This year’s Mirehouse Poetry Prize winner is Martin Malone, from Maulds Meaburn. The prize, worth £350, was judged by poet and novelist Helen Dunmore, and organised in association with the Words by the Water festival.
The prize is given in tribute to writers connected to Mirehouse, who include Tennyson, Wordsworth, Southey, Fitzgerald and Carlyle. The theme for this year’s competition was taken from a line by Tennyson – “There is no joy but calm.”
Another Cumbrian poet, Terry Jones from Warwick Bridge, is amongst the eight ‘highly commendeds’ selected in addition to the winner. His and Martin Malone’s poems are published below – Martin’s with the Harold Gilman painting (of the painter’s landlady) that inspired it.
After Harold Gilman
You have seen them come and go: the salesmen,
stevedores, undergraduates and tinkers,
lorn veterans of Omdurman and Colenso,
the struggling artist with his curious hours;
all passing through the widow’s breach of spare
room. Your years lived impasto – caked-on,
palpable as Sunday Best – are rendered boldly;
dealing only in certainty, creed and nation;
dealing solidly in bricks and mortar
and the definite vertical of the doorway
that frames you as you sit, impassive
as the teapot, immovable as the rent.
Outside the world turns to mud, feeds its sons
to fire and lead and names you will hear
for the first time: Passchendale, Somme, Ypres, Mons …
You are right, Mr Holmes. At five this morning,
I was indeed fishing, and alone, from the left bank
of the Thames some five miles outside of London.
I did see, and then only in a blur, a kingfisher:
he nipped from the water the grayling you describe,
flew no more than twenty yards, skimming the surface,
and dropped the creature. As you say,
though how you could know, I am most astonished;
I surprised myself, first by exclaiming a profanity,
then by beginning to weep; and precisely as you describe,
I wiped my eyes on the sleeve of my tartan jacket.
It was a frosty morning. The city at a distance
seemed like a spectre of itself, almost ethereal;
and I had treasured, seconds earlier, a deep sense of solitude:
Here, alone with nature, I thought. And again,
you are perfectly correct in surmising, as you do,
that I recited to myself the first line of Mr Wordsworth’s sonnet
Composed On Westminster Bridge. How could you know?
And, may I ask, do you even begin to understand
how completely violated I feel, how deprived of privacy?