Winners of the Torriano Competition 2015/16

Many thanks to all who entered the Torriano Poetry Competition. There will be a reading by the winners on 24 April.

Judged by Ann Drysdale

1st Ian McEwen (Bedford) Rooks in the Wind
2nd Gill Learner (Reading) In Consideration of Sticks
3rd M. Lee Alexander (USA). Local Hussy at the Kilkenny Village Fete, 1722

Commended (in no particular order)

M. Lee Alexander (USA). Sestina of Turku in Winter
Anne Stewart (Kent) My Shoes Leave Me
Dilys Wood (W. Sussex) Mild Weather
Bill Lythgoe (Lancs) The House that Jack Built
Emma Cousin A Mouse lives in our Broken Oven
Pat Borthwick (York) Murphies
Susan McLean (USA) Burning the Journals


Rooks in the wind

Like a crescendo,
the small wood on the hill,
bare still, clear as twigs, a graph

of the great breath
it grows through.
But here already

rooks stick broken bits
into its axils, a raucous
puberty of nests.

Over and between
their bouts of cranky purpose
off they launch


and whammel,
jink, slide, flaunt
and fool
trick the sky with letters:

mucking about,
something nobody gets paid for.

I said I wouldn’t write another
fucking bird poem but if
the irresistible for some is God
or Death or Mum
or Dad today it’s
tumble and caw,

the rooks that make
what loudnesses they can,
small clappers
ringing in a bell of air.

Ian McEwen

In Consideration of Sticks

Mine’s hazel, sacrum height. An extra leg
on hard-packed snow, over ditches,
stepping stones; it whacks at brambles,
brakes descent, draws maps in sand.

It was Nana’s years ago, a baton for
conducting hens before the fall which fixed her
in a Ward 3 bed, zig-zag, pillow under knees,
reading fly-spot constellations.

Then Connie’s in a nursing home,
blazoned against ‘borrowing’ with scarlet tape,
holding firm while Parkinson-reluctant feet
were chivvied: ‘left-right, left-right’.

Once I coveted a cane of micocoulier, spalted
gold-brown, toughened by Pyrennéan winds,
drawn tall by the sun of Roussillon,
shelter for scops owls and golden orioles.

But this – varnish scuffed, its tiny eyes
and cracks familiar, the handle buffed
with half a century of weight, curving
to my palm – this stick will see me out.

Gill Learner


Local Hussy at the Kilkenny Village Fete, 1722

Let the fifers fife and the pipers play,
to the madrigals’ songs we’ll sail away

with mandolin and lute and lyre:
Sweet William, the lady, the rose and the briar

penny whistle serenades, silver and strong
dulcimer entices us, so won’t you come along

cry well-a-way and well-a-day!
sing Blackberry Blossom and Far Away

flutes weave a melody sweet and low
harmonies from his fingers flow…

I’ll dance along the riverbank with ribbons in my hair,
paradiddle on the drum and catch me if you dare:

so laugh and reel and rosin your bow
and show me all the tricks you know –

notes mixing memory and desire
and fiddle my love til the strings catch fire!

  M. Lee Alexander


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