The winners of a national writing competition devoted to the theme of memory are announced today, Friday 7 December 2018.

The competition was launched on National Memory Day in May this year during Dementia Action Week and is part of a wider project which celebrates the power of poetry for those living with and affected by dementia.

The competition is unique in that it not only recognises the creative writing of those who care for those living with memory loss but it invests the fees paid by entrants to enter the competition into a continuing programme to place specially trained practising poets into community settings for dementia care across the country.

It is the creation of a partnership of Literature Works, the Poetry Archive and the Alzheimer’s Society.

The national writing competition has two categories: Best Poem, sponsored by Literature Works, open to everyone over the age of 18 years; and Best Poem by a Primary Carer, open to all carers over the age of 18 years, sponsored by The Alzheimer’s Society.

Best Poem

1st Prize: Sarah Barr, Wimborne, Dorset for Fog

2nd Prize: Janet Lesley Smith, Frome, Somerset for At the Hotel Metropole

3rd Prize: Kathy Miles, Ceredigion, Wales for Brock

Primary Carer Voice prize

1st Prize: Tony Ward. Eastbourne, East Sussex, for What Will Survive of Us

2nd Prize: Clio Burroughs, London NW2, for Twenty-Four Hours

3rd Prize: Pamela Swain, Essex, for Lily

Best Poem

Dr Miriam Darlington, poet, author and lecturer in English & Creative Writing at the University of Plymouth, judge of the Best Poem general category, commented: ‘It was the uniqueness, skill, audacity and confidence of the three finalist poems that made them stand out.’ In choosing Sarah Barr’s Fog as the first prize winner, Miriam said: ‘For me this poem’s use of the first person most powerfully evoked the experience of the loss of memory. Its apparent simplicity, on re-reading, yielded a tenderly and lightly drawn complexity – difficult to render within a relatively short poem.’

Best Poem 1st place (sponsored by Literature Works)

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Fog by Sarah Barr

Speaking of her win, Dorset resident Sarah Barr said: ‘Fog is a poem I started imagining as I walked through the town where I live on a densely foggy, winter’s day nearly two years ago. The experience led me to dwell on ideas about individual and collective memory, and memory loss.’

Sarah Barr writes poetry and fiction and teaches creative writing. Sarah lives in Dorset with her husband and has three grown-up children. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies including The Templar Press Anthology 2016; The Bridport Prize anthologies 2010 & 2016;  Second Place Rosette (Emma Press, 2018) and in magazines including The Frogmore Papers; The Interpreter’s House; Other Poetry; South, Poems in the Waiting Room, and online on the Poetry Society website; Meniscus; And Other Poems. Poems for children have appeared in various places including in The Caterpillar. 

Sarah often writes about relationships, including our relationship with the natural world. She has particular interests in psychological, social and environmental issues. Her poems have won prizes including 1st in The Frogmore Prize 2015, 2nd in The Poetry on the Lake open competition 2018, and have been placed and shortlisted on a number of occasions in the Bridport Prize.

Sarah read English at London University, has an MSc in sociology and social policy, an MA in creative writing. She trained and worked as a counsellor and then worked in adult education and as an Open University lecturer in social sciences and creative writing. Sarah runs a writing group and is Poetry Society stanza rep in Wimborne. She leads writing workshops in libraries, museums, at literary festivals and for particular groups, gives readings, selects poetry for magazines and occasionally judges competitions. She recently trained and started work as a poet in Memory Cafes.

Best Poem 2nd place (sponsored by Literature Works)

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At the Hotel Metropole by Janet Lesley Smith

Janet Lesley Smith, from Somerset, who won second prize, said: ‘My poem came from a selfish desire to recall a pleasurable interlude in my life. Having seen a close relative live with dementia, the inclusion of an element of this affliction in my poem also brought some satisfaction’.

