I was delighted to make the longlist in the National Poetry Competition this year. The competition received over 13,000 entries, and after months of reading, judges Roddy Lumsden, Glyn Maxwell and Zoë Skoulding selected a longlist of 140 poems, including this one below. The top winners will be announced on 2nd April at an awards ceremony and online, and published in the Spring issue of The Poetry Review.
Onwards and upwards! I hope you enjoy the poem. Churn Milk Joan is also featured in the work of Ted Hughes. It is very difficult not to be inspired by his words living in this landscape. I have always loved his writing, even before I moved to this area. I worry whether there is a new way of approaching writing about the land, but hopefully my own voice can come through in the work.
Alice needs a stone dress with a granite skirt and flint buttons,
wants to be rooted on the moors like Churn Milk Joan
pointing to higher ground―above the bogs, water-logged fields,
paths choked with knotweed and balsam.
She needs shoes speckled with mica that catch the light
and warm her feet with the memory of summer
when the hills were hoverfly-drowsy; cattle lounged
on heather roots and chewed the cud, udders rosy with milk.
The days grow short and wet. Her front door begins to stick
and swell. Her lover has deserted her for the open road.
Her heart is strung out like a line of telegraph poles.
Find her a sharp chisel, a mallet, a large boulder. There’s no time to lose.