Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poetry Competition

To celebrate the launch of my new website, I held a poetry competition. Entrants were asked to write a haiku or short poem on the subject of fear or ghosts. Every entry was special. A fellow writer chose a shortlist for me and we worked together to choose the five winners. Finalists and special mentions are in the previous two posts; the five winners are below.

The judging panel chose the following poems on the basis that they expressed a coherent idea about ghosts or fear, with brevity, originality, and in a fresh and vivid style. The panel was especially drawn to the final surprising moments—provocative, chilling or humorous—in these five poems.

On Fear

I fear I'll dream beneath closed eyes
I fear my truths and worse my lies
I fear I'll always be alone
When I wake up and find you gone

Sometimes fears hide honesty
They show us things we cannot see
Yet often, too, they're insincere
What, then, the use of trusting fear?

(Tara, Barooga, New South Wales)

My unquiet heart thrums.
Death reaches my hands,
And I grasp, but he lets go.

(Carmen, Chirnside Park, Victoria)

Eyes thirsty,
searching, scanning...
slamming shut.
Hair standing on end,
hand grasping at head,
toes curling under,
and under,
and under again.
Heart torn in two,
in three, in seven,
in nine thousand and ten.
Finger jabbing
mouse clicking,
ex-ing, ex-ing,
ex-ing out again.
Windows shut,
screens clear,
tentative eyes
blink open,
stolen breaths return
to welcoming lungs.
Fear releases me
from the atrocity
of spoilers.

(Angelica of Burr Ridge, Illinois, USA)

Ghosts – wispy white wonders,
Wandering between one world and the next,
Watching over us? one must wonder—
Or imaginary wonders of what one wants.

(Kym, Eatons Hill, Queensland)


Drums beat out a slow pace.
The marchers unseen,
Their feet pounded the ground
Beating a drum of their own.
The sound travelled far
Echoing through my skull
Calling me back from distant plains.
I came, but saw nothing.
My eyes were long gone.
The sound just a memory.
I screamed at the living
But they chose not to hear.
Alone and forgotten,
I lay back down
A blackness creeping over my heart.
Resting my head on an earthen pillow
I consigned my soul back into the darkness,
As ghosts walked over my grave.

(Christopher, originally from Malta, but now residing in Sheffield)

Poetry Competition 2: Finalists

Thank you, especially, to those who sent in haikus. Here are two of my favourites:

As chill creeps across-
a faceless form disappears,
and silent cries fade…

(Grace, Evans Head in New South Wales)

A whisper, a brush
On my sleeve, memory of
things past, but still here

(Helen, Towson, Maryland, USA)

I was also drawn to the crisp brevity and clever twist of:

Ghost I am
Ghost I’ll be
When I look in the mirror
What will I See

(Andrea, Sellersville, PA, USA)

Jennie (Kenora, Ontario, Canada) captured a moment of ghostly fear in her poem, The Fear:

I close my eyes and try to see
This faceless thing
With me
Its cold claws clutch
Ensnare my heart
Limbs like lead
I tremble
My head
Can’t think
Can’t move
Can’t see
Palms clench
Eyes open
My heart
My breath
I Jump
Into darkness, I disappear
The Fear above
Now stands alone

Erin (Phoenix, Arizona) wrote a wonderfully original poem about being haunted by movie stars:

I told her, Listen.
Their faces are haunting me.
And she, because she is like me,
said back, They are haunting me, too.
We exchanged ghost stories, then.
(If only they were real ghosts,
maybe our stomachs could stop hurting.)
She talked about turning on the telly
and the shock of his grin
I said I went to the movies
where there was this enormous poster
with Angelina Jolie's name and eyes
next to the one about bones that are lovely
but when I turned around
(I swear I almost jumped)
he looked at me and I wanted
to say something back
but I couldn't, and so I left him standing there.
I've sworn off westerns, let's watch
a horror movie, or one about a planet of blue people,
only I'm not as strong as you,
so today I will search out those
I want to avoid.

If I was truthful--
If I was honest--
I would admit,
that's not really what I want.

Let the haunting continue.
It's all I can do.

And there were some vivid images of night terrors in this poem by Emma (Lane Cove, Sydney):

Shadows in the darkness of the night,
Wavering in corners
making shapes on walls
A heart clenching with fright.

Lurking beneath the surface
Ready to pounce
A killer, a monster,
Their presence unannounced

A flicker of white,
A flash in sight
An eerie face
Waiting in place ..

Poetry Competition 3: Special Mentions

Erin (Hove, South Australia) opened her poem with the vivid line: ‘I see Fear sitting in the corner over there’, and Pamela made me laugh with the lines:

My biggest fear was drawing near
How would my little baby appear?
Cute as a button or
Ugly as mutton??

I liked it when people wrote about unexpected fears - for example, Lesley opened her poem with, ‘This pain I fear will never go away’; Sylvie of Fresh Meadows, New York wrote a haiku about eighth grade insecurity; and Louisa of Kensington Park, South Australia wrote about our fear of being ourselves.

The judging panel agreed that any poem longer than a page could not be considered for the shortlist, since the contest had asked for a ‘haiku or short poem’ – but I want to thank all those who sent in long poems, and make special mention of two particularly powerful longer poems: one by Shauna (Duncraig, Western Australia); the other by Michelle (Ottawa, Canada).

Here are a couple of stanzas from Shauna’s haunting and intriguing poem:

The first time I saw the ghost was in my backyard.
She looked exactly the same.
Before I’d sent her away in the red car.
Watched her disappear down my street.
She hadn’t seen the tears slip down my face as she turned the
But now, it seemed, she was back. She watched me carefully from
the other side of the lawn. I blinked once, and she was gone.

The second time I saw the ghost was at the park.
She sat next to an old tennis ball.
Waiting expectantly.
Waiting for me.
I ran towards her. But the faster I ran, the further away she seemed.

And here is an extract from Michelle’s wickedly clever and moving,‘The Ghost in My Mirror’

About this ghost of mine:
He looks the same as the way I last saw him.
Auburn hair
Amber eyes
Five o’clock shadow along his jaw (though he haunts at all hours.)
He does not look at all waxy or transparent,
The way I suppose you might expect a ghost to look.
He’s wearing those sun-faded jeans, the price of which was our summer,
And the matching tan
And that’s all, I think.
I can never see beneath his knees.
(The mirror is an oval.)