tiles,
wings folding like patterned silks.

Her visitor waits
patiently, until at last
she raises her eyes.

Storm or sunlight embodied
in a smooth face, godliness rising
to an unknown grade. A hand lifts

stopping the sun for a while, or so
it seems to the girl, kneeling
in its shadow.

The world tuns a little.
History turns around the exchange
of a few words.

When he flies, nothing seems
changed at first, but the gentle blurring
of memory. A new burden stirs.

Worry locks itself in,
she murmurs, like the walls
of this garden.

Wrists crossed, thumbs entwined,
spreading her fingers’ wings
backwards and forwards in time

for a moment she feels she may
exit from the garden the same way as him –
or soothe the small bird that reels inside.


Matthew Smith



Snails. Slugs. Sloths.
Cobwebs convening in corners.
Scaffolding clinging on for decades.
Grass seed roped off and germinating.
A  s  p  i  r  i  n  t a  k  i  n  g  e  f  f  e  c  t.
Stonemasons carving the Sagrada Familia.
Streptoccocus dividing on a glass petri dish.
A speech therapist breaking down dipthongs.
Lustre, patina, tarnish. Sheen, gleam, burnish.
A drunk stranger’s joke and receding punchline.
Young men on crutches with both legs in plaster.
C  o  d  e  i  n  e   t  a  k  i n  g   e  f  f  e  c  t.
A giant turkey in the oven refusing to cook through.
Mediterranean bureaucrats in charge of local archives.
Starting up an old computer with its whirring processor.
Transatnlantic flights with headwinds and no recent films.
Lulls. Quiet patches. Picking up a little. Things tailing off.
The Sisitine Chapel being faithfully recreated in needlepoint.
I   b   u   p   r   o   f   e   n    t  a  k  i  n  g   e   f   f   e   c  t.
Retired men with walking frames in Paisley silk dressing gowns.
At the far-edge of the field, a Massey Ferguson combine harvester.
A learner driver performing a three-point turn in a Luton cul-de-sac.
The highlights of the Monte Carlo Grand Prix replayed in freeze-frame.
Pedalling a 1:5 that’s becoming a 1:4 and keeping going for a good cause.
Builders with flasks drinking tea in the van each time you checkon progress.
P    a    r    a    c    e    t    o    m    o    l    t    a    k    i    n    g     e    f    f    e   c    t
The local department store at 3.06pm on a January Monday with three customers.
A cross-Channel swimmer at mile 19 with shoulder cramp and no sight of the beach.
Watching white emulsion dry while it’s raining and helping it along with the hairdryer.
A bean on a paper towel inside a jam jar sketched in pencil each morning by a schoolboy.


Paul Stephenson


Driving Home

I have never known this elsewhere.
The town stops dead.
After brambled banks of chalk
and barren fields
the empty wood.

After the tree-laced hill
bare branches twist and thin
under a leaden sky.

A streak of sunlight bursts through
lighting a matchbox farm
and blessing the fields with green.

Oh, please shine on me.
I am February inside and need the sun.


Davis Thear



Like an invisible gasp,
you blow out through
the tiny keyhole
that has terrified me
all of your pink, chubby life.

I forget that you grew up
within the lonely, crumbled years,
like a sunflower between
two, dry paving stones
daubed in blackbird droppings.

You were always small to me.
Fragile, a bald sparrow fallen,
too soon, from the rickety nest.
At night, sometimes, I hear you
squeaking, stranded, on the busy A30.

You were never mine to trap
behind the piano in our shabby lounge,
embossed with velvet anaglypta,
watched over by three ducks
frozen in their winter migration.

I always shivered when the hoover picked up
mottled feathers from your corner that we
barred the cat from all of your little life.
I prefer not to believe that you
might ever choose to leave us.

All that time, the key to the council-glazed
front door hung on grubby twine chaffing
my heavy, redundant breasts, near to my
skittish heart where all of my love for you
was folded and stuffed and jammed.

I didn’t notice the early frost
that crept over our pristine doorstep
or realise that you didn’t think that you
would survive this time. To me,
you were never meant to be free daughter.


E K Wall


Copyright The Poets 2016




PRIZES: 1st: £300 2nd: £150 3rd: £75 and Ten Merit Prizes of £10.00

Adjudicator: Liz Berry

Closing Date: 9th August 2016

1. The competition is open to anyone aged 16 or over.

2. Poems should be in English, unpublished, not accepted or submitted for publication elsewhere, and must be your original work.

3. Poems should not be entered in any other competition, or have previously been a prizewinner in any other competition.

4. Poems should be no longer than 40 lines.

5. Each poem should be typed on a separate sheet of A4 paper, and must not bear your name or any other form of identification. On a separate sheet of paper list your name, address, titles of poems submitted, and where you heard about this competition. No application form necessary.

6. Entry fee: £3.00 per poem or £10.00 for 4 poems.

7. Any number of poems can be submitted on payment of the appropriate fee. Cheques and postal orders should be made payable to Nottingham Poetry Society. No stamps, foreign currency or Irish P.O’s accepted

8.Winners will be notified in September 2016

9. Prizes will be presented at a public adjudication in Nottingham in October 2016. All prizewinning poems will be published on this website. The decision of the adjudicator is final.

10. Entries should be addressed to: The Competition Secretary, 38 Harrow Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 7DU

11. No entrant may be awarded more than one prize.

To request further details, please contact us.