The Plaza Poetry Prize (40 lines) Winners

The Plaza Poetry Prize Winners

Winning Poetry Entries
(titles listed in order)

The judging process is now complete. It’s time to announce the winners. Our thanks go to Moniza Alvi. All the comments below are hers.

1st: ‘Puck’s Glen’
Julie Sheridan (SCO/ESP)

I was immediately struck by the rich texture of ‘Puck’s Glen’, and how the poem truly inhabits language. Scots words, such as ‘a cleugh’ (ravine), ‘birls’ (spins) ‘drookit’ (drenched), take us deep into a compelling landscape. Language is savoured throughout and feels alive, fresh-made: ‘your collie quests up the glen’, ‘the light elopes’. There’s a welcome and unexpected intimacy in how the landscape is evoked in terms of a woman’s body, with ‘pools the colour of warm colostrum’ and the ravine, ‘a dark, pudendal scar’. The name, Puck’s Glen, summons the sprite of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and this sense of enchantment is further conjured: ‘Remember / life before we were witches in the woods? / No, my friend, me neither.’ ‘Puck’s Glen’ is a robust, yet tender poem, strongly engaged with the spirit of place.

2nd:‘Electric Whooper’
John D. Kelly (N.IRE)

A dead whooper swan is a source of animation in a poem of close observation and of revelation. Although mute, this pen swan facilitates both words and music: ‘I hear strange / music willing me to sing, once more’, ‘metronomic wing- / beats hang in the stilled air’. It brings about a musician’s internal awakening: ‘And in my mind, I am centred again, back / at my piano scoring a song, writing / lyrics’, lyrics inspired by, and featuring, the swan. In a powerful, musical vision, the whooper flies ‘in a ‘V’ as the lead note’. The poem travels backwards in time, culminating in the swan’s death by electrocution ‘after shorting / the parallel flow of a deadly charge’. Thus an intensifying, ultimately electric poem, honours the strength of a human connection with the swan and its haunting, enabling otherness.

3rd: ‘When our approximate present does not approximately determine our future’
Melissa Knox Evans (ENG)

This vibrant, disturbing prose poem explores the concept of chaos theory and a movement towards disorder, through a tragic traffic accident. The scenario slips and slides between time and place; the highway I-25 to Lone Tree in the USA and Selangor, Malaysia. The piece builds dramatically, evoking worlds: ‘behind the eyes of spirits’, ‘the Selangor thrummed with fire’, ‘Rain thunders down my windscreen, its dense arrhythmia’. With the flexibility of the prose poem form, this potent imagery is interwoven with everyday language: ‘John’s father calls with another update on his sister’. The piece seems to ride on its own melt, the tension mounts and the turn of events is memorably caught in the searing final vision: ‘for a split second, all I see is the road shiver and shatter open, teeming with wild, wild light’.

Highly Commended: ‘The Last Meatpacker, NYC’
Deidre Sullivan

Set in the Meatpacking District of New York, this lucid poem engages with history, contemporary life and change. The industrial past and fashionable modernity are skilfully juxtaposed: ‘He is a relic in a refrigerated space / under the footsteps / of the High Line / that raised railway now an urban path / of curated grasses and shrubs / leading to designer stores’. This solitary meatpacker moves through a surreal underworld filled with the ghosts of carcasses he shadowboxes: ‘a faux fist slap / on remembered hinds’. The atmosphere of the streets is vividly captured through the weather: ‘Outside, the suffocating / New York haze bakes / Gansevoort Street into slow motion’. Language is fully alive throughout, and the open-ended stanzas contribute to the poem’s dreamlike quality.

Congrats to the winners. They will be published in The Plaza Prizes Anthology 2.

The Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize is open to enter. Judge: US National Book Award Winner, Jason Mott. 1st prize: £1,500 & Mentoring session. Deadline: 31st July 2024.