We're pleased to see the announcement of the winners of The Charles Causley International Poetry Competition by our friends and partners The Charles Causley Trust. Competition winners were selected by Sir Andrew Motion.

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The winner (£2,000 plus a week’s residency at Cyprus Well) is Judy O’Kane for her poem ‘Tasting Notes’. Judy is Judy is a prose writer and poet. She worked the wine harvest in St Estèphe, Bordeaux on sabbatical from legal partnership in Dublin and her work explores terroir, wine’s sense of place. In 2017 Judy won first prize in the Best Poem category of the National Memory Day Poetry Prize for her poem, ‘The Fig Tree’ also selected by Sir Andrew Motion.

The winning poem, ‘Tasting Notes’:

You put your hands together
to make a bowl
and I drink

cold water
from the bedroom tap,
my feet standing on yours; you fish

me out of the frozen pond in the forest
at Portglenone when the ice
disappears like the

Vanishing Lake; I wake you to come and see
the men who live in my curtains
and you tell me

about the fairies
who ski down the hill
on lollipop sticks; you bring home an envelope as long as the alphabet

full of felt tips that smell of every fruit you can imagine;
you map out the piano keys over the dining table.
Now our bulletins are transmitted

via Jancis Robinson: letters
of love funnelled through the Financial Times;
now I tell you about the monks who grew vines in the hills

at St. Vivant; I tell you about the forest at Cîteaux
where the crack rang out when the oak was
felled at our feet like a safari animal;

I tell you how coopers toast barrels
over flames that spark
like fireworks

your hands cup
the bowl of the wineglass.


Second place (£250) was awarded to Jonathan Davidsonfor his poem ‘Quadratic Equation’. Jonathan’s first collection of poetry, The Living Room, was published by Arc Publications in 1994. This was followed, seventeen years later, by Early Train (Smith|Doorstop, 2011). He has also published three poetry pamphlets, most recently Humfrey Coningsby: Poems, Complaints, Explanations and Demands for Satisfaction (Valley Press, 2015), and an e-book Selected Poems (Smith|Doorstop, 2014).

‘Quadratic Equation’
A dad and a daughter are solving a quadratic equation.
They are seeking the value of ‘y’ using the appropriate process,
beginning with factorisation. A solution is proving elusive;
they are outside the problem looking in at curtained windows.

Upstairs a son, who’s employed in the building trade, plays guitar,
despite the mathematical impossibility of ‘equal temperament’.
And a mum is in the front room working out the probability
of character ’a’ killing character ’b’ before the end of the episode.

The daughter and the son cross on the stairs. She is fractious
and has been sent to bed, while the dad puts in a couple more hours,
but to no avail. Whatever the value of ‘y’ they shan’t know tonight.
And perhaps ‘y’ has no value. Or perhaps it has many values.

Perhaps it is discovered in the dissonant chords that the son
untangles, or in the loaded silence between character ’a’
and character ‘b’ before the gun goes off, or perhaps it is simply
that which cannot be expressed although it is known to exist.


Third place (£100) was awarded to Alex Howard, for his poem ‘Shape-Shift’. Alex is an author, poet and PhD graduand. His debut novel Library Cat (Black & White Publishing) has gone on to be an international bestseller, and has sold rights to Italy (Garzanti), Korea (Woongjin) and France (Éditions Bragelonne). Alex’s poetry has been published widely in journals and magazines such as The London Magazine, Aesthetica and Gutter. It has also earned him shortlistings for the Melita Hume Prize (2018) and the Jane Martin Prize (2014). His poem ‘Long Distance’ won first place in the Red Cross International Writing Prize in 2011. He also enjoys performing his work, and has been invited to read at Rally & Broad, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Hidden Door Festival.

Everything’s delicious this morning.
The brown snow-slush
churns like soft toffee under my feet.
The pigeons
have Jack Sparrow legs and even
they seem happy.
My god,

the taxi’s fumes
anoint me as I wait at the crossing.
The rumble
of an N-reg Vauxhall is operatic, ever noticed that?
The green man
flashes his frozen hike the moment my legs
start aching. Seriously,

what on earth is happening here?
I am the castle in midair
moated by still, platinum waters.
Any moment now
I’ll start thirsting back to
2014 as if it was
a good year and then I’ll know

I’m really screwed.
Yup, there we go – my brain
snags on the image
of that East Anglian psych ward
and even its walls
have been ruthlessly gilded.
This can’t last.

Eyes closed
I draw in the limpid air, feeling clean.
Beside me, a hotel foyer unfurls on a red carpet.
It is like my head.
Inside a band is tuning up,
Ready to start playing
hideous jazz.

Congratulations to all the winners!
In addition to the placing winners, five highly commended entries were selected to receive a prize of £30 and poets who made the final 20. To read the full biographies, judge’s comments and highly commended poems please click here.

The winning entries, poems and biographies are reposted with kind permission from the Causley Trust.