Poets put pen to paper for Brixham Theatre's popular competition

poem, poetry and knowledge education concept, close up sitting writing on notebook in park

Brixham Theatre's poetry competition received 59 entries. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Well, what a success! Brixham Theatre's poetry competition received 59 entries.

There were poems as diverse as love at first sight for a Guernsey cow and love for an unborn child growing in the womb.

There was had a poem about a renewed offer of marriage combined with congratulations on the recent large lottery win of the writer’s ex-girlfriend.

And there were poems that explored vanity and self-love; poems of longing and regret; funny poems, sad poems, deeply searching poems and many tongue-in-cheek creations. 

So much outpouring of personal emotion and experience. 

One unexpected bonus was the number of poets who had decided to include an accompanying footnote explaining why they had written their poem, what their inspiration had been.

Many also expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to address often painful memories and disturbing issues.

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Some told of how helpful and cathartic the process had turned out to be. To read this was extremely humbling, said the judges. 

Another truly gratifying aspect of the project was the way in which so many members of the local community helped with advertising and promotion of the competition.

Volunteers tramped around Brixham in the wind and rain delivering laminated posters to be displayed on residents’ wrought iron fences and wooden gates.

As word spread, leaders of book clubs passed the information on to their group. Lynn Moore, acting chair of Brixham U3A, made sure an announcement appeared in her monthly newsletter to members. 

Other organisations such as Brixham Stronger Together and the Friends of Brixham Library also played their part. It really was a local, community effort. 

Other publicity came in the form of mentions or articles in local press and radio. A special thank you to Torbay Weekly, Riviera and Palm radio stations and to BBC Radio Devon.

Both judges, Patricia Oxley, general editor of Acumen Literary Journal and me, Senga Wallace Roche, theatre historian, thoroughly enjoyed reading the poems.

Choosing winners was not a simple task. It may be worth noting, when Pauline Smith, volunteer co-ordinator for the theatre, took part in the live BBC radio interview with David Fitzgerald, she observed that all the entrants were winners for simply going to the trouble of writing something and participating.

poetry word cloud on a digital tablet with cup of coffee

Some of the poets included a footnote explaining why they had written their poem. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

However, winners there are.  

First prize is awarded to Catherine Carter for To a love, lost at sea. Second prize goes to Helen Boyles for A Wedding in Winter. Third prize is given to Helen Ashley for And then...

Poems short listed were Gone Dancing by Helen Boyles;  Love is… by Janet Sawerd; The Magpies and the Love Mat by Suzy Miles; In the Stillness of the night by Lynn Shakespeare.  

All poems entered are displayed on the Brixham Theatre website.

First prize winner Catherine Carter donated her prize to a good cause. She has asked that the cash alternative to the champagne first prize be sent to the RNLI.

Given that most of us live by the sea, maybe swim in it, sail on it or know someone who earns their living from it, we  appreciate just how important such donations are. 

Brixham Theatre is still closed but considering recent Government announcements, it is planned to reopen on October 25 with a production of Little Shop of Horrors by Brixham Operatic and Dramatic Society. This will be a four-night run.

The theatre is also currently starting to book acts for November, December and into the New Year.

First prize  - To a love, lost at sea 

A clear May night leads coolly into summer, 

Offshore a late seabird calls. 

Ripples gleam bright, to shatter on the pebbles, 

Above a silent meteor falls. 


Three years have ebbed since we lay together, 

The sea, benign reflecting light above. 

And yet, in wilder mood, it claimed you in its number, 

And left my heart bereft of truest love. 


Surely the sun will rise again tomorrow, 

The day boats leave, the trawlers put to sea. 

My heart will thrill, though filled with deepest sorrow, 

And, when darkness falls, still feel you close to me. 

Second prize - A Wedding in Winter 

This was the time the world had folded on itself, 

when blinds were drawn across the movement of the day, 

when humans shrunk into their burrows, 

couched there, senses quivering, 

speech muffled, smiles masked. 


This was the time you chose to seize an opening 

between doors sliding shut on either side 

to pledge faith in each other and a future beyond this. 


This was the time you gathered armfuls 

of flowers, let them sing their autumn tones 

brim, gold, pink, red against old stone, 

looped winter lights on fir. 

In grace the bride stepped out 

to smiling groom, met eyes across, 

clasped hands around the ritual 

of spoken vows, exchange of rings 

before the gathered few 

as to a multitude. 


This was a time to sit and share food 

in an upper room, wood panels flickering 

to candle flame, to watch light wink and dance 

in brightened eye, in glasses raised, 

the time to offer nosegays spiced and sweet 

plucked from shared memory. 


And so through afternoon to dusk the careful spaces 

shrunk to new brother-sisterhood 

resolved to to travel with you to new openings 

beyond these walls from this year to the next, and on. 

And when the doors are closed and latches drawn 

the pledge remains to lift and carry you. 


At this year’s end, we too can carry this, 

a torch into the dark, 

believe in what shines back to us. 

Third prize - And Then... 

I’d been expecting you 

like I’d been expecting all the others. 

And they had come 

filled the space 

with small talk in too-loud voices. 


They were content 

each with another 

who happened to be close enough 


so that the whole thing 

seemed choreographed 

duos, trios, group dances. 


Mine was the only solo 

and so intricate, yet insignificant 

were my moves 

that they attracted no audience 


until 


you were there 

the last to arrive. 


For a time we existed 

on opposite sides 

of the room full of trite words, 

empty gestures. 


Then something started 

an intermittent withdrawal 

so that the crowd, the conversation 

the action diminished until 

the last to leave left 


left you 


left me.