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ref 1105 N IGHT & D AY G RAND P OETRY P RIZE
N OEL P ETTY continues his recent run of form and once more makes off with first prize, generously provided by the Mail on Sunday, for his poem on the subject of ‘On the Wing’. The judges so enjoyed Paul Griffin’s ‘Pantoum’ that it
R EPORTBY T OM F LEMING
has been printed, although as a translation it does not technically qualify.
Next month’s subject is ‘The Modern Gentleman’. Entries should reach 44 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LW by 24 January.
FIRST PRIZE COMING BACK TO EARTH by Noel Petty When Iwas six, an odd thing puzzled me: My father sometimes mentioned things he’d seen When flying missions for the RFC Back in the old war, nineteenseventeen.
My father? That most scrupulous of men, Hair brushed, shoes brightly shone, umbrella furled, Precise and trim? How could I fit him then Into the growing jigsaw of my world?
For this was nineteenforty, and the sky Was filled with heroes, children of the gods, Silkscarfed, blasé, but ready to defy With careless grace incalculable odds.
Yet it was true, for in the loft one night I found his flyingcoat, his pilot’s wings And snapshots of him ready to take flight In some cat’scradle plane of struts and strings.
It was some years before I learned to square That strange dichotomy and see him true: That same precision, sense of order, care Might be the reason he – and I – came through.
SECOND PRIZE OVERHEAD by D A Prince Familiar overhead as vapour trails dissolving into cloud, the heavy flight of crows goes unremarked most days their glide on ragged wings between the pines, the sight of sentinels on chimney stacks, their call part of the landscape’s loud indifference. Their strut and bullywalk defines the streets, just as the magpies’ squalling preference spells out in black and white the leafier trees. The ground’s staked out between them plot by plot, in various shades of truce; uneasy peace that flares to battlepitch, that brings a knot of ugly reinforcements, darkening the sky like falling angels, the Satanic powers. Disputed spaces, territorial spats: we watch their endless wars, as they watch ours.
ON THE WING by J Garth Taylor Of all the honeybees, a drone Is hardest done by. He alone
Is called upon to bear the plight Of mating with his queen in flight.
Lest you should think this sounds like fun, Recall that, when the drone is done, A chunk of his anatomy Stays lodged within the female bee.
This loss will cause the drone to die And thus, his triumph in the sky (One single mating on the wing) Will cost him both his life and thing.
The way that bees are made to mate Should worry those who propagate That pseudoscientific line They call ‘intelligent design.’
ONE WING by Alanna Blake Where had the body gone, and the other wing? This one lay on the back door step where they left as gifts their nightly prey:
Various mice, a blankeyed baby shrew, a bloody rat; once a woodpigeon, clearly victim of more than one cat.
Threadlike, those bones with their miniature knots in a frail fan sundried to ivory spread on my hand their twoinch span.
Only a shrivelled scrap of brown at the tip bleakly referred my thoughts to feathers on the final flight of one small bird.
DAEDALUS by D Shepherd King Minos sat in his palace. They came to him and said ‘The news we bring, 0 mighty King, Concerns an act of murdering: The Minotaur is dead’,
‘What in the labyrinth?’ he cried, ‘Killed in that secret maze? In its design there’s no straight line,
LITERARY REVIEW Dec 2005 / Jan 2006