Vernal Equinox Competition 2016 Prizewinners and Judge’s comments

Vernal Equinox 2016 Competition Prizewinners and Judges’ Comments

Below are the judges’ comments under the appropriate category and the full list of prizewinners with the titles of their winning entries. Where prizewinners have given permission the opening lines/sentences of their entries are quoted and there is a link to the complete poem or story. If there is no quotation for the entry or link it will be because the prizewinner in question has withheld permission because he or she has now sent or wishes to send the work for publication elsewhere.

The FWS would like to thank all the judges for their care in judging the competition and all entrants for supporting it. 

Poetry: Judge’s Comments

The lead poetry judge, Elizabeth Rimmer, who was assisted by Anne Connolly said in her report:

In my guidance notes, back in February, I put in a plea for variety and experimentation, and this competition did not let me down. I said:

Language is yours.Poetry is yours.

Occupy it.

Make something beautiful and new and something that is your own.

And you DID.

Any poetry competition is likely to attract large numbers of poems on love, death, childhood and nature, and in Scotland you can usually predict political poems, which are often very good; and religious poems, which are usually disappointing. As I know from bitter experience, it is very difficult to write a convincing religious poem, but I am delighted that, in Scotland, we try. And I was even more delighted that this year, one of them was neither Christian nor pagan, which I’ve seen often, but Islamic.

But there were also poems about such diverse subjects as phrenology and podiatry, lynching, robots, insects, Martha Wainwright, domestic abuse, and a small clutch of poems about knitting and sewing. There were concrete poems, performance poems, some poems in Scots and Gaelic, one including Welsh, some very formal ones, some wild experiments and some comic poems. Judging this competition was a joy and a delight – until it came to deciding on the winners.

Both Anne Connolly and I agreed that the standard of work submitted this year was higher than last time I judged this competition, and getting beyond the long list stage was extremely difficult.


First Prize Helen Overell  Shelter

We carry our houses on our backs/return to them at those moments/in the day when all seems lost

To read more go to Shelter

Second Prize Paul Jeffcutt  Concerning the First Voyage of Young RLS with His Father to Shetland

Third Prize Peter Russell Whitework

Beauty that is almost not there/Taught by ladies to village women/Straining peat-smoked eyes

To read more go to Whitework

Highly Commended

Ruth Aylett  Undoing tacking

Stubbornly in situ as you let go bit by bit/and lost your love of earrings, books;/you stopped cooking or watering the plants

To read more go to  Undoing tacking

Suzannah Evans Bone Melody

I am being restored to myself. Here, my bones clink/into place, white on white, and tremble with the rush of blood./Pelvis, spine.

To read more go to  Bone Melody

Charlie Gracie  Early December Moniack

A flurry of fieldfares, nothing more than that in the green emptiness/Grey layers of sky holding back on everything

To read more go to  Early December, Moniack

Finola Scott  Globetrotter

Catherine Walker  Palimpsest

Beneath these words/lies an unpalatable poem;/one the muse whispered in my ear

To read more go to  Palimpsest


Fran Baillie  Glow-wurm

Alison Carter  The Rhyming Children

You will not see them, they blend/like bats burrowing in dying bark,/shrink like the armorial unicorn,/powerless

To read more go to  The Rhyming Children

Marcas Mac an Tuairneir  Hide-and-Seek/Falach-fead

I watched your hand,/Moving from me,Where I lay in your bed./Choimhead mi do làmh, A’ gluasad bhuam,/Far an do laigh mi na do leabaidh.

To read more go to  Falach-fead

Kriss Nicol  Ready or Not

Today words play hide and seek/in my disused rooms. I rummage for them/through stained cardboard boxes marked/‘Dreams’

To read more go to  Ready or Not

Flash Fiction: Judge’s Comments

Carl MacDougall, the Flash Fiction judge, commented:

The best entrants left me wanting more, not because their stories were somehow incomplete, but rather through their sense of anticipation and curiosity.

This is certainly true of the winning entrant, a lovely story with a good, clear voice and nothing spare.  It plays with the reader’s expectations and demands a second reading because one is never quite sure if they have absorbed the whole story.

The same could be said of the second story, a raw, brave and delicate piece that occupies a very difficult area, showing how fiction can both challenge and explain.

The third piece also left me wanting more, but this time I wanted more of the action. Its force comes from a strong sense of place combined with a difficult and dangerous activity, so that the sense of personal challenge and spiritual dimension read like recall rather than fiction.

First Prize  Elizabeth Sinclair  Companions

I woke up this morning with David. I adore everything about him. He is dark, intense, and has a hard body. His west of Scotland voice takes me home.

To read more go to  Companions

Second prize  Grace Pilkington  Little One

‘I’m good. How are you?’ Through the telephone I hear her voice wilt, like the branch of an oak tree; it’s about to break and a sign underneath it reads caution. 

To read more go to  Little One

Third prize   Ann MacKinnon  Conquering Corrievreckan

The water gushed and gathered far beneath him. It was his first day back on Jura and he was letting that awful exuberance of water below him scour his thoughts.

To read more go to  Conquering Corrievreckan


Anne Dunford  Predestination?

‘What I’m seeing here is what’s going to happen to you – no doubt about it’, said the old woman looking at the tea leaves. ‘There’s no avoiding what’s been planned;’

To read more go to  Predestination

Mary Nixon Timing

Get us a cuppa tea,’ Mark shouted into the kitchen.  ‘Two ticks,’ said Jane. She poured the last of the milk down the sink then gingerly pulled on her jacket, shoes and gloves.

To read more go to  Timing

Angela Spencer  The Life and Death of a Pencil

My earliest memory was of writing ten small crosses squeezed into tiny boxes, not quickly drawn, but earnestly scripted.

To read more go to  The Life and Death of a Pencil

Short Story: Judge’s Comments

Michael Malone, the Short Story judge, commented:

The placed stories were all of a very high level indeed and the choice of winning entry came down to the fact it created a stronger emotional impact.

First Prize Darren O’Dea  Mam

“Mam?”   I want to answer, and I know I will.  “Mam, like I said, we’ll collect you. Is that alright?”  Just not yet.

To read more go to  Mam

Second Prize  Margaret Morton Kirk  Who Cares if The Sky’s Indigo

On Monday morning the sky is indigo. That’s pretty good, actually–some days I’ve woken up to colours that would make your eyes bleed.

To read more go to  Who cares if the sky’s indigo

Third Prize  Siobhan Staples  Wise Women

Christmas is a woman sitting very gingerly (birth was only a few hours ago and the pain is fresh). She’s smiling at the visitors … and hoping they will go soon.

To read more go to  Wise women



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