Janet began writing poetry and short stories for competitions in 2002 on retirement from a fractured Civil Service career. She has lived in Frome, a town which offers substantial literary support, for over 30 years. Library initiatives that she attended supplied free creative writing services and a series of workshops run by the author Anita Mason. Poetry entries have resulted in moderate success with wins at David St John Thomas competitions, the Petra Kenney Awards and Mere Literary Festival.

Best Poem 3rd place (sponsored by Literature Works)

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Brock by Kathy Miles

Kathy Miles from West Wales, who won third prize, said: ‘My father suffered from dementia in his later years. Whilst my poem uses a rather surreal metaphor to explore the issues of memory loss and dementia, I have seen at first hand the types of hallucination sometimes experienced by people living with memory loss, and it was these that inspired the poem’

Kathy is a poet and short story writer living in West Wales. Her third collection of poetry, Gardening With Deer, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2016, and she has recently published a short pamphlet, Inside the Animal House, with Rack Press. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and magazines, and she is a previous winner of the Welsh Poetry Competition, the Wells Literature Competition and the Bridport Prize. Kathy frequently reads at events and festivals, runs a variety of poetry workshops, and is a co-editor of The Lampeter Review. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, and is currently working on her fourth full collection.

Best Poem by a Primary Carer

Best Poem by a Primary Carer was judged by Keith Oliver, a former head teacher and Ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, who himself lives with dementia. Speaking of Tony Ward’s poem What Will Survive of Us, Keith said: ‘A number of others were close and it was difficult but the winner did stand clear of the pack for me.’

Best Poem by a Primary Carer 1st place (sponsored by The Alzheimer's Society)

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What Will Survive of Us by Tony Ward

Speaking of his win, Sussex-based Tony Ward said: ‘When I received the winner’s letter, I had been in despair after a particularly stressful evening. The news could not help but lift my spirits, just as I now hope my poem will help fellow carers’.

Published regularly in various poetry magazines in his youth, Tony Ward enjoyed a successful career in computing and education. His publications included a BBC commission, articles, and teaching material for schools. Once retired, he returned to poetry writing. Tony’s popular Poetry+ monthly column in Sussex Life (2014-2017) gave history a new twist and poetry a new purpose. The project was featured in the Autumn 2015 issue of Poetry News (The Poetry Society). His illustrated book Unravelling Sussex (The History Press, 2016) was based on the series. He donates a share of his book royalties to a local Hospice. Recently, Tony has developed another novel format, ‘Poetry for multiple voices’, of which his NMD prize-winning poem ‘What will survive of us …’ is an example.

Best Poem by a Primary Carer 2nd place (sponsored by The Alzheimer's Society)

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Twenty-Four Hours by clio burroughs

Clio Burroughs from Cricklewood, London, said upon winning second place: ‘ It’s immensely gratifying to receive recognition on a subject that has such a huge impact on my life as well as my writing’.

Clio Burroughs is a freelance arts administrator from London. Born in Canada, Clio moved to the UK when she was twelve and began writing poetry in her late teens. She studied English at The University of Liverpool and Vocal Performance at Trinity College of Music, London and also has an MA in Text & Performance from Kings College, London/RADA. Throughout her life, especially in times of heightened emotion, she has always turned to poetry as a creative outlet to try and interpret her feelings. This became particularly important when she began caring for her housebound father on a regular basis, watching him struggle to stay in his own home and often ending up in hospital. It is exactly this challenge and time spent listening to him reminisce about his past, watching him try to recall events, that has helped her find her own poetic voice.

Best Poem by a Primary Carer 3rd place (sponsored by The Alzheimer's Society)

Pamela Swain

Lily by Pamela Swain

Third Prize winner in this category, Pamela Swain from Essex, said she was shocked but delighted to win.

Before retiring Pamela worked for many years in the child-care industry and also spent a lot of time caring for the elderly in care homes. She lives in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex and has three grown up children and eight grandchildren.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Read the winning entries here. (Click [ ] to expand).