Please note that this competition was judged blind and the adjudication report was sent in by the Judge with only the titles of the winning and commended poems. I have matched the winners and their poems to make for easier reading.
- Nnorom Azuonye (14/10/2014)
An adjudication report by Brindley Hallam Dennis
There were 73 entries, and I knew I was in trouble when my shortlist reached twenty.
Adding one more to the list would have brought another nineteen in with it, and that didn't help either. What I'm saying is that I enjoyed an awful lot of these stories. In fact, there were only a few – two or three – that I didn't think had something good going for them; and two of those read like well-written articles, but they weren't really short stories. For all you glass half full types out there, you could say, I found a lot of the stories to be lacking that little something that would make them winners!
It's only in competitions that you have to make these sort of judgements. Otherwise you take your shorts like an espresso, and enjoy them for what they are, in the moment, for you, as you are, at that moment. What's it about? Do you care? How's it written? Does the voice beguile you?
As I sifted through I began to realise that the stories I wanted to celebrate most were somewhat oblique in form or content; forceful in their tellings, with voices that made me stop and listen; with subjects that caught my interest. The whole range was there: life death; love; comic; tragic; absurd; serious, and the rest. A few took what are becoming contemporary standards, and anything that everyone is talking about is hard to write about without becoming part of the undistinguishable murmur, or cacophony. Two, in my 'Commended' list were, I guessed, by the same author, having the same characters. I'd like to see those as part of a longer fiction – a novel perhaps?
Here's my list, in traditionally reversed order:
Commended (in no particular order):
Till Death Us Do Part by Gareth Shore (Sale)
Fifty-Second Birthday in Bed by Christie Cluett (Bristol)
Odd Boy by Sharon Boyle (East Linton)
It's Seven Letters You Need by Maxine Backus (Grueningen, Switzerland.)
Abide With Me by Maxine Backus (Grueningen, Switzerland.)
Highly Commended (in no particular order):
For Mike by Geoff Aird (Edinburgh)
Swan Sculpting in Leighton Buzzard by Katie Martin (Cambridge)
Oh How We Danced by Tony Crafter (Knockholt)
The Eternal Knot by John Robinson (Newbury) - Complex, convoluted, philosophical. A conversation between an Old Man and a snake, on the huge subject of sentience – of being alive and knowing it; of being mortal, and knowing that too.
Coffee-Coloured Eyes by Olga Vakruchev (Toronto, Canada) -Slipping into the surreal, but I never doubted this woman's voice, nor her belief in her own story.
Killers at Fat Joe's by Tom Serengeti (BERTSHAM , South Africa) – I think I liked the ambition of this most of all: daring to echo Hemingway's title, and story, and do a riff on it. But I liked the spare descriptions and the dialogue too, and the unfolding events, and the characters, and their names, and the ending. I guess I would have liked the pizza too!
BRINDLEY HALLAM DENNIS