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Welsh writers excel in competitions

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Short story competition winner: Diana Powell receives her cheque from PENfro deputy chair Jackie Biggs

WRITERS from west Wales have excelled themselves in this year’s Poetry and Short Story Competitions run by PENfro Book Festival. Against strong contenders from across the UK writers from the area won both contests. 

And others from all over Wales have distinguished themselves by making the shortlists too. “We are delighted that so many fabulous writers from all over Wales, and some from our own area too, have proved themselves so strongly in these two competitions. We are especially pleased for them as they were judged completely anonymously against competition from all over the UK. It’s a great achievement and shows there is some fantastic creative talent in this area,” said competition organiser Jackie Biggs. Winner of the poetry competition is Katherine Stansfield, from Aberystwyth; and the short story competition winner is Diana Powell, from Mathry, Pembrokeshire.

They each win £250. Poetry results: Top prize (£250): Katherine Stansfield, from Aberystwyth, for her poem ‘The woman on my National Library of Wales library card’. Judge Dr Alan Kellermann said: “The winning poem strikes a difficult chord: it’s playful without sacrificing intellect. I was further impressed by the author’s ability to sustain a conceit and to achieve such crisp imagery while resisting the urge to embellish the poem’s diction. It was not only an enjoyable poem, but skilful.” Second prize (£100): ‘Postcard from the Ferris Wheel’, by Rachel Plummer, from Edinburgh. Dr Kellermann said: “It’s refreshing to see an author use form as a way of liberating language, rather than as a road map to the end of a poem.

It’s well-paced and the poem’s sense of longing—which can so easily be wound too tightly—was tuned just right.” Third prize (£75): ‘Divining Her Firstborn’, by Elizabeth Sennitt Clough, from Stretham, Cambridgeshire. Dr Kellermann’s comment: “This was quite a dense poem, but I don’t mind being asked to roll up my sleeves and feel around in a poem’s guts, especially when the effort is rewarded. And if the reader is willing to enter the space between the language and the visual, the reader is suitably rewarded.

A vivid, haunting poem.” A total of eleven poets made the shortlist, one with two poems. The others were: Angela Rigby, Conwy. – ‘Lotus’ Tom Gatehouse, Brecon. – ‘In Bloom’ Maria Isakova Bennett, Liverpool. – ‘Eight Day Chimer’ and ‘i hope you are well’ Natalie Ann Holborow, Swansea. – ‘Victoria Terrace’ Ian Humphreys, Hebden Bridge, West Yorks. – ‘Cruel moon’ Ken Sullivan, Reading – ‘ ‘79’ Stephen Giles, Lutterworth, Leicestershire. – ‘Your Tongue Stud’ Catherine Edmunds, Bishop Auckland, Durham. — ‘a warning’ Short story results First Prize (£250): Diana Powell, from Mathry, Pembrokeshire, for her story, ‘Ingrid Audrey and Jean’. Judge Maria Donovan said: “This is a short story perfectly in tune with itself. From its enigmatic title and first arresting image to the underlying themes of escape and belonging, it always keeps ahead of expectations. Calm, confident and disturbing: a treat to read and re-read.” Second Prize (£100): Shirley Golden, from Ringwood, Hampshire, for ‘The Parapet’ Maria Donovan said: “The subject of the First World War is very much in our minds this year, but it’s difficult to do it justice in a story written so long after the events.

‘The Parapet’ succeeds in making a soldier’s experiences so present and affecting that it brings an uncanny sense of what it might have felt like to be there.” Third Prize (£75): Jo Mazelis for ‘Marco’s Eyes’ Maria Donovan commented: “This is a consistently-voiced firstperson narrative – witty, observant, spiky and spiteful with the spite of hurt. The slowly percolating sense of the character’s pain made this story in the end more poignant than at first seemed possible.” The four others on the shortlist were: ‘Buttercup and Daisy’, by Wendy Smit-Taylor, Moylegrove, Pembrokeshire ‘The Eighth’, Tony Curtis, Barry ‘Oddly Sensitive Human Atoms’, James Doster, Pontyclun ‘Bristol Cream’, Janet Norton, Nottingham

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Dayne Stone

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