Magazine editor wins National Poetry Competition
Patricia McCarthy has won the £5,000 National Poetry Competition with her poem, Clothes that escaped the Great War.
McCarthy edits the poetry magazine Agenda. The Guardian quoted her as saying that winning was "just extraordinary. I've never even won a raffle. I don't go in for competitions – the only other time I did was decades back, when I got runner-up. But I'm really down on my finances – I edit Agenda, and was really struggling, and thought this was probably better than a gamble on the horses. I'm just delighted ... I am very honoured to win with this particular poem as it is a small part of our oral history, transcribed here into a poem – which will now live on."
She was inspired to write it, she said, by her mother, who lived to be nearly 100: “She was a tiny girl in the first world war, living in a little market town in Yorkshire. She remembered this old horse, who would collect all the young fresh lads from the farms, and would come back with their old dungarees piled high … She gave me the poem, really.”
Judges and poets Vicki Feaver, Nick Laird and WN Herbert said they were struck by the poem's unusual title, and then drawn in by its atmosphere. "We loved the journey it takes – both literally, as the horse and cart piled high with old work-clothes trundles down the lanes, and metaphorically, as these clothes come to represent the ghosts of all the young men lost in the Great War,” said Feaver. “It follows on from the wonderful poems written by poets like Owen and Sassoon about their war experience, to show the grief of the women left behind.”
One of the three judges, Nick Laird, has since spoken of the experience of reading 10,000 of the 13,000 poems submitted to the National Poetry Competition in an article for the Guardian: "A poem is off to a bad start when the poet has spelled necessary wrong in the first line."
You can read the winning poem here
Jane Draycott came second with Italy to Lord, and third was John Freeman (My Grandfather’s Hat). Commended were Edward Barker (The Mother Dough), Keith Chandler (The Goldsmith's Apprentice), Sally Goldsmith (Thaw), Pascale Petit (Happy Eagle Father), Stuart Pickford (Swimming With Jellyfish), Robert Stein (Hommage de M. Erik Satie a Soi-Meme), and David Swann (The Last Days of the Lancashire Boggarts).
PHOTOGRAPH: NIALL McDIARMID