I was delighted and honoured to be awarded the Mirehouse Poetry prize this year. It was a very strong shortlist and I felt any one of us could have won. Here I am with judge Blake Morrison and two of the highly commendeds, fellow Cumbrian poet Chris Pilling (who looks rather fierce in this picture but was actually trying to get away for his lift home) and Stephen Logan (who came all the way from Cambridge for the awards event last Saturday). I did try to dress in appropriate Bloomsbury style to suit my poem but no one noticed. Here is my winning poem below. For the full set - runner up and highly commendeds go to
or even better visit the beautiful Mirehouse and read the poems which are displayed on the poetry walk. The prize continues the poetic link with Mirehouse which goes back to the Romantic poets and Tennyson.
They remind me
of those women
who had been to Girton
or the Slade,
who painted and cut off the heads
of scented roses to float
in a shallow bowl.
I remember one
who always wore brown tweed skirts
whatever the weather,
and in spring
a green silk blouse fastened
with a cameo at the throat
and she looped her long grey hair
in a knot at the nape of her neck.
Those women knew French and Italian, listened
to Russian music.
They could design gardens
and walk for miles
across heather moors
in men’s hob-nailed boots.
They were tall and thin
and leaned forward as they walked
with a stick or a long-legged dog. They
ate wholemeal bread and Battenberg cake
and drank Earl Grey tea.
land and cottages with no
running water and gave them
to artists and poets who
had nowhere to go.
It’s the way the trees are curious
shapes and look down from the hill
and do not think about themselves.