Poetry competition 2012 winners

Winning poems, adult category

Congratulations to the winners in the adult category of the Gardeners’ World Magazine 2012 poetry competition. This year there are four poems, as two entrants share second prize. Read them all, below.

First place

Mrs Thorpe's Arithmetic
by Fiona Walker, Blaydon, Tyne and Wear

A new term and we are adding beetroot and fig.
If a man bought the last of the spring onions.
We calculate the length of runner beans,
divide up soup ingredients
while her muddy hands mark papers.

Christmas gifts of pomegranates challenge us
to crack leather skin, count jewel seeds.
In February we make get well cards,
she sends blood oranges and a sum.
If a man had three artichokes, took away one.
We deliver summer peaches to her hospital bed, tally up our tomatoes.

Today her rhythm of fruit and veg
multiplies with my children. Here are peas
falling from a pod, next month we pick sweetcorn.
Everything has its season.


Judges' comments

"I found Mrs Thorpe's Arithmetic particularly haunting and the imagery was wonderful. I just liked reading it over and over again." Alan Titchmarsh

"I love the repeating refrain; I thought it was really neat – its familiarity strikes a chord but it’s not hackneyed." Sarah Langan

Joint second place

Allt Gogh, A Coloured Love Song
by Jane Foley, Devon

Did I tell you how, as I trudged up the hill at early morning,
The sun just risen, the lean, streaking vixen ran beside me,
Her tail a rigid line, leaving a russet blur against the snow?

How banks bedecked with primrose, glimmered with white anemones,
And every May the cerulean sky fell down into the wood,
So that I ambled upside down through scented heavens –
Tall trees bent; lime-bright new leaves as soft as pleated wings?

How as the onions and the garlic came to maturity
I’d lay their green hair down upon the ground, as was the custom then?
How everywhere I had not dug, and no tree grew,
green was a rollicking sea – acres of viridian – soft, sweet,
To lie in anywhere, and drown?

How, as autumn fell, the colours of the leaves filled the sparkling kilner jars
With coral, claret, burgundy, cornelian and garnet, jewelled damson, plum
And apricot, ranged tidily, beckoning from shelves of grey-blue slate?

Did I tell you how rich I was in my poverty?
How the date of my old stone house nestled under
the eaves, against the blue and copper stone,
Beside the lilacs leaning, and the primitive blue doors
I never locked?


Judges' comments

"This poem conjured up marvellous images. I could really see the richly coloured autumn harvest safe in kilner jars on slate shelves, and I loved the line “Did I tell you how rich I was in my poverty?" Pam Ayres

Joint second place

Weeping birch
by Gill Turner, Devon

For seven years I have ignored my constant companion
The weeping birch outside the shed.
For seven springs I have sown seeds and chitted potatoes
While it tapped at the cold window with long gentle limbs.
For seven autumns it has flung twigs about the garden on wild nights,
Hosted summer swarms of drowsy bees,
Rustled in summer breezes
Its trunk has gleamed silvery through dark months,
And its filamented branches lit with hoar frosts at winter dawns.
Only today - when growing impatient it has flung its harvest through every window,
And every shelf rug and web is strewn with tiny winged seeds -
Only today have I finally taken notice.
I hear the wind play a song of water through its branches,
And the sound flows into my heart
And takes root.


Judges' comments

"This is a lovely poem, following one tree through the seasons. I particularly like the idea that something which has been always taken for granted is finally recognised as beautiful, loyal and valuable." Pam Ayres

Third place

Shedding time
by Duncan Darbishire, Ulverston, Cumbria

April crosses the lawn,
swings shadows over the grass.
In a potting shed,
rotting at the back planks,
a kettle boils on a gas ring.
He hefts a tea-bag into a mug,
dribbles milk and stirs till bricklayer brown.
Deck-chair stripes swing, sink, settle.
He watches a spider crouched behind the dibber
watching him, waiting.
He turns on the Test, listens to tales of cake
and occasional cricket and drowses,
lulled by the drone of the commentator,
warm sun through the webbed window
and the roar of the bees on the rosemary by the door.
England collapse.
The tea goes cold and skins.
Shadows creep over him.
The rise of his waistcoat falls and stills.
Woodlice scurry, disturb dust.

Read more winning poems

Runners up - adult category

Winners - children 10 and under category

Winners - children 11-14 category

Winners - children 15-17 category